Archive for the ‘Confidence’ Category

Nobody is Perfect!

January 21, 2009

How embarrassed would I be if I were Chief Justice Roberts and I messed up the most important swearing in of a President in our life time?  Even a stratospheric high achiever like this messes up some times!


Feeling Below Average

January 7, 2009

Wow.  Today was one of those days where it seems I couldn’t quite get anything right and I spiraled down into a real funk.  The depression I felt led me to some very poor behavior choices including eating very poorly, snapping at my loved ones and eschewing the work I have for the work I made up (I did conquer two crossword puzzles today, so I have that going for me).   When you are trying to start a business and have little time to waste that’s very poor form.

I did recognize something though.  I was able to spot one of the triggers that led to my depression, which isn’t too hard, but then I was able to trace it to the root.  The trigger didn’t cause the bad day; that started before the event.  Nor did identifying the trigger give me the ability to snap into a good mood with energy to be productive; I, as is everyone, am much more complicated than that.  But, by identifying the trigger and tracing it back I was able to at least point at an area I need to work on.

What happened was that I was supposed to meet a couple of friends to discuss some business.  I had texted them on Sunday to confirm that we were meeting on Tuesday at 9:30 am at Cracker Barrel. Both confirmed that yes we were.

After waiting 45 minutes at the restaurant I texted again.  One of them replied that we were meeting on Wednesday not Tuesday.  Doh!

That was the trigger.  But the insight I got was that my funk wasn’t caused by being stood up, because I got the wrong date, or because they had confirmed the wrong day.  What happened was that my heart was receiving the message, “You are not important enough to check your confirmation closely.  It does not matter to us that you’ve been sitting there all morning.”

I know these two guys well and that was definitely not the message they were intending to send.  But, something in me was receiving that message.  Now I know I need to work on my internal issues that are causing me to feel that way.  If I can work that out it will not only make me feel better it will help keep me from dropping into moods that keep me from performing optimally.

What are your triggers?  And more importantly, what are the triggers triggering inside of you that you need to deal with to be all that you are intended to be?

Fear v Confidence

August 19, 2008

Trying to live a special or exceptional life is scary, especially for the average guy.  I’ve written about confidence before as one of the things that distinguishes the high achiever from the average guy.  But confidence and fear aren’t the same thing.  I’m guessing that the high achiever feels fear.  I have no way of knowing.  Probably most would tell you yes, they feel it.  But, that doesn’t mean it is the same overwhelming, paralysis inducing fear that the average guy feels.

Confidence isn’t a lack of fear.  Confidence is a faith that you can achieve in spite of obstacles like fear.  So, by definition a high achiever who has confidence in him or herself may feel the fear but they will not be paralyzed with fear.

Not so with us average guys.  I’ve spent afternoons when I knew I HAD to make progress on a project staring at a screen with my mind feeling like it was wading through tar.  I’d do anything to get away until I was in the right frame of mind to pursue the project.

It’s that moment when I can choose to be pursue achievement or be an average guy.  The high achiever buckles down and pursues excellence.  The average guy pursues excuses.

So, don’t expect not to feel fear.  Instead find ways to overcome it.  What can you do to banish fear of pursuing achievement?

1. Try to recognize the ways you are sabotaging yourself and correct them.  When life or a specific task becomes overwhelming do you watch TV or listen to the radio instead of pursuing your projects?  Do you play solitaire or World of Warcraft in place of work?  Set up an environment that you won’t be tempted.

2. Visualize in detail what success will mean.  What happens if you achieve half of your goal?  What happens if you achieve 150% of your goal?

3. Try to honestly assess your motivation for pursuing the project.  You want to avoid climbing the ladder that is against the wrong wall.  For example, you may discover you’re in medical school not because you want to be but because you don’t want to disappoint a parent.

4. Break the project down into smaller bites and pursue them one at a time.  However, don’t get caught up in the trap of over analyzing the project instead of doing it!

5.  As corny as it may sound self talk is important.  If you tell yourself over and over that you can’t do it, it will come true.  So, when the fear or the “mind tar” feels overwhelming sit back and tell yourself that you can do it.  You are good enough, smart enough and doggone it people like me!

6. Recognize that even if you achieve less than you hoped it is an opportunity to grow and learn for the future.  It’s only when we are trying that we’re getting better.

