A parent was telling me that he wants his daughter to become more confident because it will save her time and allow her to do the the things in life that she wants to do.
“Save time?” I asked. “I don’t get it.”
“That’s because you’re so confident,” he said.
He explained that when you lack confidence, you need to prepare twice as much as someone who possesses confidence in abundance. He told that that throughout his career, he has watched colleagues like me walk into meetings, sales pitches, and conferences and do a great job with almost no preparation.
“When you believe in yourself, you can do things that the under-confident person would never think of trying.”
I was surprised to hear that this particular person lacked confidence. He’s enormously successful and highly respected in his field, but apparently, it has required an enormous amount of work and preparation.
Perhaps more work and preparation than he actually need to do. At least according to him.
It was an interesting observation on his part, and I’ve been pondering it ever since.
I’ve always been a confident person. Some might call me over-confident at times. A few misguided souls might even occasionally call me arrogant. Either way, I’ve always been willing to take on a challenge absent any preparation, trusting that I will find a way to success through guile, wit, or force of will.
It doesn’t always work out well, but more often than not, it does. It never occurred to me that my willingness to do so affords me more time for other things.
But I think he may be right. And as a person who obsessive over the strategic use of time, I love this theory.
Happily, confidence can be fostered and developed. I help my students become more confident every year, and I’ve always felt that it’s one of the most important things that a teacher can do for a student. My primary strategy is to require students to complete new, nearly impossible tasks with almost no support.
“Go do that thing! And I ain’t helping you one bit.”
It doesn’t always work out well, but more often than not, it does.
When you start piling up unexpected victories, you start believing in yourself.
Years ago, I had a student who was afraid to speak to adults, so I sent her all over our school, delivering needless messages to vaguely described adults.
“There’s a paraprofessional in the primary wing. I don’t know her name, but she has a son named Tommy. Go find her and tell her that the answer is yes.”
You learn how to talk confidently speak to adults quickly when tasked with a job like that.
I’ve been a confident person for as long as I can remember. Perhaps some of my confidence was genetically assigned. I suspect that much of it was born from being the oldest of five in an age when kids could roam field and forest for hours and hours without any adult supervision. Bike across three towns without ever telling your parents where you were going. Walk along a forested path in the dark of night to play midnight basketball in the high school gym.
A childhood of unprecedented freedom affords you many challenges to overcome. With each challenge met, confidence rises.
My boot-strap living probably played a role, too.
Once you survive homelessness, jail, a trial for a crime you did not commit, an armed robbery, and stripping in the crew room of a McDonald’s restaurant for a bachelorette party, you start to feel like you can conquer any problem.
But even in adult, I think that confidence can be grown. It’s why I think it’s so important to do things that are new and hard and scary.
Years ago, I said yes when invited to perform in musicals in a local theater despite my inability to sing or act. My singing never really improved despite the fact that I had to sing a solo in one of those shows, but I did it anyway, conquering my fear and boosting my confidence in the process.
Right now I’m writing a two-person musical with someone who can legitimately sing and act. Talented beyond measure. With luck, we will someday be performing side by side.
It scares the hell out of me. She’s really, really good. I legitimately suck, but that is why I’m doing it. It frightens me.
Two years ago I began performing stand up comedy, even though it scared the hell out of me. I chose to do it because it frightened me.
It still does.
But I’m a hell of a lot more confident for doing it.
Does confidence really save me time and make me more productive?
Yeah, I think that parent might be right. It’s true that if you can walk into a situation unprepared and feel good about yourself despite your lack of preparedness, you have more time to get other things done.
I think it also increases the chances of failure. You risk looking like a fool from time to time.
But if you’re a confident person, you really don’t care that much.
A more obvious benefit of confidence, I think.