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Entrepreneurs

Could Superman Be the Hidden Secret to Helping Entrepreneurs Succeed?

Your inner hero could be a close as a pair of glasses.
Could Superman Be the Hidden Secret to Helping Entrepreneurs Succeed?
Image credit: Warner Bros.
Guest Writer
Socially Conscious Entrepreneur
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many entrepreneurs, start-up founder and those who want to start businesses, have habitually discussed the feeling of imposter syndrome, insecurity or not feeling like they are cut out to be an entrepreneur. These feelings are completely normal. Even history greats have felt this way at some point in time. 

What you never really hear about industry legends is the backstory. There have been many people in history, like Martin Luther King Jr., who have tapped into the characteristics and traits of their favorite heroes in order to move past the resistance and step into the reality they desired to create.

Related: 18 Brutal Business Failures by Wildly Successful Entrepreneurs

As it turns out, this process is rooted in science. Mental game and leadership strategist to Olympians and entrepreneurs, Todd Herman, refers to this as the psychological phenomenon called enclothed cognition, which states when humans beings put something on and wear it, the item has enclothed meaning. To make this more clear, let’s look at some real-life examples you’ve seen over and over, yet most likely never put the pieces of the puzzle together.

For example, take a simple lab coat. When people see someone wearing a lab coat, like a doctor, they start to view that person as focused, successful, credible, diligent and hard-working. And studies have shown when someone sees a person who wears glasses, they perceive them to be smarter, more successful and patient.

Each of these items has enclothed meaning. On the surface, you may think these items, or totems as Herman calls them, are only effective in how others perceive you. However, the beauty of this is that you can use these totems to unlock the traits required to be successful in both life and business.

Herman believes in looking at your life as many different fields of play. When you step out onto those fields of play, you must be prepared with the right traits, characteristics and personality. When you look at your life as many fields of play, you realize that we naturally bring the characteristics and traits we need into each unique situation. What Herman suggests is that you are trying to activate certain traits and characteristics that are designed to help you succeed in specific fields of play. This could be in a specific social environment, in your favorite hobby, your career, school, your business or anything else.

Related: 12 Things Mentally Strong People Do That Nobody Else Does

Case in point, Herman, also the author of Alter Ego Effect, discovered this process out of pure necessity. You see, here was a guy at 21 who found himself coaching athletes on mental toughness. And although Herman became excellent at coaching and had others singing his praises, by his own admission, he looked like he was 12 years old. While many could appreciate looking young, Herman became insecure about his looks because in his mind, the folks with credentials that were up on stage speaking could only be there if they were 40 plus.

This story was the catalyst for what needed to change. Despite knowing he was better than many of his peers, and despite having excelled in athletics -- he got scholarships and offers even though he was 5'11" and barely 160 pounds -- the fact of the matter was Herman’s confidence just wasn’t there.

Looking back at his accomplishments in athletics, he realized there was a way to reframe his story -- a way to become someone new, someone who was confident, decisive and articulate like his heroes Abraham Lincoln, Richard Branson and Joseph Campbell.

So what did Herman do? He created the reverse superman.

Like Clark Kent who enters the phone booth and removes his glasses to become Superman, Herman did the opposite. He got a pair of non-prescription glasses, back before it was the cool thing to do, to use as his totem -- his thing to wear that enclothed him in the ability to embody those traits of his heroes. The simple act of putting on these glasses would activate the confidence, the decisiveness and the articulate persona he desired.

As simple as it may sound, this one shift is what helped lead him down the path to great success, eventually leading him to build and sell many successful businesses while impacting countless lives over the last decade.

Related: 10 Things You Can Do to Boost Self-Confidence

Herman revealed the steps to unlock your heroic entrepreneurial self. He believes anyone pursuing business and entrepreneurship can dramatically impact the trajectory of their career through this simple, three-step process.

Step 1.

Start by identifying the traits you want to exhibit and adopt. For Herman, this was confidence, being decisive and becoming articulate. You may be different. It might be about increasing your focus, being more bold, becoming charismatic or something totally different.

The key is to think clearly about the traits you want to exhibit and adapt because this is your foundation. If you are struggling to come up with ideas right now, step number two may help get the mental juices flowing.

Step 2.

Take a moment to reflect on someone you admire. What are the traits and characteristics of that individual? For you maybe, it’s Nelson Mandella, Mother Theresa, Richard Branson, Oprah, Elon Musk or Abraham Lincoln. Maybe you have a favorite character from a movie like Russell Crowe in Gladiator or Clark Kent in Superman.

The idea is simple, yet powerful. And if you still need more inspiration, you can turn to the world of nature, where the door of possibility opens up greatly. That’s what Kobe Bryant did with his black mamba.

Step 3.

Now you must find something you can use to encloth the cognitive traits. Not only has science proven this to be true, we can lean on people in history as our guide.  

Please understand that this thing can be unique to you -- and more importantly, it can be simple. The significance will be there -- the root meaning that allows you to activate at your core the superhero you are embodying.

For Herman, it was a simple pair of non-prescription glasses.  And for you, it could be a hat, belt, ring, bracelet or even something as simple as a pair of socks or shoes. What it is is up to you.

Once you understand this concept, you can literally have different activators based on the field of play you are stepping out on. In your social life, if you want to embody a charismatic, fun and energizing individual, maybe your totem is a hat that starts conversations everywhere you go. Or when you get out onto the field of play in your favorite sport or hobby, it could be a specific pair of shoes that when you lace them up, you immediately embody the traits of a rockstar athlete that soars confidently.

Related: Why Building Confidence Goes Hand-in-Hand With Building Wealth

This could apply to your career, your community, your church, your relationships and many other corners of your life. Treating these individual aspects of your life as such allows you to bring the right characteristics and traits into each area. This is what high achievers and high performers ever so subtly do. "They are very intentional about the self that they bring into that business," says Herman.

Now you can as well.

As you might expect, this is a rabbit hole that goes deep, and you’ve just scratched the surface. My guess is that you are seeing countless opportunities to utilize this information to unlock your heroic self.  

Through meticulously researching history, studying science and practical hands-on experience with coaching others, Herman has uncovered the magic of alter egos. More importantly, he has created a simple and calculated way for you to expand upon what you learned here in his book, which I invite you to learn more about.

There is a version of you that is waiting to start your business. Will you step into it?

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