Confidence is how you turn thoughts into action. Here’s how to get it.

How To Be Confident

I’m super not confident, so I’m probably not the best person to write this post. That said, I’ll give it a try. Over the holidays, I was with some friends in Massachusetts, and one conversation my man Greg and I kept having was (slightly facetiously) “How do you take an idea and turn it into something tangible?” I’m going to oversell this right now, but I think the process of idea/thought — > action is pretty much the basic question of day-to-day or week-to-week life. Without thinking about how that happens, everything becomes a “tree falls in the forest” moment, you know? So you need a way to take your ideas and turn them into something tangible.

According to the authors of this book, that thing is confidence. People often refer to this as an “attitude,” but that’s not quite right. Confidence is what links an idea to an action. It means you can push forward with something you’ve put together in your head. (It means many other things, yes, but that’s one way to think about it.)

So what separates a confident person from a non-confident one?

Via here, there are six key factors:

  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone
  • View failure as information
  • Watch your language
  • Take responsibility
  • Seek out inspiration and advice
  • Use power positions

Here’s what is interesting about this list, OK? If you look at it just on face — at the superficial level — you might perceive it very differently than if you think about it a bit more. (I suppose that’s true of everything in life.)

What I mean is this: most people would see “seek out inspiration and advice” and think “OK, I should network more!” The problem with that? Most people network wrong in the first place.

Most people would see “watch your language” and assume it means “Be professional, don’t curse in meetings or use short-hand in e-mails.” Yes, that’s all true — you should avoid the latter things — but what it really means is eliminating “NATs,” or “Negative Automatic Thoughts.” It means looking at your life differently and using different terms to describe yourself.

Most people would see “view failure as information” and think “OK, be better at constructive criticism.” That’s part of it, but there’s a bigger aspect: you need to be confident even having discussions about failure and admitting it’s a daily part of your life. A lot of people can’t do that.

“Take responsibility” seems to make sense on every level; essentially, try to limit the excuses you allow yourself to use.

These things are hard for people and that’s why, in a given day, you probably don’t run into a boatload of confident people; it’s more like a boatload of average people, with some massively-confident thrown in and a few total introverts and shy people as well. Things regress to the norm, give or take.

There are also problems with very confident people — they can become “The Brilliant Jerk,” for example, or we can become fascinated by them (confidence is alluring) and drive our hiring model that way, which creates a whole ton of other problems.

The whole idea behind confidence, then, seems straight-forward (if hard to implement). Basically here’s what you need:

  • An understanding that it’s more than simply an “attitude”
  • An understanding of how to relate to others and ask for help/feedback
  • An understanding that it’s perfectly fine to discuss failure
  • An understanding that you’ll limit excuses related to what you do
  • Oh, and this:

You can fake it till you make it on a lot of things related to confidence, but I’d argue these basic understandings underpin all of it.

Ted Bauer

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