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Firm for the Culture | I’m Too Flawed For Greatness.
Accept me flaws and all? | I am what an Intellectual Property Attorney looks like.
What started out as a curious question around different relationship attachment styles developed into more pointed inquiries into my relationship with my parents, childhood memories preferred forgotten, and a whole lot of pent up emotions about past experiences in that Brooklyn-based small apartment on Mermaid Avenue.
Suffice it to say, my childhood was no crystal stair.
Indeed, on the Adverse Childhood Experiences or “ACE” test, the premier assessment for evaluating the degree of traumatic experiences we’ve had as children, I scored a whopping 8 out of 10 (the “normal” range is 1-2; anything higher than that heightens your risk for mental illness, chronic diseases, and repeating the cycle of violence).
But I not only survived.
But even when my life today looks little, if anything, like the life of my past, reticence and debilitating anxiety remain familiar foes on my entrepreneurship journey.
So how does this relate to entrepreneurship and brand protection?
As you’ve seen, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time unpacking the “upper limit” phenomenon, the subconscious self-sabotage that happens when we get a taste of something great, be it a promotion, a financial windfall, a great relationship, completing your first marathon, or any other measure of success (like successfully obtaining a trademark).
The upper limit may occur not only when things are going wrong, but when things are actually headed in a positive direction.
Indeed, I recall the time a client actually acted negatively or reticent when I told them their trademark was on its way to a successful registration.
Or the bristle of another client when I told them we got the licensing deal we worked hard for.
While far from the reaction I anticipated, these seemingly paradoxical responses motivated me to dig a little deeper.
Perhaps you’re like our clients; the vision you’ve had for your business is actually becoming realized and you’re scared something, somewhere, will knock it all down.
Perhaps you’re afraid to share your wins with your closest friends for fear that they may respond negatively or, worse, not at all.
Perhaps you’ve gotten the big contract you were gunning for, and now you’re afraid to commence this new and exciting venture.
This, my friend, may be your upper limit talking.
Indeed, because of our prior experiences, whether it be past failures, setbacks, or as in my case, a tumultuous childhood upbringing, we may subscribe to a narrative or two (or as Gay Hendricks notes, around four), to aid us in staying just under our limitations when we’re just about to crush our upper limit.
It’s time to shift the narratives.
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Have you ever wondered about that nagging and unenviable feeling you get when you’re about to take a leap into something big?
The feeling starts off as a whisper, but then crescendos into a full on orchestra of mind numbing cacophony.
In the end, you negotiate with and ultimately accommodate your fears; perhaps you realized that by staying small, you could quiet the noise living rent free in your head.
But then another ominous feeling sets in - the regret that you’re not reaching your highest potential.
There has to be a reason for this seemingly unending emotional vacillation.
As Gay Hendricks notes in the Big Leap, one barrier holding us back from surpassing our upper limit is the belief that we are fundamentally flawed.
With this belief in place, we reason that, because of some inimitable and unchanging personal shortcoming, we don’t deserve wealth, happiness, or the success that comes with leaning into our creativity.
This belief can come from many different places.
For example, while at Berkeley Law, I was convinced that I could not do well in such a highly ranked law school because I didn’t have the “right upbringing” or didn’t come from the “right” undergraduate institution (proud state school graduate, btw…).
Yes, it was true that most of my classmates had ivy-league undergraduate degrees, as well as connections to the upper echelons of society, but I internalized the belief that I was somehow inadequate because of my impoverished upbringing.
The gag is, I held on to this belief as if my life depended on it, refusing to loosen my grip despite actually getting great grades, obtaining a highly sought after federal clerkship, and becoming one of the few first year law students to successfully land a paid summer internship at an intellectual property law firm.
Talk about cognitive dissonance, bruh…
In the end, I realized this belief was not conducive to any self-confidence or personal growth; I knew I needed to shift quickly if I was going to succeed in my purpose.
You received critical feedback from a business coach and instead of seeing it as an opportunity for improvement, you internalized it and now believe that entrepreneurship “isn’t your thing”
You received less than positive feedback from a client, and now you’re looking up job postings at Starbucks.com (or is that just me?)
You received an opportunity to pitch a huge investor, but procrastinated for fear that they can “see right through you”
Because we rarely talk about the stories we tell ourselves, especially the less than savory ones, we subscribe to a false notion that we’re alone in our thinking.
And in the absense of stories from those who have overcome similar battles, we are less likely to shift our perspectives into something more constructive.
So allow me to be the first to say, this feeling, my friend, is normal, and more commonplace than you think.
And having this belief is in no way an indictment of the purpose you’re meant to achieve.
There’s a way to overcome this barrier.
But it’s going to take some work.
For me, I write and maintain a “proud of myself” list.
Every so often, I’ll write down three things I am proud of myself for, whether it be drinking more water, going to the gym, overcoming a USPTO refusal, or writing the very article you’re reading now (smash that “❤️” button for ya girl, real quick…).
Reminding myself of my progress provides an undeniable record of all the times I've succeeded, made an impact, or simply did something worth acknowledging. From landing a big client to just getting through a challenging day, it's all there in black and white.
Surely there’s a least one thing you can be proud of, right?
Here, I’ll give you one - you’ve read this article to this point, which is a huge accomplishent if I do say so myself (and I do say so…).
Success isn’t defined by a linear journey devoid of setbacks or imperfections.
Instead, it's about embracing every facet of our journey, much like Beyonce Knowles reminds us.
Because even with “flaws and all,” we can still be loved and incredibly successful.
We at Firm for the Culture are here to guide, support, and walk alongside you every step of the way.
Do you have a story of overcoming the “fundamentally flawed” barrier?
Share in the comments below!
And when you’re ready to protect your unique contribution to the culture, including protecting the bold brand you’re building, reach out to us.
Thanks for reading.
See you next time.