all posts tagged 'confidence'

Rapid skill acquisition and adapting to new career opportunities

🔗 a linked post to » — originally shared here on

Joel’s original post is an excellent read, but I really enjoyed Justin’s statement at the end of his linked post:

One last note: showing up to a client following a weekend-long crash course in a particular technology doesn't make you a fraud. Nearly twenty years in consulting has taught me that the people most worried about misrepresenting themselves and their abilities are the people who have the least reason to worry. The fact they care so much almost always means they'll put in the work when they need to. The real frauds, meanwhile, don't worry at all. And while Joel was holed up in a Starbucks for 72 hours, I'm sure they were having a delightful and relaxing weekend. And Joel's much richer for it, as he's gotten four careers' worth of experience by repeatedly diving into new industries, organizations, and technologies, whereas the real imposters only learned how to talk a good game as they skated through life without ever stretching themselves.

I’ve seen first hand the nerve some developers bring to a first meeting, only to dim gradually over time.

I continue to struggle sometimes with confidence in what I do, but my entire career so far has been non-stop learning.

Every project is an opportunity to learn a new framework, a new project management style, a new business problem.

It’s a hard characteristic to put on a resume, but the ability to pick up new systems quickly is definitely one of my core strengths.

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The Knowledge Project: #187 Dr. Becky Kennedy: The One Thing You Can Say That Changes Everything

🔗 a linked post to » — originally shared here on

I love Farnam Street. It's an amazing blog to which I hope you already subscribe.

While I devour the weekly Brain Food newsletter, I can't say I've listened to many episodes of The Knowledge Project podcast.

I've been pretty burnt out on podcasts over the past few years. I think this is due to three main factors:

  1. A feeling of indifference to the shows I used to love.
  2. Covid. I got way more into music during that time, which was easier to consume around my family than a deep podcast.
  3. A feeling of guilt when I don't listen to every episode of a show. It's easy to fall behind when your favorite podcasts are weekly and 3 hours long per episode.

So while podcasts haven't been my favorite mode for consuming information lately, this episode of The Knowledge Project featuring Dr. Becky Kennedy caught my attention because of the Brain Food newsletter, so I decided to give it a go.

It was so good that I actually went back and listened to it twice.

Here are the elements from the podcast I took away, peppered slightly with my own commentary:

Respect your children like you would respect an adult

Your number one job as a parent is to keep your kids safe.

Those safety bounds, however, need to be defined with a fair bit of common sense respect.

When I'm building an app, it's my job to keep the user safe. I want to make sure that they are aware of what they are doing when they give me their data, and I want them to understand what could happen if they choose to make an adult decision to share that data.

Children often don't have that understanding of consequences yet, so it's my job to expose them to danger methodically and let them learn about consequences on their own.

But that doesn't mean I need to be a jerk about it.

On that same topic of actions/consequences, it's helpful to think through in which ways I'm trading long term skills for short term gains. If my kid forgets their homework at home, do I provide them with the short term gain of remembering for them, or do I provide them with the long term memory of the pain associated with forgetting to bring their homework?


I loved Dr. Becky's definition of a boundary:

A boundary is something I can tell someone else I will do that requires them to do nothing.

As an example, my wife and I struggle with keeping our kitchen counters clean because they're the place everyone just dumps their stuff when they come into the house. Mail, school work, and various toys start piling up.

I've made requests in the past like, "hey, can you kids please keep this area clean?"

These are just requests. They don't help define expectations.

Instead, I sat my kids down this weekend and said "okay gang, here's the deal: I'm going to clean these counter tops every night after you go to bed. If there is anything on these counters that isn't put away, I'm going to throw them away."

Unlike me requesting them to keep their stuff tidy, I've established a boundary that requires them to do nothing.

Get on the same side of the table

A common (probably basal?) way of communicating is advisarial.

Imagine a table sitting in a conference room. Many arguments feel like I am sitting on one side of the table and you are sitting on the opposite side.

A better way to communicate is to find a way to be seated next to each other on one side of the table, and place the problem we are addressing on the opposite side.

Dr. Becky gives an undeniably relatable example in this episode about her son and his towel. He kept leaving his towel on his bedroom floor, and she kept getting frustrated that he'd walk past it and do nothing about it.

She could've just done what most of us do: fly off the handle.

Instead, she framed the conversation as "us versus the towel." She said something like, "we both know towels don't go on the floor, what's going on here?"

Her son, to her surprise, said "you know, it's funny... I don't even see the towel on the floor."

That's me. I'm the son.

It took years of frustrated rants from my wife before I started noticing things like piles of dishes in the sink or scores of unfolded laundry baskets piling up.