7.  Do things differently.  Change the method or change the environment.

8.  Don’t take it personally.  If you struggle performing a task or achieving an outcome it doesn’t mean you are less than you are!

9.  When all else is weighing you down take bold action.  Make something happen that’s important to you and something significant in your life.  Anything!  That will spur you on to further achievement in every area of your life.

Does Steve Jobs Think I’m a Bozo?

July 28, 2008

I just finished the book Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney.  It’s a bit of a fluff job that dismisses a lot of the long held criticisms of Apple CEO Steve Jobs as intentional and strategic ploys, but the point of the book isn’t to psychoanalyze him but to understand his thinking process and how it affects business.  It’s a terrific read and makes a lot of good points, and of course Jobs is one of the great leaders and success stories who has transformed society.  It’s worth checking out.

At the end of each chapter Kahney sums up the strategy of Jobs as a take away for any leader or business person.  It got me thinking about the average guy.  In the chapter titled Elitism he describes efforts to find the best and brightest for Apple.  Of course, this isn’t a new strategy invented by Jobs but he’s done a particularly good job (so to speak) and it’s greatly impacted Apple.  However two particular items stuck out.

First, one of his biggest moves was in 1983 when he brought in John Scully to run Apple alongside Jobs.  At the time Scully was the president of PepsiCo and he had engineered the campaign that unseated Coke as number one for the first time ever.  He was 30 when he was named Vice President at Pepsi and 38 when he was named President.  Yes, he attended very prestigious schools and yes he had some great connections.  But, what kind of guy can go from graduating college to VP at a company like Pepsi in five or six years?  Certainly not the average guy!  That’s someone who is exceptional.

The other point was one of Jobs strategic points: Partner only with A players and fire the bozos.  When you read something like that you tend to think of yourself as the hirer and firer.  I’m only going to hire the best!  Or you might think of yourself as the A player.  In reality most of us are the bozos.  Would it have been fantastic to be a part of the early days of Apple?  Absolutely!  Would I have been able to cut it?  I have my doubts.

I am in the middle of leaving my current job and a part of it is that I was the bozo.  That’s really not a fair representation; I wasn’t really a bozo, just perceived as one.  The circumstances weren’t my fault and my response was very appropriate.  But, if I were really an A player would I be in a position that anyone wants me to leave.  No.

The question I am wrestling with is not how do I become Steve Jobs or John Scully.  Ain’t gonna happen.  I just don’t have the tools.  But, can I move from being a bozo to an A player?  That’s the question.

As I Lose My Job

June 23, 2008

            I used to really love my job.  Monday’s were never a drag and it was never hard to get started.  There was a lot of variety in what I did each day, a lot of flexibility, travel, and the job was very meaningful.  I wasn’t just selling cans of green beans.  What I did made a real difference in people’s lives.

            Not so much any more.  As the organization grew the job has changed.  A lot.  There is a need for much more of a professional salesman in my role.  That’s not who I am, and that’s not who I want to be.  So, I am not so slowly any more losing my job and this part of my life will be over shortly.

            The organization is still great, and I’d even recommend working there.  The job is still very meaningful and makes a real difference.  But, I am no longer good at it.  So, there is a real sense of loss as the change comes about.  There is loss and anxiety as I figure out what comes next.

            All this came on very quickly.  If you’d asked me six months ago I’d have told you I love my job.  But, the company I work for reorganized and now things are very different.  I don’t work for or with any of the same people anymore.  The team I am on is full of good people who are nice enough and they are good at what they do.  So, it’s not that the these people are the cause of the problems.

            But, it is different.  We don’t have the same history.  I have to prove myself all over to them.  And that hasn’t gone well.  Three times in the last three months things have gone wrong.  Not stop the presses, you’re fired wrong.  But bad enough for an “Uh oh” kind of moment.  It wasn’t my fault either.  Probably 30% of any of it was in my control, and the part I could control I did reasonably well.  But it fell in my lap anyway.

            Now I don’t really feel wanted where I am, which sucks.  And I have tremendous doubts about my abilities, which sucks even more.  I think, “Maybe they’re right.  Maybe it is me and I am not capable.”

            Look, I know I am not a superstar at any of this.  I’m just an average guy making his way in the world.  But, I must be good at something, right?  I must be above average somewhere in my life.  Don’t the law of averages say that must be true?  (I’m not good enough at math to know for sure).

