How to Survive Lizards & Impostors: Focus on the Positive

the lizard brain

The Lizard Brain

Fear strikes again


The lizard brain is essentially fear and for any artist, leader, or anyone that chooses to do something remarkable it is there.  Each time I hit “Publish” on a post, make a video, or even describe the services I offer, the lizard brain is there.

The lizard brain avoids risk.

It hates honesty, authenticity, and originality.

The lizard brain would much rather have me sit on my couch wearing my robe and never write another word.

The challenge for leaders is to truly be themselves.

Implement change swiftly and smartly.

Don’t stall. It can always be improved – that is called revision, pivoting, iteration.

Leaders take action.  The lizard brain wants common and “that’s how we’ve always done it.”  Even though “how we’ve always done it” doesn’t work or is now irrelevant.

Do you have an idea of what the lizard brain looks and sounds like now?  Do you recognize it’s voice?

If you’d like to read more about the lizard brain I suggest checking out one of  Seth Godin’s posts here.

The Impostor Syndrome

Negative whispers that get us off track


The impostor syndrome is closely related to our lizard brains.

According to Wikipedia:

is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Notably, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.

You can read the full Wikipedia article here.

Do you struggle with this?

On my worst days I do.  Like I mentioned before I sometimes wonder “why me.”

What gives me the right to create Better Leaders Better Schools?

What gives me the right to develop leaders and help them accomplish their goals?

What gives me the right to interview world-class leaders and share their strategy with other school leaders in order to help them get better?

At school, sometimes I have to take a deep breath and remind myself “You can do it” before I enter a classroom, take notes, and hold a discussion about professional development.

Isn’t it crazy that I struggle with this at times despite all the evidence that states I am professional, an expert, a leader?

Why Write About this Topic?

My first negative comment

5 Best Hiring Practices for School Leaders LinkedInRecently I received my first negative comment on a post I wrote about “5 Best Hiring Practices for School Leaders.”

Initially my reaction was negative.  I actually was caught off guard that someone would write a negative comment like that on a professional website such as LinkedIn.

I also was caught off guard because I like the post.  I like the value I added to the discussion of hiring practices.  My goal was to write a short piece with just enough content to challenge school leaders’ thinking about hiring practices.  I consciously write short pieces because readers (like myself) don’t have long attention spans.

Ernest Hemingway is one of my favorite authors.

I want to be concise.

The lizard brain and impostor syndrome were in full effect … but I was pleasantly surprised that it lasted really only a few seconds because I have the antidote

Focusing on the negative doesn’t help me.

How to Cure the Impostor Syndrome & the Lizard Brain

Focus on the Positive

Of course I want to be liked.

Of course I want millions of comments on my posts and millions of social shares.

To be completely transparent, I want to become the go-to voice that school leaders seek out when they want to get better.

I don’t want to accomplish this because of some narcissistic reason, but because I know I have a unique take on leadership and I want to make a difference.

Bill Hybels is famous for saying, “Everybody wins when a leader gets better.” Click to Tweet.

If this position is true, then imagine the impact on schools!

The opportunity is there and it is worth it being vulnerable, hitting publish, and moving forward.

The antidotes …

There are two antidotes to quiet the lizard brain and slay impostor syndrome.

  1. Focus on the positive
  2. Turn Pro

Focus on the Positive

I listen to a lot of podcasts and I consume a ridiculous amount of leadership content.  When it comes to criticism they all say the same thing – ignore it and focus on the positive.

Now I am not naive enough to think that I write pure gold and my ideas are without blemishes.

However, I have trusted confidants that I know will offer criticism to make me better.  That is the criticism leaders need to consider.

These groups are hard to find and to form.  I have one organic group of friends that I can be honest with and get great feedback and criticism to get better.

I’m also a part of two paid masterminds.  One for blogging/podcasting and one for leadership development.

Sometimes you have to invest in yourself and surround yourself with other smart people that are going places.  Click to Tweet.

Click here to learn more about education masterminds.

Why consider criticism from one random person?  If there was a trend there, maybe, but when you receive 99.9% positivity in the forms of Likes, Tweets, Emails, Comments, and Shares … do you really focus on the 1 negative comment?


Turn Pro

Professionals get out of bed every day.

They are consistent.

They adapt.

They fight and keep coming back because their work … their art … is worth it.

Nobody says it better than Steven Pressfield and I have a video for you below, but before I share it …

If you are reading this and you are a school leader …

  • keep your head up
  • fight the good fight
  • push forward

Your staff, students, and community are worth it.

You are worth it.

And I am hopeful that all your wildest leadership goals and dreams come true.

As school leaders, quieting the lizard brain is essential to our success.  Click to Tweet.

You don’t do that by crawling up in a ball weeping nor do you do it by building walls to protect yourself.

No.  You do it by focusing on the positive and turning pro.

Go get ’em!

And now for the video …

Daniel E. Bauer

Daniel E. Bauer


Skype: betterleadersbetterschools

Twitter / Facebook / Google+ / Linkedin / Snapchat

I teach leadership skills through a data-driven and emotionally healthy approach that gets others to perform their best.

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If you enjoyed the post How to Survive Lizards & Impostors: Focus on the Positive, then I would be honored if you commented and shared on social media.

P.S. I wrote a short eBook highlighting what I learned from the WCA Global Leadership Summit.


“17/365 – Lizard” by Axel Naud licensed via CC 2.0