TEDxZumbroRiver Speaker Says We Need more Frauds and Imposters to Spur Innovation

The second running of TEDxZumbroRiver, an independently organized TEDx event, took place last week “to share ideas, network, and catalyze innovation in the Rochester-area.” This year’s event brought in ten speakers, five from Rochester and five from across the country, to share their thoughts on some big ideas. The talks all centered around the theme “What’s Possible”, with many direct implications on Rochester’s entrepreneurial community.

Perhaps one of the more thought provoking ideas for Rochester’s innovation ecosystem came from local writer Ayodeji Awoskia.

“I don’t feel like I belong on this stage right now,” Awoskia said to begin his talk. He explained he sometimes feels like an imposter or a fraud and asked the audience if they have ever felt out of their depth in their careers or completely unqualified to do what they are doing.

“Are you plagued by the sneaking suspicion that eventually you’re going to get found out?” he asked. “Someone’s going to realize that you actually don’t know what you’re doing and they’re going to expose you for the fake and the phony that you really are.”

He said if you feel like this, you might just have “imposter syndrome”- feelings of self-doubt that you are just not enough, regardless of your experience and talent.

However, Awoskia said, people experiencing “imposter syndrome,” these so-called frauds, are the innovators who are moving towards their passions.

Awoskia explained that these “imposters,” the people pursuing their dreams and working on the big ideas, can alleviate feelings of self-doubt by taking the safest pathway, the linear progression of school, a job in one industry for life, and eventual collection of a pension.

“That’s what a lot of people do,” he explained.

However, industries once viewed as stable are falling apart. “Set it and forget it” careers are now dead.

Instead of playing by these old rules, Awoskia suggested leaning into the fear that comes along with pursuing greatness. The economy and business landscape is changing quickly and “doing work that matters to you, on a personal level, is more important now than it ever has been before.”

“The future belongs to the imposters. Frauds will inherit the earth,” he predicted.

Awoskia said that you can never be a fraud while pursuing something great, something big.

“You’re only a true imposter if you ignore the work that you’re meant to do and the life you’re supposed to live.”

Awoskia said “imposter syndrome” really stems from ego and advised that we stop looking inward, focusing solely on ourselves, and start observing the world around us. We need to realize that our choices and actions affect not only ourselves.

“When you fail to face uncertainty and shy away from challenges, you don’t just rob yourself. You rob the rest of us. The world needs what you have to offer. Give your gifts to us.”