[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’ve written before about the power of fear in dissuading us to try things that we might otherwise be very adept at. Fear has been my Achilles heel with pursuing my passion for many years. More specifically, fear of failure. But sandbagging has also played a significant role in delaying my progress toward more frequently exposing and utilizing my talents. Sandbagging is the art of deceiving someone by pretending to be weak. I actually use this all the time when I play basketball with guys younger than myself. At 6’5” most people would assume I am a slow, post-playing big man. I will typically play up this perception during pre-game warm-ups, throwing in a few close-range bank shots and perhaps even clanking a few off the rim for good measure. People instantly classify me as a lumbering buffoon, when in reality my game is more like that of a guard/forward, slashing to the rim, shooting mid-range jumpers, and exploding on people’s heads for vicious rim-rocking dunks. I made that last one up. The point is that sandbagging can be a great way to get an edge over a competitor, if only for a brief moment. It’s worked great for me for years.
However, real problems can occur when we use this technique to downplay or minimize our strengths and talents — “oh, it wasn’t that great of a presentation” or “thanks for your compliments but it was really nothing” or “I’m excited but not that excited — I have other options lined up just in case.” Sandbagging our strengths can become so routine that we may actually begin to believe that we really aren’t that good at something. What’s worse, we may hold back effort and live only to the level of the sandbagging: “Just in case I’m not as great as I think I am, I’ll put forth average effort and see what the feedback is.”
For example, I have worked with students in the past who are afraid to commit to applying for competitive programs because they fear that they won’t succeed. There’s something about being outright rejected that is almost too much to bear. The result is that they will either not apply at all or they may apply but keep it on the downlow, manage their excitement, and temper their’s and others’ expectations. As a result, they come across as a lukewarm candidate that isn’t really committed. In reality, these are likely people that have some real value to add to an experience!
As I write this, I’m guilty of utilizing this technique in my life. Something that I have always wanted to do has popped up in my life and yet I find myself constantly saying to my wife, “Let’s not make a big deal out of it, just in case it doesn’t pan out.” In reality, what’s the worst that could happen!? If it doesn’t pan out I can live through the failure and face another day! It’s better to give your all and fail than to be left wondering what might have been.
So ask yourself the following:
If you answered “yes” to any of the following, then welcome to the club. Now let’s get past it and embrace what we do well! Opportunities generally arise when we utilize our talents and allow others a glimpse into what we are truly like when we are living up to our potential.
Hi! I'm Dustin.
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