|tweeted Nov 11 @Rangathetrainer|
Several days ago, possibly after following #SWE19 and the fun, games, innovations and emotions being shared by those taking part, I felt compelled to share the tweet on the right here.
I'm not normally one to share, I'm quite a closed book and have long upheld the typically british stiff upper lip approach to life: no matter how bad things are, turn up and soldier on with a smile. How often has that smile been painted on? I daren't even imagine!
It felt like a great relief to open up about my anxiety and I was touched by some very honest and appreciated conversations both in person and online with people I respect highly.
I am that guy that get anxious about new situations.
I take a while to warm up in new company.
I hover around nervously looking for a way in.
I am the guy that is constantly looking for reassurance. I want to feel like I belong.
It was this tweet from Miss C (@Tech_missc) that finally prompted me to open up: I need this space
As I wrote in my tweet, those closest to me probably don't see this side of me because with them, I am more at ease and usually sarcastic, quick-witted and sharp. But this is only because I feel I belong.
Throughout my professional life I have always strived to help others. I've never felt like I am brilliant or amazing, I just do what I think needs doing to the best of my ability. I find taking compliments very uncomfortable and tend to crack a joke to laugh it off or diminish my involvement to deflect the attention.
It has only been in the last 2 years that I have begun to understand this. I made a bold decision 3 years ago and made a big career change. It was something I'd always felt I wanted to do. I was SO wrong! I quickly learnt that it wasn't what I wanted at all and I found my way back to a more suitable role as quickly as I could, as much for the benefit of others and for my own sanity and health. I was in the wrong position for me. It wasn't right or fair on me or others.
Walking away felt like a failure and it still haunts me from time to time, even though I try to remind myself that it was an equally bold decision to do so. I took a risk, it didn't work so I made changes and as a result, I've learnt a lot.
Part of my 'recovery' from this failure was down to a guy who I owe a huge amount. His name? Dean Stokes. (@deanstokes).
I've known Dean for 20 years now, ever since he was a pupil in my very first Year 7 class in my NQT year. By his own admission, Dean was a shy young man in those days and somehow, he ended up growing in confidence and starring in school productions. He later returned to the school as a member of staff, a bit of a gamble of his own, and was instrumental in introducing G Suite to our school.
I had the honour of sharing an office with Dean for some time and learnt a huge amount about not just G Suite, but also, how to diversify and put yourself out there. When Dean moved on from school to full-time work, first with Appsevents, guess who took up the G Suite mantle.
I didn't feel ready. I didn't feel I had the knowledge base that Dean had. I felt I was dabbling and would quickly be found out. The one thing I was sure of though, I couldn't break it!
So fast forward to September 2018 and I got a call from Dean asking me to deliver a G Suite Support Staff Bootcamp for Appsevents in Aberdeen. I was hugely flattered but at the same time wondering, how desperate are you, Dean? You're asking me!
I felt out of my depth and worried/anxious that I wouldn't be up to it. Getting a plane to Scotland was my first ever internal flight. I didn't even know what I needed but knowing Dean would be there to meet me at the airport got me through. At the hotel we met up with Ben Rouse (@Mr_BRouse) and talked about the plans for the next day. Then it was early to bed ahead of a busy day. I didn't really sleep. I kept tweaking my slides and pacing. Restless legs kept me awake.
The next morning we found our way to the venue and I had a great time with the staff there, who were welcoming and very receptive. I really enjoyed it but I still had doubts: Was it ok? Did they get what they needed from it? Did I miss anything? All these questions flying around my head.
Not long after Ben asked me to lead a similar bootcamp in Vienna. That was huge for me. And, as you might predict, I got to the school early, too early, no-one was there so I walked around Vienna for over an hour making sure I didn't stray too far and would be there on the dot to meet my contact. This was another great day and finished off with one of the delegates Jeremy, taking me to the Christmas Markets for some Gluhwein. A lovely way to end the day.
But all through this and still to this day, I don't feel like an expert, even though colleagues try to tell me I am. I just don't see what I do as anything special, because it's just what I've learnt to do.
So how does this all link?
Last night our school held our annual Key Stage 4 Awards Evening and I had invited Dean to be our guest speaker. We had several long chats beforehand and I was amazed to find he often feels like I do.
We talked about the message he could share and how that would be relevant to the students. He couldn't see it. That got us talking about Imposter Syndrome (which ended up a key part of Dean's message on the night).
Needless to say, Dean smashed his speech. Everyone loved it. My technical side went well and the evening was a great success. A superb final school memory for our students and a great message for the future.
- You’re more likely to regret the things you didn’t do rather than the things you did.
- Take risks, make mistakes and learn from everything you do.
- If you're feeling like a fraud, that's probably because you are really challenging yourself.
So to everyone reading this, thank you. Thank you for reading, thank you for reaching out, thank you for sharing - not just with me but with fellow professionals, friends and family.
And above all, thanks to you Dean. I would not be doing what I do now if it weren't for that quiet, shy guy who sat in French and allowed me to call him "Wally".
The best kind of friendship is one where both of you grow as a result of the other.