Something recently started clicking in me, though, and I have been getting better about being a good house mate!

The lesson here: make it "us versus the problem." It's a lot more productive to attack a problem as opposed to a person.

A good measuring stick for the strength of your relationships

Ask yourself: "would they come to me with a problem even if it might get them in trouble?"


Confidence is not feeling good about yourself.

Confidence is about self-trust.

It's about being okay being yourself when you're not the best at something.

What to do when someone comes to you with deep feelings

When someone shares a feeling like shame, embarrassment, regret, sadness, disappointment, etc., here's a three step process for what to say:

"I'm so glad you're talking to me about this."

This one phrase shows you are interested in what they are saying, and it naturally invites them to tell you more.

"I believe you."

This helps build confidence. As we described earlier, confidence is about self trust.

Even if you don't necessarily agree with them, just the acknowledgement that they have feelings and that they are feeling them is a way to help them trust their own feelings.

"Tell me more."

Just let them share until they have nothing more to share.

And that's it.

Once you've done those three steps, you have, in the words of Dr. Becky, "crushed parenting." Or marriage. Or friendship.

Helping someone learn they can trust their emotions allows them to take the energy they'd otherwise use to process the feelings and use it to address the problem.

Why we shirk responsibility for our actions

People shirk responsibility for their actions when they equate the outcomes with being an indication of who they are.

Let's say you identify as a smart person. If you get a bad score on a test, that conflicts with the identity you've chosen. After all, smart people don't get bad scores.

Instead of being able to process why you got an F, you might seek external sources to blame. "The teacher never said this would be on the test," or "The teacher is out to get me," or something similar.

We do it as adults, too. "I'm sorry I'm late, traffic was terrible."

(You know what this feeling is called, by the way? Shame. More on that shortly.)

One way you can help deal with shame is to frame the situation like this: "you're a smart kid who got a bad score on a test."

This, instead, allows you place the identity you've chosen in one hand, and the event which contradicts it in the other. It sort of frames it like the "get on the same side of the table" example I gave above.

If it's "you against your son" because he got a bad score, it's gonna be advisarial from the jump, and there's too much wasted energy on sorting through blame and feelings.

If it's "you and your son against the bad score," you can start to address the actual problem.


We often talk about "fight or flight" as a response to an external stimulus, but the "freeze state" is common for when someone feels shame.

This is helpful for me, personally, because I feel like I've been frozen for the past few months.

The frozenness is a response to me feeling ashamed and embarrassed with losing my job and not knowing what the next move is.

It feels like getting an F on a test. And frankly, I haven't gotten many F's on tests before, so I haven't really learned how to process and deal with shame constructively.

As I've reflected on this, I think about a story I often tell when giving my life story: the time I failed so spectacularly on a physics midterm.

My response to that situation was to give up and switch majors. I chose "flight."

And maybe that was the right response to the situation, and maybe not. But it's interesting to revisit these defining memories in our lives and evaluate them with new information like this.

I probably still would've dropped out of engineering school. But now, in my mid-thirties, I actually think I'd do a better job in college than I did in my early-twenties.

Feelings are like passengers in a car

We often have voices in our heads from sources like impostor syndrome, depression, anxiety, and so forth.

Imagine these voices as passengers inside a car. The car is our mind.

Our goal isn't to kick the passengers out of the car. There's no way to eliminate these feelings altogether; they're part of what makes us human. They belong in the car just as much as any other feeling like happiness.

The goal is to learn how to not let them take the driver's seat.

What's the "ideal" headspace to be in?

This is a question I'd like to explore some more. It seems like the point I just made serves to learn how to compartmentalize troublesome feelings, but we never really talk about compartmentalizing manic emotions like excitement which are often lauded.

So that begs the question: is there an equilibrium we should be striving for? Am I approaching this problem with a video game-like mindset of "winning" when, in fact, there is no game to be played here?

Kids learn to regulate their emotions through their relationship with their parents

When we shush our kids and tell them to get over things, we're not allowing them to feel those feelings. We're, instead, putting that bandaid solution on top of them, which forces them to learn other ways to cope with their feelings.

And yes, that means we, as parents, learned how to regulate our own emotions in the same manner.

This presents a great opportunity, and it's a tact I've taken with my kids: be honest and open about how you are processing feelings.


Repairing is the process of taking responsibility for your actions and apologizing for them to your partner or child.

This, according to Dr. Becky, is the most powerful relationship tool you can cultivate.

The first step of repairing is, ironically, to repair yourself. You need to say something like, "I'm not proud of what I just did, but it will not define who I am."

The second step is sitting down with person you've wronged, name what happened, take responsibility, and state what you will do different next time.

