Letter No 58 - Small wins

I'm sure you have heard about the 'imposter syndrome'. There is a lot of talk and posts about it on social media. Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It often affects even high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. They question whether they're deserving of accolades.

I was speaking to my niece who has a degree from India's leading hotel management college. She was interested in baking and has created a body of work of dozens of beautiful and yummy treats on her instagram profile. Each baking project is a couple of hours of work followed by painstaking photography. It's a lot of work and committment. Apart from that she is an accomplished piano player and a fantastic poet.

In the last year since she graduated, she has also worked at a restaurant and as a project management assistant in her mother's corporate training business. She has now realised that she does not want to work in the hotel industry. She believes that marketing and advertising might be her thing as it brings together her strong verbal, visual and analytical skills.

So when I asked her to prepare her resume, I could see her self doubt taking over. 'But I have no experience in this field'.

'At 23, what a smart employer is looking from you is skills, confidence, and the ability to work hard and learn fast. You have all those.' I told her. She needs to put herself out there and reach out to 20 if not 50 potential employers. There are surely a few who will see her qualities and have an opportunity for her. That's all one needs - a good starting point. After that you have to keep learning on the go and creating yourself.

But even before we get there, self-doubt and the thought 'Am I good enough for this' stops us in our tracks. Being able to value one's own strengths and good qualities and put them forward is very very essential quality in the professional world.


I meet people every week, of all ages, who underplay their own abilities and experiences. Of course, I also meet some who exaggerate them. But here's the thing, most of us are so afraid that we might me 'overdoing' that we end up grossly underplaying our own achievements and talents.

We keep waiting to do something BIG before allowing ourselves to feel good and celebrate. But we don't realise that by under-playing our small achievements, we end up beating down our own self-image.

We feel we don't deserve to share and celebrate the small things. In doing so we deny ourselves the joyfulness of the journey. Worse, we deprive ourselves of the energy and inspiration required to reach the bigger goals. Success breeds succees, goes the well known saying.


In the book The Double Helix, James Watson describes his and Francis Crick's journey in their discovery of the structure of DNA. They experienced a series of setbacks before they finally came up with the work that won them the Noble prize.

According to Watson, "Our first minutes with the models…were not joyous." Later that evening, "a shape began to emerge which brought back our spirits." But when they showed their "breakthrough" to colleagues, they found that their model would not work. Dark days of doubt and ebbing motivation followed. When the duo finally had their bona fide breakthrough, and their colleagues found no fault with it, Watson wrote, "My morale skyrocketed, for I suspected that we now had the answer to the riddle." Watson and Crick were so driven by this success that they practically lived in the lab, trying to complete the work.

In their Harvard Business Review article titled 'The Power of Small Wins', Teresa Amabile and Stevel Kramer describe this effect as The Progress Principle:

Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.

And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress—even a small win—can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.

Recognising small wins in oneself and other sets a positive loop in momentum. This becomes the powerful source of energy that one needs in order to put in the back breaking effort and overcome upcoming obstacles that is needed to create solid progress in any human endeavour.

Celebrating your small wins is very important.


Here are some small wins that you may not have thought of celebrating, but you should!

  • Getting done with your to-do list of the day
  • Clearing up something thats been pending for a while
  • Making a connection with an old friend
  • Breaking your comfort zone and making those calls that you've been avoiding
  • Being able to help out a friend of colleague who is struggling with a project
  • Finally being able to convince your client or boss about your idea
  • Putting in the exhausting hours to complete the blog, or video or artwork you are working on

Call a friend, make an instagram reel, treat yourself to something nice, stand up and do a spontaneous dance, share your joy with friends on a whatsapp group -- but do something to celebrate your small wins.


Before I end this letter, I'd love to share a small win of mine with you. My friend and colleage Akash Bhalerao has been working for months to nominate me for some awards. One of them came through recently and after a process of interview and panel discussion, I received a Social Impact Creator Award.

I was feeling shy of sharing it with people. But my friends at Enteprise pushed and encouraged me to share it. 'You deserve it and you must share it' they told me. That's what triggered the thought behid this letter.

Stop being shy, and start celebrating your small wins!

In case you are interested, here is the link a fantastic panel discussion I was a part of as a part of this process. We spoke about two important themes:

  • the importance of including awareness about sustainebality goals and principle in school curriculums
  • the connection between inculcating an entrepreneurial mindset at an early age, and a sustaineble future for our planet


'Winner winner chicken dinner' is the song that comes up in PubG. But don't wait to conquer the oceans, celebrate your small wins!