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Impostor Syndrome with Kris Kelso, CEO of The Kelso Group

By On Top of PR

On Top of PR podcast: impostor syndrome with guest Kris Kelso and show host Jason Mudd episode graphic

In this episode, Kris Kelso, keynote speaker and CEO of The Kelso Group, joins host Jason Mudd to define what impostor syndrome is, what the opposite of impostor syndrome is, why impostor syndrome is common, how the Peter Principle relates to impostor syndrome, and how to combat impostor syndrome. 


Tune in to learn more!


Watch the episode here


5 things you’ll learn during the full episode:

  1. What impostor syndrome is
  2. What the opposite of impostor syndrome is
  3. Why impostor syndrome is more common in high achievers
  4. How the Peter Principle relates to impostor syndrome
  5. How to overcome impostor syndrome 


Additional Resources:


Additional Resources from Axia Public Relations:



[02:09] Defining impostor syndrome

  • A psychological term that refers to the tendency of people overvaluing others and undervaluing their own work
  • The fear that someone or everyone is going to find out that you don’t know what you’re doing, that you’re making it up as you go, and that people will find you as a fraud

[05:29] Fake it until you make it

  • Can help perpetual the feeling that you aren’t valuable
  • Think about adapting, changing, or growing until you make it

[07:26] The opposite of impostor syndrome

  • The opposite of impostor syndrome is called humble confidence.

Kris: “Humble confidence is your confidence being in the ability that you have to learn and adapt and grow.”


[09:00] impostor syndrome in high achievers 

  • Impostor syndrome creeps in when you're outside your comfort zone.
  • Successful people get outside their comfort zone more than others and therefore experience impostor syndrome more.
  • When your “inner critic” is telling you you’re a fraud, that means you’re pushing yourself to be better.

[12:04] The Peter Principle 

  • The idea that the best salesperson of the company gets promoted to sales manager, but they are a terrible manager but accepted the position thinking it was the “next step” in their career – and they keep receiving promotions until they can’t go further.
  • The halo effect says that if one person is good at one thing, then they'll also be good at other related things.
  • Always reward effort over ability.

[16:55] impostor syndrome in women

  • The initial studies on impostor syndrome suggested it only affected women. However, recent studies have shown that men and women equally struggle with it.
  • Women seem to be more willing to talk about experiencing impostor syndrome.
  • There’s been a trend that says impostor syndrome covers other real issues.

[23:53] Comparison traps

  • The worst trap is comparing yourself to another person. You don’t know what they’ve done and would do to gain their success. 
  • When you compare yourself to someone else, you compare yourself to a polished version of someone. 

Kris: “The only person that I need to be better than is me yesterday.”


[26:57] How to combat impostor syndrome

  • Change your view of failure.
  • Most success is built on multiple failures.

Kris: “When that inner critic wants to tell you, ‘You're at risk of failure, you better back up,’ the mindset shift that you can use to combat that fear is failure is learning.”


Kris: “If I approach a new experience, a new job, a new experiment, a new project with the idea that I'm either going to succeed or I'm going to learn and those are my two possible outcomes, then suddenly the fear of failure does not have near as much a hold on me because I know that failure equals learning and learning leads to success. So I'm OK with some failure in my career.”


[28:08] What makes community work for you rather than against you

  • impostor syndrome causes you to isolate.
  • Work in and with communities to keep your perspective positive.
  • The key ingredient to make community to work for you is vulnerability.

Kris: “Community without vulnerability will feed your impostor syndrome, but community with vulnerability will starve it.”


[29:42] Special Offer

    • “Speak with Impact” book
    • “Speak With Impact Virtually” e-companion
    • Go to speakwithimpactbook.com to learn how you can download the e-book for free!

About Kris Kelso

Kris Kelso is a keynote speaker, entrepreneur, and author of “Overcoming The Impostor: Silence Your Inner Critic and Lead with Confidence.” Trained and certified as an executive coach, Kris has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, business owners, and their leadership teams. He is a faculty instructor at the Professional Christian Coaching Institute, an adviser and instructor at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, and a contributing writer for publications including Fast Company Magazine, Yahoo Finance, and The Nashville Business Journal.