            It’s really difficult to start something new when you don’t feel competent at anything.  How do I start a new job, especially in the field where I have experience when I’ve demonstrated to those around me that I am not very good at it?  How do I start something new when I don’t feel capable of impressing anyone?

            There is a need to pull up by the bootstraps.  I have a mortgage and a family to take care of, so I can’t wallow in too much self pity.  And I think I’ll find something at some point that I enjoy again.  I just need to get the confidence to try.  Or come to a place where it is too scary not to.

            In the mean time I’ll suffer through this painful time and look forward to a time when the anxiety is gone and I can tell myself that I may not be the smartest or the best, but I am contributing.


May 20, 2008

One of the most significant personal attributes of the high achiever is confidence.  One of the most significant personal attributes of the average guy is doubt.

I’m confident that high achievers feel doubt.  But, I also know that they follow their instincts and thoroughly think through their decisions, and once a decision has been made the doubt disappears.  And, usually they are right to do so as their instincts and their abilities to make decisions are so often right.

Confidence oozes from the high achiever.  Sometimes it crosses the line into arrogance, but more often it is just perceived as arrogance by the average person because they don’t get how someone can be so sure of themselves.

For the average person though instincts often lead us astray and too many times my decisions have been flat out wrong.  That makes the doubt creep in quicker and linger longer each time I’m faced with a new situation.  High achievers have very little time or patience to deal with someone stuck in a mud hole of doubt, which further erodes the confidence of the average.

Over the last couple months I’ve had some significant set backs in my work.  They didn’t knock out my confidence, but my confidence did need a standing eight count.  Since then I’ve been pretty frozen in my performance; no real failures, but not much success and not much progress.

What I’d love is for someone to come along side and walk me through this.  The recommendation of so many of those books written by high achievers is to find a mentor.  But, the average person, if they can find someone to mentor them at all, usually finds an average mentor.  That can be beneficial if the mentor has some solid experience, but often it becomes a complaining session or fellowship about the trivial.

So, how do you generate confidence when things have gone badly?  Here are some thoughts:

1. Stop comparing yourself to others.  I’ll probably never be the highest achiever in my workplace.  Does that mean I’m not successful at all?  No.  This isn’t a car race where second place is the loser.  Learn to compete against yourself so that you are always improving.

2.  Set confidence goals.  Keep them small and very achievable at first and make sure you pursue them seriously.  For some it may be the goal to talk to one new person a day for a week.  For another it may to to talk to his or her boss or spouse about a problem you’ve been having.  Or, it might be to conquer a project that has been nagging at you and causing stress.  As your confidence builds set bigger goals.

3.  Look to past successes.  Remind yourself that you’ve been successful in the past, no matter how small the success.  Find it and focus on it to let yourself know that the fear and doubt you have now are temporary.

4. Recognize and admit to your insecurity.  Voice it to yourself.  “I am worried that if I don’t impress my boss on this project I will be fired.” Or, “I am afraid to talk to that person because they will think I am boring.”

5. Take time to prepare.  Whenever I speak in public I am most confident when I have thoroughly prepared.  If I try to wing it, forget it.  I’m a wreck.  So for that sales call, make sure you know about the person and company you are calling and make sure you thoroughly know your product.  For small talk in a room full of strangers make sure you have a list of questions in your mind that you can ask others about themselves.

6. Ask for honest feedback.  If your lack of confidence comes from a lack of ability make sure you know it.  Ask your supervisor or someone you trust for truthful feedback about your abilities and personality.  It may help if you ask them to write it down so they don’t have to say negative things to your face.  And, approach the feedback as a positive and not a negative.  You might say, “I’m trying to get better in this area.  Can you tell me some things you think I could work on?”  Instead of “I know how bad I am at this.  What should I do?”

7. Admit your mistakes and correct them if you can, but don’t dwell on them.  Nothing is more boring than someone who is constantly berating themselves for mistake or poor performance.

8. Exhibit true humility.  Often those of us who are insecure will expect great praises when things go well, and if we don’t get them we’ll be resentful.  Instead, accept praise graciously, but seek to perform well for your own sake and not to impress others.  And, no false humility either.  A simple thank you is enough.