I used to have trouble being in the spotlight, sharing my accomplishments with my friends or with my co-workers.
For years, I wouldn't really ever talk about the journey in publishing my book, The Effective Engineer — even though it was an important two years of my life. When people asked how the book was doing, I'd say “Good!” and then shift the conversation topic.
When I was invited to give an Authors@Google talk at Google headquarters, I'd have a huge internal struggle on whether and how to share with people.
Even when I was interviewed for the New York Times — and felt so giddy that it happened — I'd struggle sharing with people and wonder, “Who am I to direct that attention to myself?”
At the root of these behaviors was a fear — a fear that by standing in the spotlight, people would judge me for being self-centered or ego-centric.
It was a fear that I could trace back to childhood.
Growing up, my mom would complain about other Asian moms bragging about their kids — how they got straight A's or high SAT scores or got into good colleges. Like many Asian kids coming from immigrant families, working hard and succeeding was expected. But talking about that success with other people was not okay.
And so the idea of “Be humble and don't share your successes” was programmed into my mind.
It took me a long time to understand that this behavior didn't serve me and was holding me back.
I would feel smaller and disconnected from my friends and co-workers, when I wasn't able to talk about accomplishments that were important to me.
I would feel unhappy and tired when I kept debating in my head about whether and how to share something.
It took me many years to realize that I could unlearn that pattern and reprogram my mind to work differently. I replaced my old belief with a new one — one that said that sharing my accomplishments could actually strengthen my connections with the people around me.
My role models clearly shared their accomplishments — how else would I know about them? And as a role model, I too could inspire people and get them curious about how to effect similar changes in their own lives. And when I didn't share what I was most proud about, I was depriving the world a source of inspiration.
Now, I'm able to boldly take up the spotlight when I want and when it's needed.
It was the first time that I had intentionally and consciously reprogrammed my own mind to reject a deep-rooted mindset and to work differently.
It turned out that this type of inner work is not only possible, but scientifically grounded — and this discovery has completely shifted how I approach my life and work.
Don't Just Change Your Mind — Reprogram Your Brain
Up until the 1970's, scientists believed that the human brain wasn't malleable. It was believed that after adolescence, our brain structure became fixed. The idea that mere thought alone could change our brain structure was ludicrous.
Only after scientists started doing autopsies of the brains of London cab drivers did they discover something mind-blowing. These cab drivers had much larger hippocampi — the brain structure responsible for spatial memory — than in most people.
What could possibly explain this phenomenon?
It turns out that London streets are an extremely convoluted labyrinth. Cab drivers need to study for years to memorize the city's 25,000 streets and business and pass a demanding test called The Knowledge. And all that studying actually reprogrammed their brains to support the behavior they needed.
It's now a well-known and research-supported fact that the brain is changeable after all.
And we can use that science in our journey to reprogram ourselves. Because why wouldn't we?
Reprogram Yourself into a Better Version of You
We spend so much time reprogramming software and products to create better versions of them, but we rarely apply that same energy and intention to reprogramming ourselves.
To do that effectively, we need to develop an awareness of how our individual systems work in the first place. From there, it's possible for us to re-engineer ourselves to a version that can help rather than hinder us.
I'm excited to share that I'll be partnering with Elenna Mosoff — a leadership and adventure coach who works with many engineers — to bring you a 1-day leadership experience focused specifically on tools and frameworks to enable you to reprogram yourself.
In the past few years, we've been working with hundreds of engineers, tech leads, managers, and other leaders in tech through our coaching and our workshops.
And together, we've discovered something very powerful: how to effectively reprogram ourselves.
Similar to how we have best practices, tools, and processes when it comes to reprogramming software, we've distilled a core set of best practices, tools, and processes when it comes to reprogramming our own mindsets and behavior.
We all have limiting beliefs or inner voices that hold us back from being better versions of ourselves:
I'm not good enough.
I'm doing a terrible job.
I don't deserve my promotion or my job offer.
I'm just winging it.
I can't ask for what I want.
When you reprogram yourself, you can replace those beliefs and inner voices with more empowering ones like:
I've done something like this before.
I've totally got this.
I deserve my success.
I am happy.
I'm going to play big.
This is good.
Think about how often you need to reprogram your software to make it better — what if you could do that on the your own mindsets and behaviors to become a better leader and a happier version of yourself?
Rather than second guessing yourself, you'd confidently share your thoughts and claim the expertise and reputation you deserve.
Rather than leaning back and waiting for your lucky break, you'd lean in and create it.
Rather than wondering if you're an imposter, you'd know and feel that you deserve your job, your opportunities, and your promotions without apology.
This is what's possible by reprogramming yourself — and, most importantly, reprogramming yourself is a mindset and a practice that you can learn.
We'll be teaching how to reprogram yourself at our 1-day leadership experience on Reprogramming Yourself: Stop Second Guessing, Shrink the Inner Imposter, and Lead from Clarity and Confidence on Wednesday, November 28th in SF.
You'll learn a tool and framework for identifying the limiting beliefs that hold you back — and replacing them with empowering mindsets that propel you forward.
You'll learn how to master your inner workings, and you'll discover an authentic way of leading that lets you take more ownership, courageously say the hard things that need to be said, and ask for what you need to thrive in your career.
You'll learn how to shrink the inner imposter that makes you feel not good enough or qualified enough or makes you always question whether you're doing a good job — and make space for the authentic leader within you to emerge and claim their space.