Where do we get it? How does one develop confidence?

I was listening to a fifteen-year-old boy talk about his ambitions, but doubting if he would ever achieve them. What if he tried something ... and failed? By putting himself forward, he was risking being put back. What he lacked is confidence.

Nothing was holding him back. All of his dreams were achievable. He had the skills required. He's very smart. He's athletic. Every year, thousands of kids achieve the same goals that he hopes to achieve.

What was holding him back was fear; not fear of failure, because he was mature enough to deal with that: what was holding him back was the worst fear: Fear of the unknown.

Failure comes with a cost.

Every artist knows this cost. You try: you focus your ambitions, you make elaborate plans, you sweat through the effort required, you get critiques from those that you trust, you modify and perfect, and then you place your best effort for submission in the eyes of someone who judges your accomplishment. It doesn't matter what you are attempting to accomplish: your novel is judged by its readers, your sculpture is judged by art critics, your election is judged by the voters, your suitability for a sports team is judged by its coach, and your college application is judged by a panel. Each one of these people have the power to declare your best effort a failure.

And failure hurts. Nobody likes to fail.

But confidence is not a willingness to risk pain; confidence is knowledge of what that pain is. Most successful people have failed countless times. They know what it means to fail. They are also still alive, which means that they have survived the pain of failure many times ... and will likely survive again.

Rejection, embarrassment, wasted time, lost investments, depression; all of these suck ... and all can be the result of failure. And most people have experienced them ... and survived. Confident people know what these costs feel like and which of these might result from any failure ... and they don't fear them.

It's easy to be afraid of the unknown. Once you know what to expect, the fear lessens.

Rejection, embarrassment, wasted time, lost investments, depression: have you survived these before? If so, then chances are that you can survive them again.

Confidence is cumulative; success in one task may lead to success in others.

But there is another cost, if you let the fear of failure conquer you: shame, self-recrimination, and the lack of success that you could have had ... but were too afraid to try. These fears are also cumulative, and can save you from wasted time, but lead you toward a wasted life full of regrets.

So when you want to accomplish something, before you convince yourself not to, consider that the cost of failure is small compared to the regrets of not trying.


(What did you think of this blog? Please leave a comment.)


From Dave D.

Confidence and the ability to deal with failure are important. I read a statistic somewhere that said comparing poor, middle class and wealthy groups, the wealthy groups had more failures than the other groups. It looks like getting rich requires risk taking and perseverance. Getting wealthy isn't a great model for how to live your life, but I suspect the interactions between confidence, perseverance and success applies to most human activities.

From Jay Palmer.

Thanks, Dave! Appreciate your comments!