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December 2, 2021

Imposter Syndrome

A few nights ago my kids got me to watch a couple of episodes of Marvels made for tv series "Hawkeye".

A fun filled 45 mins or so, the episodes thus far have been full of action, laughs and more than just a little thinly-disguised themed references to the all-time classic Christmas movie "Die Hard".

However, one over arching theme which returns in each episode is the idea of imposter syndrome.... and how a person can struggle with feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence despite experiences, accomplishments and training which would suggest otherwise. Clint Barton (Hawkeye to the uninitiated) is a superhero from the Marvel universe who (conversely) has no super powers. He is a peak athlete with impressive skills; but because he is surrounded by superheroes, he continually struggles with self-doubt and pushes himself to work ever harder due to his self-perception that he must earn his "seat-at-the-table". As a result he has a habit of holding himself to increasingly unobtainable high standards. [As an aside I also believe that the sardonic action hero from Die Hard (John McClane) had imposter syndrome tendencies too...]

Now..., I've ridden mountainbikes for over 30 years. I've been a mountain bike guide since 2015. I have operated eguide Scotland since the end of 2019. Taking the opportunity to whitewash 2020 (for obvious reasons)… a period of introspection as we near the end of 2021 has made me stop and think about some of the personal things which have happened over the past 12 months or so.

For example, when I last raced (back 2012-2015) I felt like I didnt deserve to be there. Everybody I met was "shredding" and using big arms to gesticulate their immense stoke. Despite over 20 years of riding experience I constantly felt as if others were watching my riding and talking about me disapprovingly. I even entered a few "enduro- lite" races (slightly easier events for novice racers) and I was actually told by other competitors that I was cheating. They couldn't know the inner-struggles that I was having... but in any event - I felt like an imposter. So I stopped attending races. Fast forward to 2021 and as a sponsor for the Doon Tha Brae enduro race series in Aberdeenshire I was given back-stage viewing of how a race-meet unfolds. And I believe I can now say with some confidence that I had every right to race back in the day. Some racers are imbued with such staggering levels of self-importance and self-confidence that it errs on arrogance; but I actually think that the majority of us just want to ride bikes in an inclusive environment with like-minded folks. Some may be faster and some may be slower... but we are all respected... and we all have a good time.

But going back to the initial theme of "heroes". In 2021 I was lucky enough to meet some amazing people. Titans of the mountain bike business world - Andy McKenna from Go-Where, Euan Wilson from H+I Adventures and Chris Carter from Merida Bikes UK to name but a few. Together they have advised and helped shape eguide in ways which I would never have foreseen. I certainly could never have imagined the path eguide has taken; and that in my first full year of operating I would get the opportunity to meet such influential and wonderful humans that are genuine in their support and help. I also got to spend time with riding legends Chris "the Bear" Gibbs and Scotty Laughland. As a rider and guide, I have always looked up to Chris and it was somewhat nerve-racking when I first went to meet him. His reputation certainly proceeds him. I wont give away any spoilers but it was definitely a highlight of 2021 for me. Likewise, getting to spend some time riding with Scotty and watching him do his thing was a somewhat special reminder that maybe I do deserve to live this life and that eguide does deserve to operate in this segment of the industry.

Speaking of operating... 2021 really has been an all consuming year spent building eguide. Every second of every day is filled with "what can I do to make things better"? To nurture and grow the brand. To offer my customers more choice. To be better than my competition. All sounds a bit familiar though, right? However, this year eguide has successfully delivered above and beyond my wildest expectations, and I should really stop and reflect on the journey which eguide has taken... and possibly even be a little bit proud of its achievements too. eguide has formed collaborations with several partners (Wild Discovery and our new "eSafari" concept being a notable example); built working relationships with several companies (rental of e-mtbs to H&I Adventures being a highlight). We have delivered several large corporate guided days (16+ riders at a time); provided e-bike rentals everywhere from the Borders to Sutherland and in between; sponsored a successful race series; provided marshal support for another race event; met Elaine Ford from electrek explorer and was interviewed for COP26; delivered a workshop on e-bike leadership at Glenmore Lodge; expanded our workshop premises to include larger storage and front of house facilities and increased our rental fleet size from circa 10 e-mtbs bikes to near enough 30 (comprising of 16 e-mtbs, 4 e-gravel and 10 non ebikes)!

As 2022 looms large and I sit at my laptop planning new adventures and filling the calendar with guided events; I beg myself to ask the question "what next"? As a habitual self-doubter I will never be happy with yesterday... and I will live in fear of being called out as an imposter within this industry. I don't want to build a business merely based on quantity (although in the rental business that stands to reason). I want eguide to be known throughout the region as offering the best product and the best experiences for its customers. Even writing these words down makes me feel like an imposter... but I will strive to ensure eguide achieves it.

I'm excited for 2022 and beyond. eguide may change, as businesses inevitably do... but the experiences that its customers receive should never vary and I will strive to ensure that the eguide experience is a welcoming and positive one for everybody. I believe that eguide has some exciting developments in the pipeline which will blow people away... but only time will tell if it is enough to silence the self-doubt which drives me.

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