by Rob Jolles, author of “Why People Don’t Believe You…: Building Credibility from the Inside Out“
Ah, the joy of youth. Carefree and without worry — until we pursue our first real job. Then the anxiety about our age rears its ugly head for the first time. “Will clients have trouble responding to me because of my age? Will co-workers think my age makes me less qualified for the position I hold? If only I were a little older…” Although it seems hard to fathom, these sentiments were quite real when we were beginning our work lives.
Then, some years passed. One day, we woke up no longer concerned about how young we are, but how old we are. For many who are struggling professionally, age can become an obsession. As you walk into an important interview, you may find yourself thinking, “I just know they are going to want someone younger than me!” The irony is, if the person you’re meeting with wasn’t concerned about your age or any self-perceived flaw before, they are now. These imperfections are what I refer to as “a limp.” However, consider this:
“We all walk with a limp.”
There are a handful of biblical references to this phrase, but I’d like to provide my take on these six simple words. We all have our weaknesses, or some form of a limp. It’s what makes us human. Oddly enough, I have difficulty trusting anyone who appears not to have a limp. Maybe it’s because I believe that having a limp, and our ability to adjust to it, is what makes us extraordinary. Anyone without a limp is either an imposter or possesses no compassion for those who do have limps.
Your limp can be any physical or physiological imperfection you’d like to list. Sadly, we often let these limps hold us back. Notice I said, “We.” We are the ones who walk in the room troubled by what we view as a limp. We are the ones who convince ourselves that these limps are a problem for others, so we are the ones that make others concerned about them. But it just doesn’t have to be this way!
The Story of Jake.
Let me tell you a story: We had a beautiful black Labrador retriever who was one of the greatest dogs I’ve ever owned. My boy Jake was a beauty. One day, we found Jake sitting by the door unable to move his back legs. He had mysteriously become paralyzed. The vet diagnosed a back injury, and he operated on Jake and did the best he could. After six months of rehab, my boy Jake could walk again. Oh, he didn’t quite walk the way his other friends did, but he had his own way of slowly getting up and swinging one leg behind the other. He even learned to run. Sure, he didn’t run like his other friends did, but he had figured out how to get up to speed, running with his front legs while he hopped with his back legs.
Sometimes when we had friends over, they would notice Jake and ask in a concerned tone, “Is your dog okay?” We’d smile and say, “He sure is.” You see, Jake walked with a limp, but he really didn’t care. The other dogs in the neighborhood didn’t care, and neither did we. Jake went on to live another ten years with his wonderful limp.
What’s Not Important to You… Becomes Less Important to Others.
We all walk with a limp. It’s time to stop worrying about what the other person on the other side of the desk thinks about yours. One thing I can absolutely guarantee you: If it’s not important to you — and you reach peace with having a limp — it will dramatically decrease the impact your limp has on others. Too young, too old, too short, too tall, underqualified, overqualified, introverted, extroverted, physically or mentally challenged; it just doesn’t matter.
The people you are communicating with walk with their own limps. At the end of the day, they aren’t thinking about your limp, but they are concerned about your ability to live with it. Success requires humility, which is born from vulnerability. Walk tall, my friends, and make that limp part of the unique strengths you proudly offer the world.
Rob Jolles is a sought-after speaker who teaches, entertains, and inspires audiences worldwide. His live programs in and around the world have enabled him to amass a client list of Fortune 500 companies including Toyota, Disney, GE, a dozen universities, and over 50 financial institutions. He is the best-selling author of six books, including his latest release, “Why People Don’t Believe You…: Building Credibility from the Inside Out“.