I want to talk about something that can take you a long way in life and can stop you from ever making the most of the talents that you’ve been given. Confidence. Or, as I’m going to refer to it a little later, (con)fidence (bear with me, I promise I’m not going to disappear up my own backside).
To all outward appearances I’d expect you could say I’m a pretty confident guy. I talk a lot (loudly), I’m not shy in offering my opinions, and will defend them if necessary. At work I have had to deal with people from all backgrounds and levels of society, from hard men in tough areas to Chief Executive Officers and world champions. I’ve delivered talks and presentations to local organisations and national Boards and have even enjoyed giving two best man speeches.
Oh, and I regularly spill my guts all over the internet.
I’m not what you’d call a shrinking violet. And yes, on the whole I’d describe myself as a confident person. Or, perhaps more accurately, ‘confident but…’. Because I’m all too aware that confidence can be a strangely fickle and fragile ally, vulnerable to a single hammer blow or to the repeated tapping of a single pressure point over a prolonged period of time (i.e. still being single after around 18 first dates).
A couple of hammer blows spring to mind, events that shattered my confidence into a million sharp shards, each one piercing my self-belief until it drained out of me and pooled on the floor.
Divorce. When the person that knows you better than anybody, the person that has sworn to spend their whole life with you, decides that they would rather be without you and is prepared to change your children’s lives forever in order to do so…, well, it doesn’t exactly puff out your chest. Less ‘Hello Ladies!’, more ‘will I ever meet a woman again? Ladies? Ladies!?!’
Depression. It is staggering just how much of you depression can take away, or at least bury so deep inside that Indiana Jones would struggle to dig it up again. Confidence? Errrr, I don’t think so pal. When the prospect of a friendly chat with a colleague fills you with absolute, pure, unadulterated terror at the thought that they will find out just how utterly, contemptibly incompetent you are, you can kiss goodbye to the thought of ever achieving anything worthwhile ever again.
(PLEASE REMEMBER: if you are experiencing any of these thoughts yourself, depression is a liar, a bloody good one no doubt, but a damn liar all the same.)
These are pretty extreme examples and both instances required an awful lot of gluing and rebuilding. Which is where (con)fidence comes in.
For me confidence has always required a firm basis, and this basis can be built from a number of sources – past experience, self-perception, feedback from others, preparation and application: all key ingredients. But there are other ingredients too, crucial ingredients that all of those that have achieved greatness will recognise – doubt, fear of failure, and the ability to fake it.
Boxers are a great study in this. Carl Froch carved out a reputation as perhaps Britain’s toughest fighter of the last 50 years, time and again facing the biggest challenges and putting his reputation – and physical wellbeing – on the line against the best that his division could offer, often heading into the lion’s den to do so. All the while he never betrayed a moment of doubt.
So I was amazed to discover that as an amateur he was often beset by nerves and anxiety and required a lot of encouragement to believe in himself (he has placed this in the public domain, I’m not breaking his cover here!). There are countless other examples.
George Foreman ruthlessly hammered the great Joe Frazier to the canvas six times in less than six minutes, yet this fearsome brute of a fighter has confessed that during his intimidating stare down he was hoping Frazier didn’t look down in case he saw his knees shaking. And if you want to see the confidence visibly drain out of a man before your very eyes watch the following staredown – quite a contrast to the apparent confidence during the introductions (0:24 – 1:45 minutes).
Mike Tyson – one of boxing’s great intimidators – explains the paradox of supreme self confidence married to supreme self-doubt that many boxers endure as they prepare to face their adversary and their fears; regardless of what you think of the man, he touches on these extremes of human nature with a description as powerful as his left hook.
(Con)fidence: the ability to bury doubt beneath discipline, fear beneath faith, and fake it until you make it. (Source: me).
There are a lucky few that are born confident, that burst forth into the world and proceed to march determinedly to the beat of their own drum, to hell with what anybody else thinks. For the rest of us we need to work at it. And we can, just ask Carl Froch.
For me, the knocks that I have taken in my life, while undoubtedly leaving their mark, have also shown me just what I’m capable of enduring. This is a huge source of strength and of confidence and has helped to instil an attitude, and an increasingly firmly held belief, that whatever happens, one way or another I will deal with it.
And that helps to overpower one of achievement’s greatest adversaries – the fear of failure.
We will all fail, undoubtedly, perhaps repeatedly. But so what? Without failure there is no success. Without defeat there can be no victory, and without setbacks there can be no comebacks.
And after approximately 18 first dates (I’ve lost count, really) there WILL be a 19th. Or, maybe there won’t, maybe there won’t have to be.
How’s that for confidence?
Training Montage (Rocky IV) – Vince DiCola