I started my first company when I was 15. I woke up one morning on fire with the idea of starting a small business. People watched me make things happen and told me, 'you're marked for greatness'. The problem was - I felt deeply inadequate. This sense fueled a highly productive, but almost manic sense of trying to prove my value. You couldn't tell, but I was comparing myself to everyone around me and no matter what I achieved - I could not enjoy it and the inadequacy remained.
Despite winning awards, growing at 150% per annum year over year, $10MM in VC money - all before the age of 30, I was vulnerable to bouts of self-flagellation, workaholism, depression, anxiety and simply giving up. My performance was erratic at times and my journey was bumpy to say the least.
As entrepreneurs we often live in suspicion that we are just not good enough, and live in dread that we will be exposed at any moment.
In Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants he cites evidence on how students at elite schools like Harvard go on to underperform less academically capable students at less prestigious institutions in many ways.
The reason Gladwell points out is simple - that despite their exceptional ability, a rather large group of them most especially those in the bottom 1/3 of their class develop an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. They compare themselves to those around them and unconsciously adopt a belief that they are a misfit and that they don't belong. They psych themselves out, drop out, switch programs and produce less than those judged as inferior in academic ability at the top half of less distinguished schools whose entrance requirements are far lower.
As entrepreneurs we inevitably compare ourselves to those around us and risk a similar fate. The reality is this: No matter where you are along the journey - the fact is that you are doing it. You are striving. You are in the game and seeking to create something better for yourself and those around you through your own creativity, efforts and force of intent. There are always times when we fail, suck and don't measure up to some expectations. Repeated failure is a central skill in the process of validating and refining the value of new ideas. Use that pervasive voice of inadequacy to fuel a sense that despite your limitations you will not be denied. Use the anxious feeling to stoke the drive you need to push forward through setbacks, failure, abandonment and defeat.
At the end of the day your own growth in self-awareness, a competent coach or mentor can help you channel the powerful energy of inadequacy: the fear of failure, fear of success, perfectionism, procrastination, and workaholism to the productive possibilities you and your business represent, and can help you to enjoy the journey as well.