One of my all-time favorite blogs is Art of Manliness. It's a site I turn to frequently for inspiration, whether its to try a new method for shaving, find a new campfire recipe, or merely read stories of great men of history and how they approached the world.
A post that particularly spoke to me a couple of years ago was about how to "act like a man." It contained a blueprint for how to become the kind of man you wanted to be:
1. Figure out what sort of man you want to be. [...] What sort of man do you want to become? Maybe you have a personal hero or a grandfather or a mentor who personifies your ideal version of manhood. Once you know what kind of man you want to be, study and contemplate how that sort of man would live his life. [...]
2. Start doing the things that sort of man would do. Even if you don't feel like it. [...] Some of the stuff you'll have to do will be hard, some of it will make you feel uncomfortable, and some of it will make you feel like a phony. Ignore those feelings.
Please don't misunderstand me, this isn't a message that applies only to men. It could just as easily be "figure out what sort of person you want to be" and "start doing the things that sort of person would do even if you don't feel like it." The message is simple:
Figure out the person you want to become in the future and start acting like you think that person would behave now. Eventually, you'll become that person.
I'm an introvert. Or at least I used to be. Speaking in public terrified me to no end. I would avoid situations where I'd be in front of a group and would manipulate others into volunteering so I wouldn't have to.
Then, in college, a close friend of mine urged me to pay closer attention to politics. Our goal was to change, if not the world, at least a small corner of it. But we both knew we couldn't do so passively - we'd have to step out of the shadows and take the stage.
I forced myself to take a speaking class. I forced myself to apply for and take on positions that required leadership and public speaking. They still terrified me, and it was a struggle to take the microphone each and every time it was offered.
After college I joined Toastmasters to continue forcing myself into speaking roles. Every time, even in front of that small group, I'd sweat nervously and feel physically ill when asked to stand up.
I'd always stop, though, and think of what my friend told me in college - we had to become the kinds of people we'd be willing to listen to and follow, otherwise we'd never be able to expect others to listen to us. It was enough of a pep talk to keep me trying, but it wasn't until I read the post on Art of Manliness that I really understood.
I don't think I'll ever make it to the exact point I want to reach, but I've come close - and I'm still getting closer.
I'm still terrified every time I take the stage, but fewer and fewer people can recognize it while I speak.
I no longer avoid speaking opportunities, but instead proactively seek them out. I'm closer and closer to "making it" and embodying at least one of the characteristics I've sought after for so many years.
It's taken years of "faking it" to make it this far, and I no longer feel like a fake, either.
Where would you like to make it?