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- [Narrator] Welcome to "On Top of PR" with Jason Mudd, presented by ReviewMaxer.


- Hello and welcome to "On Top of PR." I'm your host, Jason Mudd. Today I'm joined by Kris Kelso. Kris is CEO and professional public speaker of Kelso Group. At his core, Kris is a teacher and a coach. He loves helping others understand and apply new ideas that help them grow. He does this as a keynote speaker, executive coach, leadership consultant, and author. Kris, welcome to the show, we're glad you're here.


- Thank you, Jason. I'm so glad to be here. I've been looking forward to this conversation.


- Yeah, so for our audience, Kris and I connected through me just learning about some of his content. impostor syndrome is a topic that I think is very important that we should be talking about as a PR industry and PR professionals. And then ironically, Kris and I ended up connecting at the National Speakers Association Conference Influence in Nashville where Kris lives. And I think we became fast friends or fast acquaintances, and he was already scheduled to be on our show. And so it was cool to hang out with him a little bit. I got a copy of his book and ready to share an important, timely topic of impostor syndrome.


- Yeah, I ended up sitting right across from each other at lunch, so that was such a great surprise knowing we already had this set up.


- Yeah, absolutely. It was, when you start talking about your book and your topic, I was like, wait a minute, this is starting to sound real familiar.


- Yeah.


- And so yeah, we had never met before and it was just, kind of providential that we were sitting right across from each other at a lunch that you had organized. So thank you for doing that as well.


- You're welcome, that was a lot of fun.


- Yeah, yeah. So today Kris, we're going to define impostor syndrome. We're going to talk about why it's prevalent among high achievers and at the same time 80% of the population experiences. We're going to talk about the comparison trap, how to deal with the fear of failure, the importance of community, and what makes community work for you rather [than] against you. And then I just have some additional thoughts that I'll try to weave in there about impostor syndrome. So Kris, why don't we start off by defining what is impostor syndrome?


- Yeah, impostor syndrome, it's a psychological term that was actually coined in the 1970s. So this is not a brand-new concept, but a lot of people still haven't heard about it. And it's starting to get a lot more traction here lately. It refers to the tendency of many people, it turns out, to overvalue other people's accomplishments and to undervalue or even doubt the reality of their own success. So when you have impostor syndrome, you might look at Jason Mudd and say, well, he's successful because he's smart and he's savvy and he's-


- [Jason] Handsome.


- Really got it all together. He's very handsome. And me, on the other hand, I'm just making it up as I go and I'm figuring this out along the way and I've had some success, but I've also had a lot of mistakes and failures along the way. And boy, maybe I'm not really what people think that I am. And the underlying fear, Jason, is that sooner or later, someone or everyone is going to figure out that I really don't know what I'm doing, but I'm just making it up as I go. And that if that happens, I'm going to be exposed as a fraud, as an impostor. And so it's that feeling of everyone else seems to be legit, but I don't think I am. I think that I'm just here by a fluke. Maybe I'm the only person who doesn't deserve to be on this podcast or doesn't deserve to have this kind of business or doesn't deserve to be at this conference.


- [Jason] Very interesting. So you're reminding me, Kris, of the book "Millionaire Next Door," I believe, where that's one of the concepts that's talked about is how some of the most wealthiest people – they're afraid of being figured out. So when they create a business or they're having success, they're actually, I don't want to say hoarding, but they're really saving their money. They're being very frugal, they're probably investing their money, but their thought process is, “I better take advantage of my current situation and my current wealth generation because I'm sure I'm going to be found out and people are going to realize that I don't know what I'm doing, I don't deserve this,” and things like that. Now, I don't think the book ever calls it impostor syndrome, but as you were explaining it and defining it, that was a trigger to me to be like, yeah, I know there are people who feel this way who are incredibly successful.


