Everybody is Scared to Jump

Photo: Everybody is Scared to Jump

This week on the podcast, I had an unusual guest; he is a performance coach to many high-flying money managers and executives - and a few A-list athletes, including MLB All-Star, turned businessman Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez.

I asked him if there were any common denominators regarding his A-List Clientele - those that had risen to and remained on top of their industries for years as Rodriguez has. His answer surprised me.

I expected something cliche, like “discipline, work ethic, visualization” or something similar. But without hesitation, he mentioned Imposter Syndrome. When he analyzed his highest performing clients, the further he moved up the ladder of achievement, the more prevalent and intense the imposter syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome:

A psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.

This is to say that the highest performers he works with are also the most tormented by the thought that they are not the expert they claim to be and that eventually - everyone will find out that they are a fraud.

I pressed him on the origin of this self-doubt - were high performers more vulnerable to insecurity? Was that insecurity the fuel that pushed them to outperform their peers? Without question, some of my closest and most successful friends seem to balance their hard-driving confidence with a fragile ego. What they put out to the world contrasts with the conversations in their head.

When we think of success - most of us have a few names that come to mind. For me, Jimmy Iovine is always near the top. You may have never heard his name, but Jimmy is possibly the most influential human being (still living) in the music business. Iovine cut his teeth in the record business in the early 1970’s co-producing records for John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen. By the decade's end, he had produced the breakout records for future megastars Tom Petty, U2, Patti Smith and Stevie Knicks. In 1990 he founded Interscope records - the most provocative name in the music business and brought on artists like Nine Inch Nails and Tupac Shakur. He’s produced records for Dr. Dre, Eminem, 50 Cent, Lady Gaga and dozens more. In 2008 he co-founded a headphone company, within four years had captured 20% of the headphone market and, within six years, orchestrated the sale to Apple for $3.1 billion.

But fifty years into an unparalleled career, Jimmy still points to fear and insecurity as his biggest motivators:

“Fear is a powerful thing. I mean, it's got a lot of firepower. If you can figure out a way to wrestle that fear to push you from behind rather than to stand in front of you, that's very powerful. I always felt that I had to work harder than the next guy, just to do as well as the next guy. And to do better than the next guy, I had to just kill. And you know, to a certain extent, that's still with me in how I work, you know. I just... go in.”

Everybody is standing on a cliff. Everybody is scared to jump.