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Sussman Leadership Conference addresses the ‘comparison trap’

Photo by: Mack Swenson | News Editor

This year’s Sussman Leadership Conference, an annual event open to Drake undergraduates of all majors, took place on Sunday morning. The conference consisted of a keynote presentation delivered by professional comedian and entertainer Alex Weber and three breakout sessions, all revolving around the theme: “Confidence and the Comparison Trap.”

In the keynote, Weber described his struggles with blackout-level anxiety and how he overcame them through a process he details in his book, “Fail Proof.” To overcome the ‘comparison trap’ and build authentic self-confidence, Weber said, one must be clear about their life goals, commit to never giving up on themselves, and finally, connect with people who support them.

“The important point is when you manage your emotions, you don’t beat yourself up, and you’ll literally just keep showing up. You’re gonna figure it out. Of course, you will,” Weber said. “It’s not going to be clean and pretty. You’ll have some good days, some bad days, some weird days. But after time, you’re gonna start to actually get good at this. And that’s earned confidence. That is unshakable confidence.”

Weber has served as host of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” is one of the youngest coaches to be awarded U.S. Lacrosse Coach of the Year and has given five TEDx talks. But he claims that he needed to overcome multiple instances of “giving up” on himself to obtain his dream career and lead a life that sees obstacles not as barriers but as “seeds.”

Weber said, “the biggest commitment you must keep in this world is your commitment to yourself.” He claims this mentality led to some of the best friendships of his life, a once seemingly-impossible goal to compete on “American Ninja Warrior” and winning an award for the same job he thought he would lose. 

In response to what he described as a culture of comparison among high-achieving Drake students, Weber recommended “building true confidence in yourself even though other people may be better or more gifted.”

Students could attend two of three breakout sessions at the conference. The options were a student leadership panel of Adams Leadership Institute student staff, Counseling Center Director Kayla Bell-Consolver’s sessions “Leading From Your Authentic Self” or Weber’s breakout session.

Weber’s session raised questions about students’ ideal life, what was holding themselves back in life and what they could do to start moving past the obstacle in their way.

“I wrote, stopping me is, and I wrote fear that [something] won’t work out,” Weber said about his previous experience doing this exercise. “And then I crossed it out, because it’s really not fear that it won’t work out… Really what it is, is I’m scared about what other people are going to think of me if it doesn’t work out.” 

During the student leadership panel, senior Ellie Tice explained a way to address the comparison trap. 

“When we list all of our leadership roles that we’ve had…I’m just super uncomfy, like I don’t really want to list out the laundry list of things that I’ve done at Drake,” Tice said. “Which is really cool, but you know, it’s not really what defines you.”

Bell-Consolver presented on ‘Leading from Your Authentic Self,’ which she described as finding a balance between ultra-high and ultra-low self-esteem. Having ultra-high self-esteem can cause a leader to not take others’ opinions into account, while ultra-low self-esteem can lead to obsessive delegation of responsibilities, she explained.

“We are not just leaders based on what we put on a piece of paper,” Bell-Consolver said.  “The things that make you, you–those certain characteristics, those interests–those are things that also make you a leader as well, and we never want to lose sight of that.”

Both the leadership panelists and Bell-Consolver emphasized that awareness of one’s values – and subsequently aligning one’s leadership style with those values – is essential to feeling authentic and comfortable in a leadership role.

“I think it’s like acting like you have it all together and putting your best foot forward when that’s not actually true to how you feel,” senior Kiley Kahler said. “So just being really genuine and leading with your values is going to kind of cure some of those anxious and egotistical and arrogant thoughts that really just come from a place of not knowing yourself well.” 


  1. rusty bridges November 11, 2022

    Are you sure Alex Weber was a host of American Ninja Warrior? He was a contestant once or twice, several years ago, but never a host. Please dbl check your info. If it came from him directly, ask him to verify it for you, as he is not correct.

    1. TD Webmaster November 15, 2022


      Alex Weber is the only person who has hosted and competed on ANW. Read here: Alex’s Bio

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