- Yeah, there are, and in fact, statistically up to 80% of the population by some studies experience this at some point in their career. But the interesting thing is it tends to be more prevalent among high achievers. So the more ambitious you are, the more driven you are. And really the more successful you are, the more likely you are to run into this feeling that you don't deserve the success that you've had. And I think the reason for that is that if you're driven and ambitious, then you're always trying new things and you're pushing the boundaries. You're stretching yourself, which means you find yourself in situations where you feel maybe ill-equipped or a little bit in over your head. And so it's actually, a sort of a result of your drive that you get yourself into situations where you're outside your comfort zone. And that can create that feeling of insecurity or that fear of being exposed as not fully capable of what you're trying to do.


- So Kris, I'm kind of thinking a little bit about “fake it till you make it.”


- Mm, yeah.


- What do you think? Is that part of, I mean, there's this cliche in entrepreneurialism and business and other things is kind of fake it till you make it, but this is kind of that other side where maybe people aren't so comfortable faking it or maybe they've been faking it so long, I don't know. Are these related at all?


- Yeah, they are. Absolutely and personally, I'm not a fan of that phrase, “fake it until you make it,” because I think there's an inherent deception in that. And that fake it till you make it mentality can actually perpetuate the feeling that I'm not legitimate.


- [Jason] Yeah.


- I am faking it.


- [Jason] Yeah.


- Right, and so there's a difference between “fake it till you make it” – trying to just emulate and pretend to be something until you get there, and acknowledging that I'm on a journey of learning and I'm not where I want to be, but I'm in process and I'm growing. A recent tweet actually from Adam Grant, one of my favorite authors, he said, "The highest form of confidence is belief in your ability to learn." And so, I think instead of fake it till you make it, it's recognized that I'm on a journey and I'm in a process and I believe that I can achieve something even if I'm not already there yet.


- Yeah, maybe instead of fake it till you make it, it should be something like adapt until you make it or evolve or learn or grow or.


- Grow into it, yeah.


- Develop until you make it right, yeah, like that.


- Stake your claim, plant your flag at what you're trying to do, and then grow into that confidently rather than try to pretend and harbor this insecurity on the inside.


- I'm feeling so motivated right now, like, I wish I had some weights to start lifting and pumping iron or something. It's like your power song is playing right now.


- That's right.


- So what's the opposite of impostor syndrome? Like how you defined impostor syndrome earlier, opposite of that, is that arrogance or overconfidence like.


- Yeah, so there's a couple of answers to that question. In my book I contrast these two ideas. One being proud insecurity, where you have this outward arrogance and you're sort of overcompensating on the outside for a deep-seated insecurity and a fear that you're not enough. And that is sort of where impostor syndrome lives, is trying to present yourself as something you're not and that fake it till you make it mentality. The opposite of that is what I would call humble confidence. And it really goes back to what we just talked about of your confidence being built not in what you know and what you've done and what you've achieved, but your confidence being in the ability that you have to learn and adapt and grow. And so it's the ability to say, I may not have all the answers, but I believe I can find the answers and I may not have achieved everything I want to achieve, but I believe that I'm on the path to getting there. And so, there's a humility blended with a confidence that I can do it. I may not have done it yet, but I can do it and I don't have to pretend that I've had it, that I've done it all and that I've got it all together.


- So Kris, we talked about millionaires earlier, which you know, would arguably be high achievers or maybe they just lucked into it, but most millionaires didn't look into.


- That's right.


- That status. So you said why it's more prevalent among high achievers. So if we haven't covered that well enough, let's covered a little bit more.


- Yeah, so impostor syndrome most often gets a hold of you, creeps in – that inner critic that tells you you're not good enough, you can't make it – it creeps in when you're outside your comfort zone. If you're doing something that you've done a thousand times and you've been doing it for years and you know it and you're the expert and then you're not likely to feel that insecurity, that feeling of maybe I'm faking it here or maybe I'm a fraud. But whenever you start to get outside of your comfort zone, your familiarity, whenever you try something new, whenever you do something different, that's when you're most susceptible to feeling like, “I don't deserve to be here.” Especially if you have some early success and you sort of find your way to some success, you might feel like that's an accident or it's undeserved. And so, successful people do that more than your average run-of-the-mill Joe, who's just content to punch a clock. And so driven, ambitious, creative, really striving people are more often going to find themselves in that situation where they might feel in over their head or they are ill-equipped for what they've attempted to take on. But that's actually a good thing. And I've learned through this process of studying this topic for a number of years now and writing this book several years ago – I've learned to recognize that feeling of the inner critic telling me that I'm being a fraud or I'm faking it or I'm not deserving of what I'm doing right now. I've learned to recognize that as actually a good sign because it means that I am pushing the boundaries, I'm learning, I'm stretching, I'm taking a risk and there's great reward on the other side of that if I can push through it and not let that fear cause me to pull back.


