The Outsider Syndrome - Feeling Out of Place
There are times when, as entrepreneurs, we get to attend events where fellow entrepreneurs, mentors and potential investors congregate. I still remember the first such event I attended, where I went, blinking my baby entrepreneur eyes in the spotlight, against the flash and glamour of all the old hands moving about what seemed to me their natural habitat. The feeling that struck me that day is something that I still experience, on and off - "the outsider syndrome". That very uncomfortable feeling of being very, very out of place. Reminiscent of our first day at a new school, or at a new job. Not quite sure of the dynamics, not sure what to do first, feeling at lease a tiny bit gauche, as if our hands and feet aren't quite following our brains' orders! 😄
It is natural to feel like we don't belong somewhere we have never been before. And to a relatively fresh entrepreneur, the cold, hard truth is that most places are new terrain for us. Which means that there is a very high chance that we will need to undergo this discomfort quite often in our initial years of starting up. If it's a first pitch to a pit full of vipers (read: potential investors), hoo boy!
So what do we do?
1. Remind Ourselves Why Outsider Syndrome is a Good Thing
“Some of us aren't meant to belong. Some of us have to turn the world upside down and shake the hell out of it until we make our own place in it.”
― Elizabeth Lowell,
Outsiders have the distinct advantage of not knowing how things work, and so are not prone to fall into set patterns of behaviour. Fresh eyes, and a fresh perspective are invaluable, especially when you are looking for new opportunities. Remember, you are the one whom no one knows, which makes you the interesting one, the one with all the potential to be amazing! So being the "new guy" at a gathering is something to be used to your advantage - look for people who could be of use to you, who could open doors for you, who could help you achieve your next goals.
Before turning up at the next start-up event you plan to attend, doing a little bit of research about the kind of people who will be coming (looking up a few names, and their LinkedIn or AngelList profiles, for instance) could help you arm yourself with valuable information that will help you make the most of your time there. Listing out the outcomes that you are looking for as a result of attending this event can also help keep you focused, in the eventuality that you are bombarded with new experiences and opportunities. Afterwards, making a note of the things, people and ideas that caught your attention during the event can also help you to follow up on potential breakthroughs for your start-up and/or yourself.
As entrepreneurs, we are all looking for ways to survive, to conquer, to climb, to achieve. Keeping this foremost in our minds can help us work through any negative feelings, such as uncertainty, isolation, trepidation, or stage fright. Focus on what needs to be done, and you will definitely be able to do it.
2. Pay It Forward
Once you have a few mild attacks of the outsider syndrome under your belt, you will be able to mingle with the best of them. And when you spot a recently hatched entrepreneur wavering on unsteady at the edges of another mixer, go forth and take them under your wing - they will be forever grateful to their new mentor!
(Author's Note: Sorry for being incommunicado for the past few weeks - I was travelling quite a bit, and was not able to get into the right head-space for writing. My apologies to those (if any) of you who checked for updates!)