Maybe I will be found out

Images Maybe its timing, maybe its age or who knows but in the past few weeks a variety of interesting opportunities have come my way.  I am really excited about each of them and am trying to figure out how to make them all happen and wondering does this make sense.  I've definitely gotten better at thinking things through vs diving in head first and that is certainly age related.

Yet through all of these conversations there is still a piece of me that thinks "omigod, they are all going to figure out I know nothing.". Why?

I was talking with my friend about this today at lunch.  She recently launched Girls Guide to Paris which is my new favorite site.  Her insight was that since men have been ruling the landscape for so many years that they wouldn't even conceive the notion that they don't  know what they were doing.  If they didn't, they would just make it up as they go along.

She had been to a conference a few years back called Women and Power.  At this event one of the panels was about the words that women use vs men and how they talk in business.  It reminded me of something that happened about 10 years ago at a conference I was lucky enough to attend.

Fred was invited to a conference outside of DC which was put on by one of the big accounting firms who had a small group of people devoted to the Internet.  They invited mostly the early adapters in the business from Red Burns to Jason Calacanis to entrepreneurs in the space (many who have actually gone by the way side).  Fred was invited and I came along for the ride.  Although I was working in that space, I wasn't invited as I was the lowly revenue driver behind Silicon Alley Reporter. I let the heads of the conference know I was coming. They knew me and thought I'd add to the conversations so  they were happy to let me sit at the round tables and participate.  I was delighted.

We were sitting in a large room around tables that formed a large square to create conversation and everyone had their name in front of them.  I was sitting next to a guy who started an Internet agency, was a friend and someone I was doing business with at the time.  As the conversations began I couldn't get my 2 cents in.  It was really frustrating.  After a few attempts, I gave up.  He whispered to me, "women always start their sentences with I feel or I think but men don't, just start with your point without the I feel or I think part and you will get in there.". It was a serious aha moment.  I took his advice immediately and I became part of the discussion.  Fascinating.

Perhaps, in time, the feeling of do I really know what I'm talking about will change.  I see my girls and their complete confidence in their knowledge and being able to make it up as they go along.  Maybe the next generation of women will be past that, I hope so. Someone actually said of me once to someone, Joanne is great at what she does because she raises money like a man.  It was meant as a total complement but has always made me laugh.  She met me soon after my friend gave me the advice about not starting conversations with I think.

In the end it is all about the approach but in the end there isn't a woman ( in my age group ) I have met who has the inner feeling sometimes that says "omigod one day they will found out that I have no idea what I'm doing".  I'm truly working on getting past that.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. fredwilson

    does anyone really know what they are doing? of course there are some people who have so much experience and knowledge that they are likely to make better decisions. but look at most of the leaders of banks and brokerage and insurance companies over the past couple years. many people who were supposed to “know what they are doing” did not.

  2. satish

    Here is a funny anecdote. 🙂 i came to the US in 2000 and i met my wife in a Yahoo chat room “Indians in USA” around 2002. I was getting used to the US at that point and had a few good american friends. She grew up in the NJ since she was 4 and she has an american accent, well what we call the ABCD accent. I used to talk to her online all the time but i was scared of talking to her on the phone because I was scared to be found out if you want to call it that. 🙂 She would call and Id try to get off the phone and chat with her 🙂 until i got comfortable understanding her on the phone and then we never got off the phone :P.

  3. Kylie Sachs

    This is a great post. I must say, when women I admire discuss things like this in such an honest way, I gain even more respect for them. Cheers to you. (and btw, LOVE that you liked Perfect On Paper – Maria is a friend of mine and I told her she should get you a copy).

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks for sending Maria my way.Women should have these conversations, agreed.joanne [email protected]

  4. CCjudy

    I think all your amazing brilliance will be found out and discovered and thats your real concern…

  5. melissachang

    I just want to say THANK YOU for sharing this tip about starting sentences with “I think” or “I feel” in a larger group setting where there are ideas being discussed.I think this will really help me! I mean, This will really help me! 🙂

  6. jasoncalacanis

    Taking notes since our daughter is coming in december…

    1. Gotham Gal

      Hoping she will be of a new and thoroughly confident generation from head to toe inside and out.joanne [email protected]

  7. TanyaMonteiro

    yet again thank you for articulating what I felt so often in those wall street days. with Kylie Sachs on the honesty = respect! also, wondering about paradox’s and how much they keep us active, alive, conscious and questioning? long may you wonder and articulate as you do. thankyou

  8. Cecelia Feld

    Joanne,You were supposed to be the generation that had it all figured out. My generation had consciousness raising groups back in the 70’s. Maybe they should be resurrected. Of course, that was way before the internet, blogs, etc. Not sure they helped that much anyway. Still trying to figure it out. Ask my kids (Brad and Dan) how I’m doing. Good luck!Cecelia

    1. Gotham Gal

      We were supposed to be that generation but perhaps no generation will everfigure it all out. It is part of the fabric of being a woman. After all,bottom line, unless science takes some serious leaps, we are the only genderthat can have children and that alone takes on a whole other layer. I don’tsee that changing.

  9. Ry Sal

    I think (there I started this with “I think”) that most people doubt themselves on an almost daily basis… I do find, however, that women in conversation apologize far too much. I was guilty of this and stopped — it definitely changed a few relationships for the better.

    1. Gotham Gal

      What could you possibly be apologizing for unless you happen to step onsomeone’s foot.

  10. Emily

    I’m young, only 25, so I consider myself part of the “next generation” of women. I’ve spoken on a few panels about women in entrepreneurship and people always like to ask if I feel like I’m treated differently by investors, board members, etc. I don’t feel like I am treated differently, but I believe it’s because I’ve never acted like I have a handicap. I was fortunate enough to have an early role model in high school, my female chemistry teacher who had her shit together better than any of my male teachers. She made me believe I could do anything. I really like your tip about the “I think or I feel”, I’m definitely going to pay attention to how I use that in communicating my opinions. Thanks for such a great post.

  11. TanyaMonteiro

    thought I’d share this quote I just read on a tiny booklet someone handed me. “the older I get, the less pressure I feel to please people. Blokes are very good at that. They say, “no, I don’t want to do that”, and that’s it. They don’t have to give a long blown-out explanation like women do. I’m trying to train myself to be more like a bloke” Jane Horrocks, 45, actress.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I love that. Nice quote.