- That's great, Kris. Speaking of other side, we're going to take a break and come back on the other side with more questions for Kris. I know I've got a couple; I'm sure you do too. I will do my best to get to them. And thank you for tuning in, we'll be right back.


- [Narrator] You're listening to "On Top of PR" with your host, Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted adviser to some of America's most-admired and fastest-growing brands. He is the managing partner at Axia Public Relations, a PR agency that guides news, social and web strategies for national companies. And now, back to the show.


- Hello and welcome back to "On Top of PR.” Kris is still with us; we're still talking about impostor syndrome, and Kris, based on the comments you made earlier, I'm thinking about, somebody getting a promotion at work, maybe they're suddenly facing new challenges like they become a new parent or now maybe they're having to care for their parents that are becoming elderly and they just, maybe they took on a volunteer role or there's a lot of things that could cause probably impostor syndrome to occur. But as I started thinking about promotions and advancements and whether you're taking a leap as an entrepreneur or you're stepping up as chairing a board, there's this other thing out there called the Peter Principle.


- Yes.


- And so I started thinking about that too. So Peter Principle is this idea, and I'll let you explain more detail, but where maybe the best salesman in the company gets promoted to sales manager because hey, they're the best salesperson in the company, but maybe they're a terrible manager and they were never interested in management but it felt like the right thing to do, the right way to increase their ranking and status and accomplishments on the resume. But at the end of the day, what they did best was sell things, not lead, teach, and guide and manage and supervise others in sales.


- Yes, yeah. And I've seen that far too often in sales, in technical roles like software development where you take your top developer and make them the manager of development and they're not a great manager.


- Yeah your PR person and promote them to be the head of PR. And the truth is, maybe they're not a leader, maybe they're a doer.


- They're a great doer and they're not a manager or they're not equipped to be a manager, they're not given the right training. It's just an assumption that expertise in one area will lead to expertise in another area.


- [Jason] Right.


- That's often referred to as the halo effect of somebody's really good at one thing and people, including the person themselves, start to assume that they're going to be great at other things that may be around that or related.


- Well I don't want to interrupt you, but you're reminding me of something I just heard recently, which is when you want to motivate an employee, compliment them on how hardworking they are, not on how smart they are. Because if you compliment them on how smart they are, then they'll be afraid of losing that status of being smart if they do something dumb or they take a risk and they fail. So if you want to encourage achievements, you talk about hardworking and dedication and commitment versus intelligence and-


- Yes.


- That was interesting to me because I like to surround myself with really smart, hardworking people, and you don't want to put them on a pedestal being smart and then have them take off, pull back a little bit on the accelerator. So sorry to interrupt you, but that came to mind.


- Yeah, some of that research comes from Carol Dweck and her book "Mindset," and she talks about the importance of complimenting and encouraging effort over talent and ability. And one of the reasons is because talent and ability can feel like it's fixed. It's “I either have it or I don't.”


- [Jason] Yeah.


- And that if I'm doing well, it's because I have it, but the moment I fail it something, I've lost it somehow or I don't have it. Or maybe it was a fluke, and that feeds that impostor syndrome. But effort is something you can control and you can dial it up and dial it back. And so praising effort, that's actually by the way, a great lesson for parenting as well-


- [Jason] Yes.


- Is to praise your kids' effort and their work ethic as opposed to just telling them how wonderfully talented they are.


- Right or their accomplishments, yeah, get it.


