Mistakes, Comparisons & the Imposter Syndrome…

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All of us struggling with the Imposter Syndrome face more challenges than I care to list.

However, I believe one of the greatest causes of our Imposter Syndrome is our personal mistakes.

When we compare ourselves to others,

We’re failing to realize it’s an unfair, if not, invalid comparison…

By that, I mean,

Measuring ourselves with our full knowledge of our every mistake and our every weakness, and then,

Measuring others based on our exceedingly limited knowledge of the other person,

Is akin to comparing our entire lives to someone who we’ve barely had an hour of interaction with.

It’s also comparing yourself, warts and all, to the outward appearance that someone has chosen to project.

Do you think that’s a fair comparison?

I don’t.

Other’s Mistakes

One of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done is read and hear about others’ mistakes.

I enjoy these stories because they remind me that I’m not the only one who makes mistakes.

The famous preacher, Joyce Meyer, shared how when she first spoke at a conference with other preachers and was asked to introduce herself, she could not get a word out.

Jessica Bacal, the director of the Wurtele Center for Work and Life at Smith College, edited a wonderful book entitled,

Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong . 

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I read it and loved every minute of it. I strongly recommend it.

Where One Man’s Mistakes Led Him…

In the late 1800’s, there was a  young man whose career started as a teacher, a job he gave up after just one day.

He went on to join a traveling salesman, selling organs and pianos. He earned $10 per week. After two years, he realized he could have earned $70 per week if he worked on commission.

After making this discovery his anger with himself made him quit. He then spent a brief period selling sewing machines.

One day he went to a saloon to celebrate a sale and drank too much.

When the bar closed, he discovered his horse, buggy, and samples had been stolen.

He was fired and dunned for the lost property. It took more than a year for him to find another job.

His next job was selling shares of the Buffalo Building and Loan Company. His boss absconded with the commission and the loan funds.

Next, he opened a butcher shop in Buffalo, which soon failed, leaving him with no money, no investment, and no job.

The cash register which he purchased while owning the butcher shop, led him to visit the National Cash Register (NCR) company where he worked for a while.

Then, he was hired as the General Manager of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR).

Ten years later, he renamed the company, International Business Machines, (IBM).

This gentleman’s name was Thomas J. Watson Sr.

He was CEO of IBM for 42 years.

I share this example, because many of us take a while to find our way.

As we find our way, we’re going to make mistakes.

Watson could have let these mistakes waylay him.

However, he didn’t. He kept plugging and eventually found his way.

Watson was one of the richest men of his time and was called the world’s greatest salesman when he died in 1956.(I)

Where Another Man’s Mistakes Led Him

This young man went to war a captain and returned a private.

Afterwards, he was a failure as a businessman.

As a lawyer, he was too impractical and temperamental to be a success.

He turned to politics and was defeated in his first try for the legislature, again defeated in his first attempt to be nominated for congress, defeated in his application to be commissioner of the General Land Office, defeated in the senatorial election of 1854, defeated in his efforts for the vice-presidency in 1856, and defeated in the senatorial election of 1858.

You may have heard of him. His name was Abraham Lincoln.(II)

Where a Different Man’s Mistakes Led Him

Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.”

He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.”

As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb.

When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”(IV)

Some Final Thoughts on Mistakes

“Great success is built on failure, frustration, even catastrophe.” ~ Sumner Redstone 

Sumner Redstone was an American businessman and media magnate with a net worth of $3.1 billion dollars.

“The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” ~ Edwin Land

Land was an American scientist and inventor, best known as the co-founder of the Polaroid Corporation. While responsible for many great inventions, his greatest invention was the Polaroid instant camera which went on sale in late 1948 and made it possible for a picture to be taken and developed in 60 seconds or less.


Clark Finnical is a Career Expert and the author of 

 Job Hunting Secrets (from someone who’s been there)

LinkedIn Strategies to Take Your Career to the Next Level , 

 12 Lies Told To Job Seekers,

 How to Stand Out: From All of the Other Candidates

What No One Told You About Job Titles and Your Job Search  and

The Job Loss Mind Game: What Really Happened And What You Need to Do Now


Article originally appeared in www.clarkfinnical.com

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash


(I) Thomas J. Watson. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_J._Watson

(II) But They Did Not Give Up. https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html#:~:text=Thomas%20Edison’s%20teachers%20said%20he,at%20inventing%20the%20light%20bulb.

(III) Ibid.


(IV) Ibid.