In many fields, there’s a big name. The exclusive slot. The top ranking or badge. This is being a top 10 podcast, or on a certain bestseller list or working at a specific sort of company…
The first Harvard problem is erroneously believing that you deserve it. This is the kid who has neither the attitude nor the skills to thrive at a famous private college. But the culture he’s surrounded with will view anything else as a failure, and so he’ll go into debt and contort himself to get the label, wasting years of his life, tons of money and most of all, his spirit.
The second Harvard problem is not believing that you deserve it. This is the young woman I met a year ago who had a fantastic work ethic and excellent grades but came from a community where the local community college was seen as a stretch, and she didn’t believe she could or should abandon those around her.
Here’s a simple clue that you might have a Harvard problem: If the label you’re seeking comes instantly to mind, or is prompted by those around you, it may be that we haven’t thought hard enough about which label we want.
The famous outcome isn’t often the right one, and often, neither is the common outcome. Being clear about where we’re going and why is a useful place to start.