- Yeah and so I actually use a little bit of Carol Dweck's work in my book, and I referenced it and give her some credit because her book "Mindset" was a game changer for me and has been really helpful in the work that I've done working with people with impostor syndrome. So thanks for bringing that up.


- For our audience, every reference that Kris and I mentioned we'll be sure to put in the episode notes so that you have easy access to it and you can review those materials as well. But Kris, I was interrupting you. We were talking about the Peter Principle, and you were going to speak to something about that, the origins of it.


- Yeah, the Peter Principle’s an interesting one because it started actually a satire, it was sort of a joke. A guy whose last name was Peter and I don't remember his first name, but he came up with this idea that everyone is eventually promoted to their level of incompetence. In other words, you do well at a job, so you get a better job and you get a better job, but eventually you get a job you can't do and that's where you get stuck. So you're going to keep getting promoted until you outpace yourself. And as I said, it started as satire, but people started to recognize and notice that that actually happens in some of these cases we're talking about. And I think the way you can counteract the Peter Principle, though, is to adopt a learner's mindset and really – what I call an explorer mindset – which means that you're looking forward to trying new things, but you're going in then with the recognition that “I've got to learn and I've got to experiment and I've got to develop and I'm going to have some failures along the way.”


- [Jason] Right.


- And I've got to be willing at times to say, “Hey, I took the wrong path and I need to turn around and go a different direction because this isn't going to get me where I want to go.”


- Right, that makes sense. Yeah, very good. OK, so we mentioned 80% of the population experiences it, but it's a unique experience for each person.


- Yeah.


- And I'm going to kind of jump in a little bit here and say that I've heard from others that you have to be really sensitive talking about impostor syndrome around women. And maybe I get that, maybe I don't. But maybe as you're explaining how 80% of the population's experiences this, maybe you could talk about how it's maybe manifest in a unique or challenging way with women. And the reason I really want to explore this, Kris, for your background is that women, the PR industry is a female-dominated industry, but there are definitely some criticism when you look at advancement of women in the PR industry that tends to be more male-dominated at the highest levels of PR.


- Yeah.


- And so that's something we as an industry are looking at very closely. I, as an agency owner, am looking for ways to create opportunities for advancement and make sure there's equal opportunities and beyond that as well as development. And as a PR agency and other people listening to this broadcast probably are managing people as well. They need to be mindful of that as well. So could you cover that huge, which could probably be its own episode topic in just a few soundbites for us, Kris, no pressure.


- Yeah, so first of all, when impostor syndrome was first identified and coined as a term, it was thought to only affect women. The initial studies-


- [Jason] Wow.


- And the research done on it was just about women, primarily women in corporate America. And keep in mind, this is in the '70s, so this is women entering the men's world of corporate life and trying to climb the ladder. And so the early focus was on women. But many studies since then have shown that impostor syndrome is experienced by women and men equally. There's no difference in the prevalence of it.


- [Jason] OK.


- However, I will tell you from my experience, women are often more willing to talk about it.


- [Jason] Mm.


- They're more willing to be open and vulnerable and acknowledged that they have it. And men tend to be a little more reluctant to admit that they have an insecurity or a weakness. And that's one of the reasons that I felt like I needed to write this book is most of the writing on impostor syndrome has been done to and by women. And I wanted to give a man's perspective and say, “Hey, this is not just a woman's problem – this is a human problem and men experience this as well.”


- Nice, yeah, for sure. Interesting, actually it's a woman, a female who first started talking to me openly about how they had impostor syndrome. It was a client of mine who was just kind of sidebar asked me for some business advice and confessed to me that, “Hey, I'm in this role and the impostor syndrome is real for me.” And I was like, “What does that mean?” And so she started explaining it and I really empathized with her. But there's been other situations, Kris, where I've been talking to, I would sense a female executive of similar rank in a similar size organization with similar responsibilities. And so I kind of just threw out there, “Hey, don't let impostor syndrome hold you back from this opportunity that we're talking about. Like, you've got this, you can do this. I believe in you, I think you're perfectly qualified. They wouldn't have asked you to accept this opportunity.” And she was really turned off by the fact that I would even bring up impostor syndrome to her, and how insensitive that was of me to say that. And so you mentioned to me when we met, we talked about that because it's your area of expertise. Of course, hopefully the impostor syndrome doesn't turn on when I say that, but so you were mentioning article by Harvard about this?


