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Posted: April 22, 2013

Best of ColoradoBiz: Feel like a fraud?

Most of us do at times

TC North

Fifty, 150, 500? I can't even count the number of highly successful entrepreneurs, sales professionals and executives who've said to me, "I feel like a fraud" (or something similar). I think most of us have had this feeling at one time or another, like this extremely powerful businessman, whom I'll call Dan.

Dan was a brilliant, well-read, successful entrepreneur and public figure who used to enjoy speaking. However, it now terrified him. The greater his success, the more he felt like a fraud and the more he feared that people would find out he was a fraud. The fear of being found out was the underlying cause of his fear of public speaking.

Everyone who felt like a fraud had a secret. What was Dan's secret? He'd dropped out of the eighth grade, gotten a GED diploma and never attended college. Now he was in business negotiating multimillion dollar deals with Harvard MBAs, some of the most brilliant business minds in the country. His greatest fear: "What if they find out I'm an eighth grade dropout?"

You're only as sick as your secrets! Our secrets (our shame) can manifest in all kinds of emotional or even physical symptoms, and they can block success. Dan's fear of being discovered as a fraud was limiting his success. To overcome this fear, Dan took two courses of action:

1. Speak the truth; it will set you free. Dan revealed his life story, which was published on the front page of the business section in his city's paper. It was about an incredibly brave, tough, underprivileged, intelligent boy who survived on the streets of the ghetto where many die. To get by, he studied martial arts and became a highly ranked karate fighter. To get off the streets and out of the ghetto, he became a voracious reader and educated himself through amazing desire, self-discipline and free library books. A true high performer!

Dan eventually built several successful businesses and became a master at putting together multimillion dollar deals with some of the country's most financially savvy businesspeople. His published story created admiration and respect for him throughout the business community, and he no longer had any secrets. By exposing everything in the story, Dan released much of his fear.

2. Transform fear into excitement. In his second course of action, Dan completely reframed his fear from having a negative charge to a positive charge, more like excitement. Here's how he did it: He was an adrenaline junkie who loved to rock climb, parachute, paraglide - anything physical that scared him. When I realized that, we had this conversation:
TC: "Is public speaking scary?"
Dan: "Yes, it scares the [pee] out of me!"
TC: "Great!" He looked bemused. I continued, "Let's reframe your thinking so you view public speaking like jumping out of an airplane, something that scares you that you ... love to do."
Dan: "That's creative - let's do it!"

After engaging in an in-depth reframing process, he stated his new belief:
Dan: "I love public speaking - what a rush!"

We laughed. It was a unique solution to a common fear, but it worked for him!

Not long after this, Dan was invited to be a guest on Nightline, speaking to millions of people on TV. He handled the interview with grace - he'd turned his fear into strength and was more confident than ever.

Do you have secrets? Do they limit your success? Have the courage to set yourself free. Go here to learn more.

Dr. TC North is co-author of the Amazon bestseller Fearless Leaders. For 28 years, he has been a high-performance executive coach and speaker who helps individuals and organizations identify and attain their visions and dreams. He also has coached professional and Olympic athletes in the art of creating thoughts and emotions that maximize success. He’s a professional speaker on “Fearless Leaders” and “Master Fear.” Dr. North’s work has been featured on TV and radio and in business and scientific journals. Learn more at Contact Dr. North at 303-665-8920 or, or connect on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.





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Readers Respond

Julie, thanks for your comment and sharing your unique sales/acting perspective. Entrepreneurs and high performers in all fields will often say yes to a challenge or project when they don't know how they will accomplish it because they have a belief system that differentiates their thoughts, actions and level of success from others, which I now call, "Blind Faith - I can and I'll find a way." By TC North on 2011 07 19
Thanks for pointing out how many people feel like they're going to be "found out." Reframing fear as excitement is an excellent solution. Actors often rely on fear or anxiety to jump start their performance. Jack Lemmon said: “Without heightened apprehension, an actor probably won’t give as good a performance as he should." Same may hold true for many of us in business. By Julie Hansen on 2011 07 19
Wow, fascinating! I'd like to learn more about this, Garry! Can you provide us more either here, or send in an article on it. By TC North on 2011 07 18
Great advice and a great move by Dan. The same is true in selling. If you are fearful of making new contacts, tell them that when you call. It is amazing how they will try to help you. Garry By Garry Duncan on 2011 07 18
Debbie, glad you loved Dan's courage! Thanks for commenting! By TC North on 2011 07 17
A great inspiring story - Dan showed great courage in reframing what he perceived as a negative and turned it into a positive force in his life. Love it! By Debbie Hindman on 2011 07 17
Jim and Andrew, thanks for your compliments! Hope all is well with you guys at Agency 33! By TC North on 2011 07 16
Great article, TC! By Andrew Laing on 2011 07 15
Nice article, TC, as always. Jim W. By James Wall on 2011 07 15
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