Momentum Podcast: 453
Stop Hiding Who You Are
by Alex Charfen
For the Entrepreneurial Personality Types out there, the people like you and me, we sometimes have a hard time just being ourselves.I want you to know that any attempt to be anything other than yourself is just going to cause you more pressure and noise.I spent way too long pretending to be somebody else and hiding who I really was.
I can tell you from first-hand experience that every challenge you have has created a massive strength on the other side. Be true to yourself to create the success you really want.I want to thank you for being a listener of the Momentum Podcast. If you'd like to interact a little more with me I have a free Facebook group – Billionaire Code – I'd love for you to join.
Full Audio Transcript
One of the biggest struggles of the entrepreneurial personality type people like you and me is that we have a hard time just being ourselves. In fact, we have a hard time revealing who we are. Being transparent, just putting ourselves out there.
We feel like we have to be more, be somebody different, be someone else in order to do that. And I want you to know any attempt to be anything other than yourself is only going to cause you pressure and noise, constraint and take away your momentum. When you are who you are, that is when you will finally start creating the success you want. Alex Charfen: I'm Alex Charfen and this is the momentum podcast made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny. We define it.
Alex Charfen: We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate. There could be a better future and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution and we always will be.
Alex Charfen: This is a subject that a lot of us don't really talk about. For entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurial personality types, it can be hard for us to just be who we are. And there's a reason there. See, when you become an entrepreneur, when you say, "I'm going to do something different, I'm going to build a business. I'm going to do this on my own. I'm going to be self made." You actually become a commodity in that moment. It feels like liability. When you say it's all going to be me, the instant thought to ourselves is, am I good enough for this? Can I actually do this? And as a result, one of the coping mechanisms that we will use as entrepreneurs is to not really reveal who we are, not be transparent about who we are and what's going on for ourselves.
Alex Charfen: In fact, we might even hide things, not share them proactively. Try and deceive the people around us to not know what's really going on. I know I did. I'll tell you about it. When I was younger and in my twenties I was fortunate to get into a position where I became a consultant at a very high level. If you've listened to my podcast, you already know this. I worked at the Fortune 500 level. I had clients like Fuji and SanDisk and Canon and Targets and Logitech and Microsoft, massive organizations around the world. And I was the owner of a consultancy that had long term contracts with the big brands like that. And I'm also someone who has dyslexia, Dysgraphia. I have a hard time with math. I'm completely confused with calendars. I have challenges with a lot of details and a lot of different logistical issues. If we have to talk about a calendar and an appointment and details all at the same time, I'm literally almost instantly overwhelmed. Alex Charfen: And when I was younger and ran that company, I was terrified anyone would find out that I was broken in that way. I get a little emotional talking about it because I used to pretend like none of that stuff existed. In fact, I created tricks and hacks to get around that stuff. When I say that I'm overwhelmed by calendars, as a kid, I had a really hard time memorizing the days of the week. And I had an incredibly difficult time memorizing the months of the year. And when I open up a calendar, I actually get body reactions. I have physical stress reactions from looking at a calendar. I'm just overwhelmed by it.
Alex Charfen: This is the same as when I go to a doctor's office and they hand me a form. I panic. I always fill out forms wrong because I'm dyslexic, the lines are in the wrong place. I put the words in the wrong place. It always makes me look like a kindergartener who like an adult ... who should be a kindergartener. And that used to bother me like crazy. So, when I was in meetings I used to have a day planner or a planner portfolio and on the inside I put a card that had the entire calendar for the year on it. And if there was ever a discussion around calendars or dates or times, I would open that the portfolio up and look at the calendar because it was my cheat sheet. I actually had to see the calendar in order to understand what people were saying. Because if somebody says to me, "Oh, Alex is going to be from November to February," I really don't like in my head I can't picture when that is and how long that is. I have to stop and say, "November, December, January, okay four months."
Alex Charfen: And if heaven forbid, somebody says something like, "Hey, it's going to be from fall to the middle of spring." I literally don't know what that means. I know that it's months in the year, but I've never memorized where the months and the season's lineup. I lived in California then I lived in Florida. Now I live in Texas. We don't really have all the seasons, every place [inaudible 00:05:18]. I guess we have more here in Texas, but it's never stuck. And so, when I was younger, I did everything I could to deceive the people around me about how much pain I was in and how much ambiguity I was feeling. And as a result, there was tons of times where I thought I was doing the right thing and I thought I was in the right place and I missed because I needed help with those things.
Alex Charfen: There was tons of times where I got confused in the meeting, made commitments and miss the commitment because let's be honest, I shouldn't have been doing that. I know how terrible I am at it. There was tons of times where I pretended I had read something or I saw something and then I know that people around me didn't knew that I hadn't. And it looked like I wasn't doing my work. And was I hiding the fact that I wasn't working? No, I was hiding the fact that I felt fundamentally broken. And if anyone found out, I get kicked out of the room. That's really how it felt. When I was younger I was terrified that anyone would know that I wasn't as good as they were and I didn't have the same skills they did. And I was having trouble in the meeting where they looked perfectly fine. Because everybody else always looked perfectly fine when we were in meetings, I never knew anybody else had stress.
Alex Charfen: I remember when I finally revealed to my team, and it wasn't that long ago, was only about 11 years ago. When I was about 35 years old and I finally came out to my team and said, "I'm dyslexic and I'm completely overwhelmed by calendars. And they're things that I'm completely terrible at and I need help. And I don't know how to get this stuff done." And I remember as I said it, I was thinking, is everybody [inaudible] leave. Are they going to quit? Are they going to walk away from me? That's how I really felt. And it was the absolute opposite.