- Yeah, there's an article that came out in the Harvard Business Review about a year and a half ago, actually shortly after I published this book. And the title of the article was “Stop Telling Women they Have impostor Syndrome.” And the premise of the article is that when women are being marginalized, when they're being discriminated against, when they're being either, psychologically or in some other, nonphysical way abused and neglected in the workplace, that if they express a concern about that or a feeling that it's chalked up to, “Well you have impostor syndrome and you need to get over that.” And so there has been this sort of trend of women saying that if you talk about impostor syndrome, you're ignoring the problems that actually exist in unhealthy and toxic cultures.


- [Jason] OK.


- And so the article overall I will say is very good and I agree with most of the points made and the stories told and the issues that are identified in that article. I think it's a good article and worth the read. Where I take issue with the article is that most of the examples that they cite are not examples of impostor syndrome. They're examples of women being gaslighted or being marginalized or discriminated against. And those are very real legitimate problems.


- [Jason] Sure.


- But in the summary of the article, they basically, the author basically says that impostor syndrome isn't a real thing, it's just an excuse to get away with these other problems. And impostor syndrome is a real thing. It's different than those other very real problems, but the existence of those problems does not mean that impostor syndrome is not legitimate or that it doesn't happen and that we shouldn't talk about it. So the article's a great one and I would encourage people to go check it out. But with that one caveat of that this does not invalidate the fact that impostor syndrome does exist and women and men experience it at a pretty high rate.


- And I would say children as well for sure.


- That's right.


- I mean, I can think of times maybe you've been promoted to the next grade or put in the gifted program or given an opportunity to join a committee or you were elected to some position and maybe it seems outside your comfort zone. So just as a parent of teens and having raised two children, I'm thinking about those things as well. But Kris, it sounds like the article was good, but maybe you have some strong disagreements with it.


- Yeah, I just think that, like I said, it missed the mark at one point when it said essentially that impostor syndrome is not a real thing, but this is just a made-up term that we're using to make excuses for these bad behaviors.


- [Jason] Yeah.


- And again, I would argue that impostor syndrome is a real thing. It's different than what they're describing in that article.


- [Jason] Yeah, sure.


- And it shouldn't be confused for those things, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about it when it's legitimately there and it's legitimately happening.


- Well, we'll put a link to that article in the episode notes so people can check that out as well with the disclaimer or forewarning you gave, which I think is important because perception is reality. And so if it's perceived that if, you know, that there's no such thing as impostor syndrome, then obviously the article is off point. So let's, we got a couple more topics here. Let's talk about the comparison trap. And I think we've kind of alluded to that a little bit. So what would be kind of a quick summary of the comparison trap, Kris?


- Well, one of the biggest traps that successful people can fall into is comparing themselves to others and sort of ranking themselves and benchmarking themselves against other people. And the reason that that's a trap is you rarely, if ever, know somebody else's full story and you don't know the sacrifices that they may have made, the challenges that they've had to deal with or the boundaries they may have crossed and maybe they violated a value that you hold deeply and that they just don't care about in order to get their success and to achieve what they've achieved. And I'm not trying to deride or downplay anybody else's success. What I'm saying is that if you're comparing yourself against someone else, what you're often doing is comparing the polished version of their reality to the very real version of yours. You're sort of comparing how they look walking out the front door to what you look like crawling out of bed. And those are two very different things. And so comparison and trying to rate yourself against other people or ascertain your value against someone else, it's always a mismatch. And so that's a trap. And so what I encourage my readers to do is learn from others, certainly observe and take inspiration from other people, but don't rank yourself against another person. Don't value yourself by comparing to another person because it's not a real comparison. You don't have all the information to make that real.


- Yeah.


- And so, one of my mantras, one of the things that I try to live by and encourage others to live by, is the only person that I need to be better than is me yesterday.


