From Impostor to Explorer.

January 2, 2022

From Impostor to Explorer.

May 29, 2023

I have spent my entire life feeling like an impostor. As a kid, we moved around a few times from country to country, culture to culture and I became adept at fitting in wherever I was.

But looking like you fit in is not the same as feeling like you fit in.

The word impostor stems from Latin for “a tax imposed.” Consequently, the word can mean to deceive, but also to impose upon. Both to my mind, applied to me.

Painful though those early experiences could be, they equipped me with some handy tools. A fast adaptive mind, an ability to see invisible patterns and systems between people. In short, I learned how to fit in.

But the impostor always came along or 'imposed' for the ride.

I was teaching an MEA Mastery Week recently with environmentalist, bestselling author Paul Hawken and a funny pattern emerged. All week, a group of highly intelligent and accomplished people referred to themselves repeatedly as impostors. I wondered what was going on? Why did we all feel that way?

In our time together, Paul constantly referred to the need to set unreasonable goals.

As a group we all stretched our minds towards the work we would love to do to regenerate the planet and the unreasonable goals we would need to set. All of us were forced to face and explore entirely new ideas, skills, white spaces where businesses don’t currently exist and where we didn't know exactly what we would need to do.

We all felt like impostors. Who were we to say we could do these things?

The "Baja aha" moment, and it was a life-changer, was when I realized that what we were collectively describing was the sense of "un-knowing" that comes from exploring.

We weren’t impostors. It is just that doing new things requires you to feel that way. You feel like you are faking it.

If we are to regenerate ourselves and engage meaningfully in the world, we need to be able to tell the difference between being imposters and explorers. If you aren’t feeling that explorer syndrome, that buzz of uncertainty and un-knowing in your life, you are likely not learning.

It is as simple as that.

Growth and regeneration means placing yourself into the discomfort that comes from discovery, the uncertainty of newness.

So, from now on when you are feeling like an impostor, ask yourself. "Am I exploring? Myself, my world, my work?" If the answer is yes, you have "explorer syndrome."

Follow that explorer feeling. That is the feeling that might just allow you to change your world for the better.

Jeff Hamaoui is one of the co-founders of MEA and the Chief Education & Innovation Officer.

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