On Feeling Like a Fraud | Important Life Lessons

Michelle-Pape_Important-Life-LessonsI spent most of my life feeling like a fraud professionally. I was always waiting to be ‘found out’. I have since learned that there is a name for this and it is called the ‘Imposter Syndrome’. I’ll explain what I mean.

Living the Dream

I began my career working in the retail fashion industry. I was recruited by Carlson Companies at age 23 and worked in direct marketing. I was hired as a clerical and soon became the manager of a department supervising the American Express account. I traveled to New York and was living the dream. I remember buying my first car at this time. It was a gray Pontiac Firebird with whitewalls!

Eventually, I left Carlson Companies to return to school at the University of Minnesota, where I was unhappy and unfulfilled, because formalized education wasn't the best learning avenue for me. From here, I would spend 15 years working for a Minnesota manufacturing and distribution company. I loved the people I worked with, the people I worked for and in many ways, I flourished. When I started at this company, I did so without any knowledge of the business. I was not offered any on-the-job-training and from day one, it was a sink or swim situation. I was a commodity sales broker/trader (without working knowledge of the industry or products) where I worked in a bullpen with four other guys making calls. When I got a hot prospect on the line and they asked me a question, I would repeat the question and my co-workers would shout out the answer to me. That was my sales process. It was pretty successful.

Being Found Out

After several years, those guys who helped me launch and continually excel in my career, reported to me in the organizational chart. When I left the company, I was the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. I am so honored to have worked with the best team of people. We worked hard, won awards, launched revolutionary new products; we laughed together, we cried together, and we cared deeply about one another. We were a family.

Eventually, this company was sold to a young venture capitalist out of Chicago. The very first conversation I had with him was over the phone and he said to me, “I’m not sure you are very strategic.”

Wow, my worst fear came true. I had been found out. I wasn’t that good. All of the successes I had over the years seem to immediately disappear.

This is Imposter Syndrome. In that instant, I became unable to internalize my accomplishments. Feelings of inadequacy took over. Even if the opposite was true, and it was, I couldn’t recognize any positives after that you are not very strategic conversation.

This man had made my life hell. He never cared about me, never coached me, never guided me. Rather, he waited to pounce on anything he could find to criticize. I cried every Sunday night in anticipation of Monday morning, and Ibuprofen was the only thing that could quell my stress and anxiety enough so I could sleep at night.

After letting go of my hurt and anger, I am forever grateful to him for it. He ‘motivated’ me (another story for another blog) to make a move that I would have never made without his influence in my life. Sometimes these important life lessons need to be learned through experience.

God has a plan, always.

Starting Next Monday

On May 6th of 2004, I launched Next Monday. I started this business initially as a weight loss company. As testament, I carried a backpack to Chamber of Commerce meetings every Friday with 30 pounds of potatoes in them. True story. This represented the weight I had lost when we moved to St. Cloud to start new lives. Hence the name, Next Monday, as you never start a diet on Friday or Saturday. It’s always... Next Monday! I was going to help people do what I had done. That’s just the beginning of my story.

I’ll share more Next Monday.

In Your Corner, 
Michelle Pape


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