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The Somebody-Nobody Syndrome.

Have you heard of the Somebody-Nobody syndrome before? If not that exact phrase, I am confident you must have come across the actual habit in your past.

It’s when people think in binary conclusive terms about their inherent ability to succeed.

I’m reading the book Mindset and I noticed the author Carol S. Dweck describe people with the fixed mindset as those with “Somebody-Nobody Syndrome”.

When you have a fixed mindset, you feel the need to constantly validate your ability to prove that you are a somebody.

Any failure or misstep is counted as a serious flaw and that might suggest that you are a nobody.

You try to appear perfect hiding your weaknesses out of fear of being exposed.

She quotes several CEOs and top athletes who had this mindset. For ex: John McEnroe is a classic icon who suffered with this syndrome. However great his talent might be, he always found an external excuse or blamed the circumstances when he didn’t win key games. He often had outbursts on the tennis court and made people around him (including the referees) look smaller than him.

And then there’s the growth mindset icon, Michael Jordan, one of the greatest NBA players.

Someone with a growth mindset isn’t worried about reputation. They don’t care as much about being a “somebody.” Instead, they focus on getting better each day. They know that if people think they are a “nobody” today, they can work hard and become a “somebody” later, but that’s not their real goal. Their real goal is to grow, to learn, and to get better.

When he returned to the Chicago Bulls after taking a break to play baseball, the Bulls didn’t even make the play-offs that year. He didn’t blame anyone. He told the reporters he will come back strong next year and worked hard that off season. Sure enough, the Bulls won the next 3 championships back to back. For people in growth mindset, failures are not something to hide from, they are inevitable and sometimes essential steps in the journey.

When you say: “I am somebody if I succeed” and “I am nobody if I fail”, you are treating both of these impostors as though they are fixed.

Remember the famous lines from the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same”