Alex Charfen: In fact, we created a dialogue around special needs in our company. And I remember few years later, we hired database administrator who was a woman. And I remember going over to her desk one day and she was reading with a ruler under the words. And when I walked up I said, "Oh, you dyslexic?" And she looked at me terrified and she was like, "Yeah." And I said, "Oh yeah, me too. That's probably why you're so good at databases because you can picture the whole thing in your head. Like most people can't. I know dyslexia helps with big problems like that." And she looked at me and she's like, "Yeah, that's exactly it." And she said, "Yeah, you're right. I do see it differently than other people. And it's hard to explain." And we had a conversation about dyslexia and how different you think and how hard it is to explain to other people.
Alex Charfen: Well, the next morning in our daily huddle, she came in and when it got to the point in the huddle where it's caught being awesome, she said, "I just want to call out Alex for being awesome." And whenever that happens, I'm always like, "I [inaudible] be called out. I want everybody else to be called out." But this time I was okay with it. She said, for her whole career, she had hidden the fact that she was dyslexic. And she'd always been terrified than anybody would find out. And in other jobs she would never have talked about it or told anybody about it. In fact, she didn't even talk about it in school.
Alex Charfen: And she relayed the story ... she had been with us for a pretty short period of time. And she said, "Alex walked up to my desk yesterday. And he saw I was reading with a ruler and then he asked if I was dyslexic and I said yes. And then he explained why it made me strong. And why it made me good at my job. And then we talked about it and he really made it clear that he believes that that is a strength and maybe even one of my superpowers." And she said, "For my whole life I've hidden this and I've been scared of it and I haven't ever wanted anybody to know. And to have the person that I worked for, walk up, find it. And when Alex said, are you dyslexic? And I said, yes. I thought he was going to fire me." And I knew exactly how she felt.
Alex Charfen: "The next thing he said was, oh, that's probably why you're so good at databases," she said, "I couldn't believe it." And I remember she completely broke down in the huddle. And she told the entire team that this was the first time she had ever felt accepted for who she actually was. And she couldn't believe that it was seen as a strength, that she was dyslexic. And for me it absolutely 100% is a strength. I can't tell you how many people I have worked with that are off the charts wealthy world dominating people that are dyslexic. They have the same issues I have. Alex Charfen: One of the reasons that I think I've been in the room with and have been able to consult with such wildly successful people is because they relate to me. Because we're so similar and we have the same sensitivities and same issues. I can't tell you how many times I've been with one of my friends who is wildly successful. And the topic of calendars comes up and it's a very rare thing to be scared of, intimidated by and overwhelmed by calendars in the general public. But you get into a room of wildly successful entrepreneurs and you bring up calendars and scheduling and half the room will have a problem with it.
Alex Charfen: In fact, when you get into high level rooms of entrepreneurs, you find that their sensitivities and issues and what the world calls disabilities and challenges and learning disorders for pretty much every person in the room. And we all walk around hiding it. We pretend we're someone else. In my life, when I finally admitted who I was, told people the challenges I had. Started wearing the clothes I wanted, started doing exactly what I wanted. That's when the success that I've always been looking for finally started showing up. And that's when I finally got the help that I needed.
Alex Charfen: And when I think about today, the decades I spend pretending I was somebody else. When I think about how often I was completely sweating through my shirt into my suit jacket because I was terrified. Somebody in the room would figure out just how strongly I should not have been there. Man, I can't figure out how to make that statement. But I was terrified. Somebody in the room would finally come to the conclusion that I didn't belong there and I was terrified of it. And it literally used to cause me physical issues. I would get heartburn, I would get stomach cramps because I was afraid that I didn't actually belong in the room that I was in.
Alex Charfen: And I want you to know something. Everything that you are makes up who you are. Every challenge you have has created a massive strength on the other side. I was just talking about my friend Jon Morrow today. Jon is first one of the most intense and unique and intelligent people I've ever been around. And Jon is confined to a wheelchair and he can only move his face. Everything he does in the world, he does with his face. He drives his wheelchair through a straw. He dictates to be able to talk to people and send emails. And he's one of the top riders in the world. He's the owner of Copyblogger and he has ... I think it's now a 17 or 18 person team, part for the company, part to take care of him. And he runs all of it from a wheelchair only using his face. Jon's disabilities, Jon's issues, Jon's challenges, he can't hide them. So, everybody knows what they are and he gets the help that he needs. And he makes sure that he's still growing his business.
Alex Charfen: What would happen to you if your challenges, the issues, the frustrations you experience, what would happen if everybody could see him and they were just out in the open? That used to be my biggest fear in the world. And I want to let you know that when you just put it all out there, the world finally shifts and adjusts and you find exactly where you should be. I know I have.
Alex Charfen: I want you to know, I appreciate you for listening to the Momentum podcast and if you want to interact with us a little more, we have a Facebook group called the Billionaire Code. If you're not a member yet, just [inaudible] Facebook, type in billionaire code and we have a group with business owners from around the world that are building and scaling businesses, growing teams. We have a ton of really engaged discussion in there. When you go to join the billionaire code group, you'll be asked to answer three questions. Please answer them because we won't let you in the group without the answers. Go to billionaire code on Facebook or [inaudible] code group on Facebook apply. We will get you approved and I'm looking forward to interacting more with you.
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