Crush It, Kill It, Nail It, Own It

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As written for Auckland university of technology

May 28, 2015


“How long do you think it’ll take them to realise we’re frauds?”

When I first heard about my current program, I felt like Hiro of Big Hero 6: “If I don’t go to this nerd school, I’m going to lose my mind!” However, I’m older than Hiro and instead went home to my best mates, confessing, “I wonder how many people I need to punch in the face to get in?”

After I was accepted, a few of us bonded over a subtle freak out. Make no mistake, my peers and I legitimately applied ourselves to get here and none of us are going down without a fight. But once in a while, we still exchange that stupid grin because our presentations rarely go to plan, gear breaks, and technology crashes. We giggle quietly among ourselves wondering if this is the day that Higher Powers realise we’re coffee-based lifeforms on a serialised drama called “Winging It”. 

And then I remember that our mentors have seen it all before. We are not the first, nor will we be the last group of students scrambling to define our research proposals or agonising about the week’s exercise. People do not stop juggling innumerable balls in the air just because they level up from Masters to PhDs to multi-tasking ninjas of academic and professional infamy. But it does soothe the soul to remember we’re not fooling anyone, so we shouldn’t even try, and just get on with it. 

For some of us, that sense of ‘winging it’ or wondering if we’re frauds in a new field never entirely goes away. Like most pressures, stress can be flexed for good: compelling us to action, narrowing our focus to improve our camouflage. One day, you wake up and recognise you’re no longer winging it – actually, you’re owning it. People seek your insight not because you’re an exceptional chameleon but because while you were learning how to pretend, you were truthfully learning. And if you have any compassion for your younger self, you’ll share what you learned along the way. I hope you do.

So, here’s to my chameleons: you’re not a fraud, you’re just learning.

You may, however, feel that as soon as you’ve grasped a new concept, there’s another mountain to scale. Well, it’s true. With thousands of years of knowledge behind us, we were born into a world where there are more books than we could possibly read in a lifetime. There are more people with collective experience than we could hope to witness. Rather than be paralysed by futility, I think that’s a reason to get on with it. Learn something.  Enjoy it. Do something with it to make the world or just someone’s day a little bit better. And then learn some more.