It sounds so obvious. All this stuff sounds so obvious. But I can't be the only one who struggles to do the obvious thing in the heat of the moment.


AVP is a technique you can do to learn how to build confidence and handle emotions.

  • A is for Acknowledge. Name the feeling and greet it. Something like "Hey, anxiety!"
  • V is for Validate. All feelings have a place in our bodies. It doesn't mean they need to explode out of our bodies, but it makes sense for them to exist in there, and it's okay for them to exist in there. Say something like "It makes sense that this feeling is here" or "I believe myself" (meaning you believe that you are, in fact, feeling that feeling)
  • P is for Permit. Allow yourself to fully be OK with experiencing that feeling. (An added bonus would be to add "...and I can deal with it.")

I have been trying this technique when I've felt anxiety attacks come on this week, and it actually really helps to keep myself in the driver's seat, so to speak.

Technology/screen overuse

A large section of the podcast is devoted to dealing with kids and their addiction to cell phones or video games.

There are a couple of points that I thought would apply even to those without kids:

Equating phone use to tobacco use

As a society, we collectively determined that children cannot control themselves with other addictive products like tobacco, so we drafted legislation to protect children from purchasing tobacco.

It bums me out that we aren't able to have productive conversations about the addictive properties of social media or cell phones in general in the halls of our legislative branches.

Do as I say, not as I do

Before leaving JMG, I hadn't had a single vacation in my career where I completely unplugged from work and lived in the moment.

Even at Bionic Giant, I still felt myself compelled (obligated?) to have my laptop with me, just in case someone broke something and I was the only one able to fix it.

We've allowed cell phones to seamlessly invade and consume our lives. Besides perhaps when I'm going swimming with the kids, I can't recall the last time I wasn't within at least 10 feet of my phone. When I am with my kids, I can't go more than several minutes without impulsively checking my phone for some sort of update.

That's truly sick behavior, no matter how you slice it.

And I'm a 36 year old dude.

If I can't regulate my own behavior, how can we expect our children to regulate themselves around these things?

Of course, there's lots of angles to this problem, right? "Just because you can't handle yourself doesn't mean you have to punish the rest of us" is a easy retort to that. And I'm not here saying "let's let a bunch of legislators determine how to parent our kids" because, of course, I am an American after all.

But we aren't even at a point where we can have these conversations without resorting to attacking each other.

We're sitting on two sides of the table instead of both of us on one side focused on addressing the problem.

It's depressing.

The fact is we do have precedent around establishing guard rails for behaviors our society deems destructive. We should be relying on the opinions of the experts who research these topics and drafting rules that protect the most vulnerable in our population.

Alright, that was a pretty long recap. If any of those topics sound interesting to you, I highly recommend checking out the episode!

On Impostor Syndrome

🔗 a linked post to » — originally shared here on

I saw this TikTok from Chelsea Fagan shared on a Slack community I'm part of, and I thought it was worth transcribing the whole thing and leaving it here for future reference.

So one thing about me is that I never have impostor syndrome, and it's not because I automatically think I'm great at anything I try... it's more that I realized that basically every industry is full of idiots.

I genuinely think that a lot of people who haven't been in the corporate world or exposed to it too much don't realize just how many successful people are mediocre at best at what they do.

And it makes sense when you consider all the factors that are usually required for people to reach a high level at a given industry. Things like having connections, having enough generational wealth to go to college and get an advanced degree, nepotism, networking, and all of those other things. Not to mention all of the other white, cis, male privileges that often go into success.

But by the time you reach the highest levels of most industries, you're often working with people who can barely put together an email.

Or you'll be on an email thread with 17 different people, none of whom seem to actually have a job.

Half of the executives have administrative assistants who do the vast majority of their actual work.

And this is true of a lot of creative industries... think of how many famous people are out there who have almost no discernible talent.

A driving force in my life is looking at something and being like "I could absolutely do better than that", and then I give myself permission to do it.

And just being the kind of person who is conscientious enough about the work you're doing to even consider having impostor syndrome, or think about whether or not you're good enough to be doing it, you're probably already better than most of the people there.

Related: this quote from Sarah Hagi:

Lord, grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man.

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I Am a Meme Now — And So Are You

🔗 a linked post to » — originally shared here on

At some point you have to accept that other people’s perceptions of you are as valid as (and probably a lot more objective than) your own.

This may mean letting go of a false or outdated self-image, including some cherished illusions of unique unlovability.

I recently had a talk with Shannon that was eerily similar to the central conceit of this article.

We don’t get to pick how we show up in other people’s interpretation of ourselves. The author’s story about his dad sleeping at the movie theater next to him is a great example.

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