Confidence – Never Leave Home without It
Confidence – Never Leave Home without It
November 18, 2013
Winston Wayne Wilson
It is always intoxicating and inspiring for me to watch a confident person commanding a stage, working a room or sharing an idea. Confidence refers to a feeling of trust that we can rely on our ability to do something. But where does boundless confidence come from? Well, confidence is a muscle. Like all muscles, the more we work it, the more our confidence muscle will grow. When our confidence is out of shape we tend to leave it behind at home – ashamed and curled up in bed. Here are a few exercises that will help to keep our confidence in tip top shape so that we can proudly take it with us to go conquer the world:
- Leverage ignorance. It is a common misconception that confidence emanates from having omniscient knowledge or omnipotent capabilities. Far from it. In fact, Mark Twain theorized that, “To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.” In other words, the exercise of leveraging your ignorance about the negativity around you will greatly increase your confidence muscle as well as your chances for positivity and success in your life. Embracing the knowledge of our limitations stymies our confidence in overcoming challenges. Furthermore, when we think that we have attained knowledge we become too certain and we tend to stop experimenting. When we stop experimenting we cease to grow. Conversely, we tend to be more progressive when we are ignorant of our limitations. Moreover, it turns out that sometimes success and triumph are the blissful side effects of ignorance - sort of like the story of a blind piano player who was asked what made him think that he could play the piano. His response was, “No one told me that I couldn’t”. In short, he was confident precisely because he was ignorant of his limitations. Another example is the pioneering Wright Brothers who made themselves ignorant of the prevailing naysaying theories about limitations relating to pilot control and navigation of fixed-wing aircrafts. Thankfully, they forged ahead anyway and, jet lag aside, we can now fly to Paris for lunch and be in Australia for dinner less than 24 hours later. The goal, before we leave our homes in the morning, is to make sure that we channel our ignorance of negativity by purging our minds of any past knowledge or pre-conceived notions about what we cannot do. Also, we must relieve our hearts of any negative feelings about past failures that make us reluctant to try again. Each day we should treat our lives like baggage-free blank slates that are ready to confidently learn and try new things.
- Conquer your fears. The opposite of confidence is fear. Hence, when we engage in the exercise of conquering our fears we are simultaneously building our confidence muscle. One of our greatest fears is the fear of failure. Thomas Edison was a master at leveraging failure to conquer his fear of experimentation. His motto was, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
Thomas Edison effectively used the “process of elimination” to narrow down the options of experiments that had the greatest potential to succeed. The more experiments that failed, his confidence about the success of the next experiment would increase. Here is a simple formula for conquering fear: Fear increases the more we think. Confidence increases the more we act. In other words, the more we think about something that we are afraid of doing the more paralyzed we become and the less time and energy we will have to actually overcome the fear through confident action. Thus, in order to conquer fear, we should simply take a deep breath and go for it, knowing that we can only conquer fear through action. The more actions we take the more exercise our confidence muscle gets. Olympic gold medalist Paul Anderson had the unflinching confidence to do a “clean and jerk” power lift of over 440 pounds and squat with over 1,000 pounds because he conquered his fears over and over again in the gym. Consequently, by the time he had to pull off these seemingly inhuman power lifting feats before an Olympic audience, his confidence was already through the roof. The key to giving our confidence muscle a great workout is for us to repeatedly conquer our fears in private until we succeed. We must then strengthen our confidence by proving to ourselves that our success was not a fluke. The only way to do this is to repeat the success enough times until we fully trust that our motor skills will kick in when we attempt to succeed publicly. Remember that victory starts at home, in our minds, in our heart, and in our souls. We must envision conquering our fears and feel victory in our hearts and souls before we attain the confidence to publicly seal the success deal. Therefore, if we want to be a successful public speaker, employee, singer, doctor, or lawyer, we must devote sufficient time to first conquer our fears privately.
- Be proud of and share your story. The exercise of being proud and sharing our story is an exercise that allows us to be vulnerable and exposed; however, it is only in this state that we will achieve authenticity and relevance in life. More importantly, our confidence will grow once we recognize that people value us more when we are authentic and when our stories are relevant to empowering them. Oftentimes we tend to lack confidence, or suffer from low self-esteem, because we feel that our life stories are not good enough to attract the right people or garner the highest rewards. However, the reality is that life is not a comparative literature class where we must compare and contrast stories and canonize and Nobel-prize only a select few. All of our life stories are worthwhile reading materials to the people we are here to influence and empower. It can sometimes be intimidating when we find ourselves in a sea of people with seemingly perfect lives or people who are brimming with power, influence and money. It might seem like we have nothing in common with the people we look up to, admire or even envy. However, rest assured that, no matter what our positions in life are, we all have our own blistering insecurities. When we are busy comparing bank accounts, car fleets, neighborhoods and vacation homes, then we are merely creating barriers to human connection. We connect most meaningfully with other people when we are both vulnerable and authentic. Hence, we should never be intimidated by the power status of the people in the room. Rather, we should remain authentically bare and avoid putting on a façade that launches us into “pretend land”. Furthermore, we should let other people humbly fall down to meet us at an authentic level instead of us rising to meet them at a pretentious level. When we hold our heads up high and are proud of ourselves others might be encouraged to get off their high horses and connect with us at an authentic, human level. We all have fears, suffer loss, struggle with family issues, have dreams and so on. When we connect with each other on the premise of our authenticity and vulnerability then magic happens.
My challenge for you is to get on an exercise plan to strengthen your confidence muscle. Start with your mindset by making sure that it is ignorant of the word “can’t” and that it is not intimidated by failure. Next, begin to conquer your fears by walking the walk – remember that action conquers fear. Finally, be confident in your skin. If life wanted you to be someone else, you would be in a different skin. Be proud of who you are. Confidently share your story like it is, unedited. Your faults, fears, dreams, failures and successes comprise a story that only you are uniquely qualified to tell. There is no shortage of people hungry to hear your story. Your job is to confidently go out there are tell it.