- Yes, love that, love that. Yeah, I love what you're saying and one thing is like, I think it's Instagram models that'll show kind of the real photo and then the photoshopped photo.


- Yes.


- That always blows me away. And you start to realize, wow, so I think those are very cool and maybe something people should look at when they're really thinking about the comparison trap because it's all about lighting angles and touching up and all that stuff and apparently lots of makeup too.


- And thankfully, there seems to be a trend in that direction of authenticity and getting up more vulnerable and saying, you know what, let's talk about the reality of the situation, not just the glamor shots, photoshoot version of whatever's happening. And I think that's a very good thing in terms of combating impostor syndrome.


- Absolutely, yeah, I totally agree, totally agree. All right, so we want to talk about two more things. The how to deal with failure and the importance of community and having a community work against you. So that might be three things, but categorically we want to talk about as we're wrapping up here for our audience to how to deal with fear of failure. And then let's talk about community and then we'll wrap up from there.


- Yeah, these are two really big topics, so we're going to have to be succinct here, but two of the cornerstone ideas and principles in this book and in terms of how you overcome the impostor, how you combat that inner critic and that self-doubt. The first is to change your view of failure. And the key change there is to see failure as learning. impostor syndrome at the core is the fear of failure. It's the fear, especially of public failure and people seeing you as a failure. But most success is built on multiple failures. And I've given tons of examples from Thomas Edison to sports figures like Babe Ruth, who by the way not only held the home run record but held the strikeout record for 30 years. And that success is built on the learning that comes through failure. And so when that inner critic wants to tell you, “You're at risk of failure, you better back up,” the mindset shift that you can use to combat that fear is failure is learning. If I approach a new experience, a new job, a new experiment, a new project with the idea that I'm either going to succeed or I'm going to learn and those are my two possible outcomes, then suddenly the fear of failure does not have near as much a hold on me because I know that failure equals learning and learning leads to success. So I'm OK with some failure in my career.


- Kris, during influence, I heard a lot of comments about overcoming fear and failure and how failure is good and failing forward and things like that.


- Yeah.


- Which is kind of a concept we push and emphasize here is, it's OK to fail as long as you learn from it, it's OK to fail because you are pushing yourself forward. I'm going to take some of those quotes and that I heard or and people have heard them, but it's nice to have them collected somewhere. I'll make sure those get in the episode notes as well if people are looking for some inspiration in that topic.


- Yeah, great.


- All right, Kris, that was good. Back to you about the importance of community and what was it, what makes community work for you rather than against you, please.


- So one of the things that impostor syndrome will do to a person is to cause them to withdraw and to isolate.


- OK.


- When you're afraid of being exposed as a failure, then you're afraid of having too many interactions with people. And so, you tend to withdraw from communities and connections and relationships, and that's the wrong thing to do. It's the opposite of what you need. You need to be connected to people, you need to be in communities and in relationships with others to keep your perspective right. To sort of reset that reality and that movie that you play in your head. But there's a key difference. There's a key ingredient that makes the difference as to whether community will work for you or against you. And I'm going to cut to the chase and tell you that that key ingredient is vulnerability. So let's contrast two community interactions, in one situation you're with a group of people, maybe a group of peers or an industry group and everybody's got their game face on, everybody is presenting the best version of themselves, everybody's in sales mode and you're going to see a bunch of very successful people that have it all together and you're trying to measure up, you're trying to have your game face on and yet, you know that there's a lot of cracks under the surface, right? You know, there's a lot of flaws in your plans, you know there's a lot. And so that kind of environment is going to feed your impostor syndrome. It's gonna convince you, you're the only one that doesn't measure up. On the other hand, a community that has vulnerability where everybody is willing to say, “You know what, I'm working on some cool stuff but I don't have it all together. This is what we're trying to do, but we're not there yet. This is what's working for us and here's where we're struggling.” If you get in a community that's willing to be honest like that, then not only are you going to feel a lot more comfortable opening up and talking about your challenges and actually getting help with the things you're struggling with, but you're not going to feel like you're the only one that doesn't have it all together. And so another one of my sort of catchphrases or my mantras that I've developed is that community without vulnerability will feed your impostor syndrome, but community with vulnerability will starve it.


