50 shades of confidence
Confidence is a funny thing. Nobody is born with it. Some people are lucky to have cheerleaders in their lives that make it easier to take the chances that build confidence, but everybody’s confidence quotient starts out at zero.
Have you ever seen a baby gorilla in a National Geographic documentary? He or she sticks pretty close to mama, but occasionally makes a show of confidence learned from the adults. The little ones charge each other and sometimes the little males will pound their chests. But all it takes is a bigger gorilla showing a little dominance and the little ones run right back to mama.
The lesson here is that you have to venture out of your comfort zone and make a show of strength. Sure, you’re scared (or nervous or doubtful), but you have to build your confidence muscle and the only way to do that is to try. Learn from the person who seemed more confident and venture out again, this time with more skill or knowledge.
It might take 50 (or more) tries at something before you feel like you’re good at it. In the book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell presented the idea that a combined 10,000 hours at something gives you an expert level proficiency. He uses the Beatles as an example of four people who loved something (music) so much that they devoted just about every waking hour to developing their musicianship.
Everyone has that one thing that they’ve spent so much time on that, even though they might not brag about it, they believe they’re experts. If that topic comes up on Jeopardy, they can clear the category. Kids especially can get so geeked about a specific topic (dinosaurs, LeBron James’ stats, YouTube makeup tutorials) that you wish they had off buttons once they start talking about their areas of expertise. That’s confidence out of control and it’s marvelous.
Take a page out of the book of every annoying kid or adult you know who blares his or her confidence from a loudspeaker. Grab onto something that interests you – handcrafting innovative ice cream flavors, for example – and build your confidence. But plan for the long game. Make up your mind that you’re going to give it 50 tries. Maybe try one is watching a YouTube video about frozen custard. Make a small batch of barbecue brisket frozen custard (it’s a thing). Whether it’s a pass or a fail, that’s try number one. The idea is that you don’t give up either way. You committed to 50 tries.
I want to hear from you and not just after try number one or try 50. I want to hear how your confidence changes during the process. From my own experience, I already know you’re going to want to throw in the towel after more than one of those 50 tries. But if you stick with it – and even if you never want to make another batch of frozen anything ever again – I know you’re going to have the confidence to try something bigger and better. You’ll have confidence out of control and it will be just as marvelous now as it was when you were a kid.