Tom-Chris Emewulu

“It wasn’t until the early part of 2017 that it dawned on me: impostor syndrome could follow me the rest of my life if I didn’t make a change!”

Part of my job at SFAN – the one I enjoy so much – is being a connector: bringing innovators, thinkers, corporate executives, and co-dreamers together to spark off a meaningful career or business conversation.

Regardless of the theme, there’s usually that moment when someone talks about his or her struggles with impostor syndrome. There is usually that moment when someone recounts how he or she grappled with the fear of being exposed as a fraud at work.

Looking back at my own life, I remember my struggle with the feelings of insecurity. As a teenager, I had several internalized fears that I was not good enough.

It got prevalent when I came to Ghana. There was an occasional reminder that I didn’t belong in some groups at school due to some of those pervasive stereotypes about Nigerians. This translated into life after college as I decided to continue building SFAN instead of going back home. There was that constant on-and-off struggle with being an outsider. And, when coupled with the pressure of creating a sustainable growth engine for my business and leading my team, the result was constant anxiety because of my limited knowledge.

It wasn’t until the early part of 2017 that it dawned on me: impostor syndrome could follow me the rest of my life if I didn’t make a change!

Tony Robbins once said that if something is important to you, you have to make it a study. So I decided to study how to work on my mindset and face this monstrous impostor syndrome.

Here’s what worked for me:

1. Embrace Who You Are

“There are many challenges in life, but do not be imprisoned by your own thoughts and fears.” – Strive Masiyiwa

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Angel Wings by DESIGNECOLOGIST

At the early stages of my career, I thought the best way to overcome the impostor syndrome was to be “twice as good.” But, the harder I worked, the more I felt that people around me did not acknowledge my contribution.

And it bothered me – almost to the point and often to the point that I considered changing my name to a Ghanaian name just to fit in.

Come to find out, about 70% of people across cultures are affected by this same feeling of being a fraud at something. In fact, highly successful people like Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Natalie Portman of Hollywood all suffered from impostor syndrome at different points in their career.

But instead of living in denial, they chose to make peace with that feeling and over-index on their truth. When you are true to your core, you stifle the inner conflicts that often make some people “fake it to make it.”

In my own life, I had to come to grips with the fact that my only limitation is my mind. I am a Nigerian entrepreneur in whatever context I operate from and that’s not going to change. Regardless of certain skewed narratives about my country, I am comfortable introducing myself as a Nigerian. And, I am comfortable being under the microscopic eyes of people that feel some of my results are too good to be true.

For the record, there are negative people in any part of the world.

People are people everywhere – the most important thing is to keep an open mind and silence the negative voices in your head.

Says Wayne Dyer, “if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” As entrepreneurs, the biggest challenge we face is often what goes on in our heads. What you complain about today might just be the physical equivalence of the thoughts and images you’ve been harboring in your mind. In other words, “what you focus on expands and becomes real for you.”  

If you have been feeling pinned-down by your mistakes and insecurities, it’s time to embrace who you are without a sense of guilt. It’s time to stop letting the impostor syndrome be a liability and make it an opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive!  

2. Build Your Self-Confidence Through Positive Self-Talk

There has been considerable emphasis on the fact that positive self-talk is an effective strategy for enhancing learning and optimizing performance.

It’s true; what we say to ourselves has more effect on our perception of control, confidence, and spiritual wellbeing.

David Goggins is considered by many as the strongest man alive. Goggins is the only member of the US Armed Forces to complete SEAL training, US Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. He was also the Guinness record holder for the most number of pull-ups done in 24 hours.

He attributed a major part of his success to a concept known as a Cookie Jar. The Cookie Jar is a secret weapon which contains every setback he has overcome in his life. And in times of struggle, he’ll remember how he went to three hell week as a Navy SEAL and completed two. He’ll remind himself that suffering is just a test. With that constant reminder, he is able to attack whatever obstacle life throws in his path and win.

Says Goggins in his book, Can’t Hurt Me: “Remembering what you’ve been through and how that has strengthened your mindset can lift you out of a negative brain loop and help you bypass those weak, one-second impulses to give in.”