- [Jason] Mm.


- So community is a critical component, but vulnerability is the key that makes the difference as to whether community works for you or against you.


- Yeah, yeah. I'll tell you, this is really resonating with me because as I'm mature in my life and in my career, I'm definitely emphasizing more vulnerability, more empathy and things like that, that I think normally I wouldn't, one, feel comfortable even talking about, two, displaying it, three, talking about it with others, and four, encouraging it. And so as a leader, I have definitely matured and grown significantly. I've gone from being very task-focused as my natural performance and personality style to trying to evolve into being more people-focused. And that natural instinct still is a struggle. There's tension there between us often and always.


- Yeah.


- But I'm trying to be a better leader. And so as I look back at how I was 20 years ago or 25 or more years ago in my journey since then, I look back and some of it's frankly a little bit embarrassing because I wouldn't have done those things. I wouldn't be so task-focused as I was then. But yeah, I was seeking a certain status, if you will. And the only way I knew how to do it was, to do it as quickly as possible and work as hard as possible. And anyway, so I challenge our audience to embrace those things that I'm talking about and look at where they can be more empathetic and more vulnerable with their team and encourage that culture in their organization as well, so.


- Yes.


- Kris, I'm sure that our audience has heard this episode and they're thinking, “Gosh, I want to share it with these five people on my team. I want to get connected with Kris.” How might our audience, one, kind of follow you on social media and consume your content? Maybe you have a newsletter or something they could subscribe to. And then, secondly, if they want to connect with you, they have questions or they want to ask you to come speak at their company or at their conference. What do those steps look like?


- Yeah, I'm easy to find online, if you remember that my name starts with a k, it's K-R-I-S, Kelso, K-E-L-S-O. And so you can find me at kriskelso.com or overcomingtheimpostor.com is the website specifically about the book.


- [Jason] OK.


- And then I'm on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and I'm Kris Kelso or The Kris Kelso on all of those platforms. So would love to hear from your audience and in fact, I have a landing page at Kriskelso.com/ontopofPR specifically for listeners of this website or this podcast and this episode. And I want to give them a chapter from the book. And this is not one of those teaser chapters where all I do is set up the problem and don't really tell you any actionable steps you can take. This is a chapter from a little past the midway point of the book, and I think it's the best chapter in the book. And it is the chapter where I talk about overcoming the fear of failure and reorienting your thoughts around failure and success. So it's a really meaty chapter and something that will be really helpful to your listeners. So Kriskelso.com/ontopofpr.


- Kris, I applaud you. That is a marketing genius to do that and certainly very helpful to our audience as well to have that resource there. And Kris has been a great episode, probably one of my favorites. And I really think you've done a great job here of expressing it. Congratulations on finding this niche space and creating a platform and all the success you're having with your book and you're speaking and really glad to have you here today.


- Thanks, Jason, I've really enjoyed it. It's been a great conversation and a lot of fun.


- Yeah, absolutely, thank you, thank you. So there you go. Another episode of "On Top of PR" is in the books for the record, we're recording this on July 28th, 2022. We want to say thank you for tuning in today. If you enjoyed this episode, please feel free to share it with a colleague who would benefit from it. And we appreciate the opportunity to help you stay "On Top of PR." This is Jason Mudd from Axia Public Relations, signing off. Be well.


- [Narrator] This has been "On Top of PR" with Jason Mudd, presented by ReviewMaxer. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode and check out past shows at ontopofpr.com.


Sponsored by:

  • On Top of PR is produced by Axia Public Relations, named by Forbes as one of America’s Best PR Agencies. Axia is an expert PR firm for national brands.
  • On Top of PR is sponsored by ReviewMaxer, the platform for monitoring, improving, and promoting online customer reviews.


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About your host Jason Mudd

On Top of PR host, Jason Mudd, is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands and fastest-growing companies. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia Public Relations in July 2002. Forbes named Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies.


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