“Has there ever been a time when “the voices in your head” have kicked in and worked against you, even when you know you’re more than capable/able?”

I’ve proven to be the kind of person who lunges head first into things I’m not ready for. I pick up what I can and take note of everything I miss so I can make up for it later and make my comeback.

My freshman year in college is filled with such experiences. I’ll focus on the professional side of things.

There I was, 18 years old, less than a month in college. In the big city (of Berea) out of the woods of solitude at home in North Carolina. My advising professor, Dr. Peter Hackbert recommended that I participate in a Startup Weekend event after noting my interest in technology (and hoping to recruit me for the summer program he leads, Entrepreneurship for the Public Good. To which he was successful).

I reflect on this event almost exactly one year late able to reflect on my experience and determine why I did what I did during that weekend.

Arriving at Awesome INC (the local startup incubator in Lexington Kentucky) on Friday, I did not know what to expect. I had heard that this was an event where people pitched an idea for an invention or something. Then they worked on it for 3 days. So like “Shark Tank” but actually building stuff. I was also warned that the average age at these events was mid 20’s and that I would likely be the youngest person there.

The first day I was hyped with anticipation, enthusiastic and it showed. I had no ideas to pitch so I watched the others carefully then when it came time to choose a team to work with I presumptuously asked: “Why should I work with you on this project.” (mind you that I was fresh out of high school with only a month of general prerequisite classes under my belt and no experience.

Regardless, I “got hired” by a team and we immediately commandeered the most envied office space in the building and began the “brain dump” I found myself leading the conversation and throwing out ideas left and right. It was going great and I could sense the respect I was getting from the much older members of my team.

The day came to a close and everyone retired for the night. I left exhausted and my mind racing. However, I began to do the thing that I do best. Overanalyzing and self-degradation. I began to point out all my flaws and reason that these people with college degrees must have thought I was something to be throwing out ideas and not have any experience. Hell, one of the members of my team mentioned that he already owned a successful startup. He must have thought everything I said was stupid. Maybe I’ll let the others take over and I’ll just chime in when needed.

The next day I could almost feel the concern when I didn’t speak up. Almost. I was too busy listening to myself say how I was inferior to these people and could never contribute anything useful. Later my team was digressing to the point that we spend hours on one non-essential detail about our product. It was then I really wanted to say something, but I reasoned that I hadn’t spoken in so long that they surely wouldn’t listen to me.

Needless to say, I didn’t perform my best that weekend. I began the next week filled with more self-hate because I let myself ruin an opportunity. It wasn’t until after many weeks of reflection that I began to realize that the experience was a learning opportunity and my head first approach still works. I began to develop my confidence and gain skills on my own time so that, one day, when I go back to Startup Weekend, I will be my very best.

“It’s ok to fail, as long as you learn from it.”

“Those voices in your head are not always on your side.”

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