People with impostor syndrome often fear new challenges because they feel unworthy, inadequate, and incompetent. Click To Tweet

Create your own reality and reinforce that picture by speaking words of courage and power to yourself. See yourself handling your challenges, building your business, getting the contracts and becoming an influencer.

If you’re new to this type of thinking, it might feel like a lie at the beginning but that is where the fun begins. Impress that thought to your mind through positive affirmations and it’ll go to work in shifting your energy to put you at a peak state.

At this point, your brain will begin to shift from victim to victor mentality. You’ll dress better and feel more confident. You’ll begin to think like a global citizen. You’ll have more ideas on how to improve your work and the lives of those around you. You’re not worried about competitors because you’re your own competition. This is what psychologists call a mental and emotional breakthrough. And once you’ve tasted that feeling, nothing else can satisfy.

3. Deliver on Your Commitments

“Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.” – Michael Jordan

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Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Too many people don’t honor their commitments.

Why?

They lack a sense of character. Their words do not mean much to them. They have no resolve and they have no issue wiggling out of their commitments because deep down, they don’t believe in themselves.

They prefer to drift along instead of stepping across the line because of the fear of uncertainty. They prefer the comfort of mediocrity to the uncertainty of daring incredible things in life.

Their language is “I will try.”

Successful people don’t “try,” they either do it or they don’t do it at all. They deliver on their commitments no matter what happens. They know that their word is their bond so they are selective about what they commit to.

In the language of research, commitment means binding yourself to a course of action. It means you’ve passed your point of no return and you’ve burned your bridges.

Tony Robbins breaks down the labyrinth involved in actualizing this strategy in three simple steps:

  • Make a decision while you’re in a high emotional or peak state
  • Commit to your decision by removing everything in your environment that may conflict with it and hold yourself accountable through multiple channels
  • Make up your mind that your decision is final and it will happen.

When we were planning the inaugural Student Entrepreneurship Week Ghana, there were many obstacles we had to overcome. At one point, I felt like we didn’t have what it takes to create an event of that magnitude. But we were fully committed. It was obligational, not conditional.

Be aware, when you make your decision, your resolve will be tested. There’d be times when everything that could go wrong will go wrong. This is when you must remember the reason why you got started in the first place.

Your resolve must be strong.

There is an emotional juice that comes from results and a sense of knowing that “you earned this.” It makes you feel good about yourself. It builds up your credibility and you love your work more.

You give more thought to nuancing your delivery and your results will correspond with your new state of mind.

Before long, people will take notice of your excellence and pay you more for your services which will lead to creating more top-rated work.

There is a higher calling for each one of us. At some point in our lives, every one of us has seen our “other self;” that inner man or woman of substance. But many people choose to be hemmed-in by society and stereotypes instead of liberating themselves from the clutch of limited thinking to be all they could be.

To be completely honest, there are still moments when that little voice of impostor syndrome makes me feel unworthy of my results or certain aspirations. But I know better now. I know how to wear my identity like a badge of honor while progressively improving my personality, results, and outlook on life. 

You too can do the same!


About the Author

Tom-Chris | #Readyforwork

Tom-Chris Emewulu is the President & Founder of SFAN. He is an education enthusiast, entrepreneurship and career coach, a consultant at Mastercard Foundation, Seedstars Ambassador for Ghana and an aspiring venture capitalist. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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The future of entrepreneurship in Ghana is very bright, thanks to innovators and ecosystem facilitators working tirelessly to create lasting change. As we round off what has been the best year in Ghana’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, I want to share some predictions for 2019.

The Blurb: Startup funding will triple, new startup clusters will emerge, and Ghana will be a hotbed for FDI. Click To Tweet

About this time last year, I wrote that the Ghanaian entrepreneurship ecosystem will see an incremental growth from this year, 2018. Well, true to that prediction, the ecosystem has, indeed, flourished. There’s been remarkable projects like Google’s AI center, U.S-Ghana Business forum, Vice Chancellor Merkel’s visit, Germany Ghana Investors Forum, UK-Ghana Investment Summit, the inaugural Student Entrepreneurship WeekEuromoney Conference, Prince Charle’s visit and so on.

