My first part of the Self Confidence talk was mostly focused on what it is and what it can give you. Even Superman screws up sometimes. Nobody cares much about the guy who was born into success. It’s the rags-to-riches and overcoming adversity stories that make people stand up and take notice. It really doesn’t matter if it’s a comic book or Mark Zuckerberg. That’s what’s interesting because it means that the mere mortal can achieve success.
When you’re biking, the terms “overlook” or “summit” mean a peak you reach. Implied is quite a lot of pain to get there. Somehow you’ve got to reach the top to get the payoff be it a photo op or downhill run. If the payoff is great enough then you’ll make it. It may even be the challenge of getting through it that pulls you through. The security that you can get through the ordeal is what makes it possible to complete the task.
In the (OK, optional but you should really watch it) video link above, David Kelley talks about helping people overcome phobias. In his case, it’s using a technique from one of the foremost psychologists ever. Kelley is an extremely noted designer who noticed that the people who commissioned his team were frequently the first people out of the room when it came time to get innovative. Often, they’d had their creative impulses and security squashed at a young age and that had translated all the way to their adulthood. A process of slowly but surely drawing them into the process was a repeatable way to break the ingrained aversion to being creative.
We don’t all have the ability to draw an a guru’s 4-hour-to-petting-a-snake (yeah, watch it) experience. For the rest of us, we have to build confidence on our own and with help from friends. In the psychologist case, you go from watching the snake you have a phobia of through a window to opening a door to the room it’s in to hugging it and taking Instagram pictures of the thing. In the everybody else’s case, you still overcome fear step by step. In my first blog entry I said that I had a real hurdle to overcome before I could talk comfortably in front of groups. The biggest step in that process was the awareness that I really did know what I was talking about. I knew more than the people I was training. Now that should seem obvious since I was teaching them. I’d be fairly bad at my job if I didn’t know more than the class. It was coming to that realization and knowing that they were there to hear what I had to say that got me over the hump. At that point I could really interject my personality and experience into the classes.
I saw that just this week when someone I was mentoring at work gave me a call. I’d seen for months that he knew what he was talking about to the point that he could go off course and improvise. Still, he would take copious notes and rehearse even past the point of being ready for a meeting. He’d go overboard preparing to make sure he knew exactly what he was going to say. He did a great job, but it took more effort than he needed. This time, he got thrown a curve just before a presentation and had no choice but to go off plan. And he did amazing. Everything went on autopilot and clicked. This wasn’t one step on its own and took lots of work to get to. It was a huge step though and I can see it having a big impact going forward. The pride was so evident that it sounded transforming.
Baby steps work. As I mentioned in Episode 1, self confidence is situational and depends on what you’re doing. Kelley’s talk says that confidence in one area builds in others. That absolutely makes sense to me. You see it in sports all the time when one team gets “momentum”. Everyone has something they’re good at. Once you recognize that you can perform in that area, confidence can be infectious. That’s the secret. That’s it. There is nothing else.
Knowledge may be power, but actually knowing that you have that knowledge and ability is empowering.