From an increased funding to new startup clusters to foreign direct investment, below are my predictions about the future of entrepreneurship in Ghana.

Number 1: An upward funding trend – Startup funding to triple

Startups in Ghana raised about $20.4M in 2017, an improvement from the $8.67M raised the previous year. As at January 2018, African Tech Startups Funding Report released by tech startup news and research platform Disrupt Africa recorded that startups in Ghana had already raised $22.3M. By the end of December 2018, interest in funding Ghanaian startups may have increased by more than 150% from last year.

With this in mind, my prediction is that the startup funding revolution will continue to unwind. In fact, I think there will be three times more investment in Ghana’s tech ecosystem in 2019. Unsurprisingly, we shall see more interests in fintech, followed by e-commerce (e-commerce could reach a growth margin of 56% by  2020) and agri-tech. Also, with the increasing need for innovation in Ghana’s education system, I foresee a spike in education funding by 2019.

Number 2: Beyond Silicon Accra – An emergence of new startup clusters

There are three major players that make up every functional ecosystem: entrepreneurs, investors, and enablers (tech hubs, universities, corporates, and the government). The future of entrepreneurship in Ghana will go beyond Accra.

For a very long time and often to the concern of various stakeholders, many activities and innovations in Ghana’s entrepreneurship space take place in Accra. In fact, most of the startups that raised funding in Ghana this year work in or from Accra. More so, a greater number of events in Ghana’s entrepreneurship space happens here, in Accra.

However, there has been a progressive argument on the need to decongest the metropolitan city to make these opportunities equally distributed across the country.

I predict that from 2019, we shall see a sprout of startup clusters elsewhere like Kumasi, Tamale, and Takoradi. In my opinion, Kumasi is prime for a considerable amount of the action. Hapa Space and Kumasi hive – two of the active hubs in Kumasi – are laying the bricks through partnerships with institutions like British Council, The Indigo Trust, and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)Tamale is known for its clean air, good road network and is only 618.22 km from Accra. These are some of the merits for a “peace of mind” for entrepreneurs seeking to escape the high cost of living and traffic congestion in Accra.

Number 3: A hotbed for FDI and increased multi-stakeholder collaborations

With Nigeria going into a definitive Presidential election, I foresee that Ghana will be the focus of many foreign direct investments in West Africa in the New Year.

According to provisional figures put forward by the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) for Ghana from January to September has hit 1.3 billion dollars. The IMF records that Ghana experienced a 6.3% economic growth in 2018 and is among the top ten fastest growing economies on the continent.

On the heels of Chancellor Merkel’s visit in August, three German companies – Volkswagen, Robert Bosch Packaging Technology GmbH, and Voith Hydro Holding GmbH & Co KG – signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with Ghana to invest in economic transforming projects such as energy, health, and automobile. Nissan was also reported to have signed a MoU to work with the Ghanaian government to set up an automotive manufacturing industry in the country. 

Granted, the recent shake-up in the banking sector and consistent fluctuations in the exchange rate has left some investors in doubt about the future of entrepreneurship in Ghana. Nevertheless, I think Ghana will see more international economic transactions as well as an increased multi-stakeholder collaboration in 2019. The recent Accra SDG Impact Investment Fair organized by the Ministry of Finance and GIPC is the beginning of such collaborations for driving change at scale.

Conclusion

Once again, I believe the future of entrepreneurship in Ghana is very bright. It is not a surprise that President Akufo-Addo has declared 2019 as ‘year of return for Diasporans’. Indeed, 2019 will not only see Ghana being the focus for millions of African descendants tracing their ancestry and their identity, but it will also see the country being the focus of many development leaders and investors around the world.


About the Author

Tom-Chris | #Readyforwork

Tom-Chris Emewulu is the President & Founder of SFAN. He is an education enthusiast, entrepreneurship and career coach, and an aspiring venture capitalist. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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