Posted in General

Confidence causes failure

Is confidence really all it is cracked up to be? It may be counter-intuitive (hey I am contrarian) but confidence may be counter-productive.

When you are confident you are less aware of your situation, your environment and the people around because you simply don’t need to be. In the first instance that makes you extremely vulnerable to delusions of grandeur which turns you into an instant arsehole. (Which might not matter to you, because you are Mr Big) but it matters to the people who buy from you, it matters to the people who want network with you. Granted, arseholeness does not follow confidence automatically, but too often it does. (Ask Trump…) The difference between confidence and over-confidence is only a wink away.

Confidence makes you vulnerable to your enemies because you simply cannot physically remain alert to danger signals if you are focused on yourself and ‘being confident’. Confidence requires a high level of self-awareness (and some may say self-absorption), and the price you pay is reduced awareness of others. The truism of ‘pride before the fall’ has become a cliché for its very pervasiveness. True achievement can only come with total focus on the goals, the environment, and the process. Andy Grove (ex-Intel) captured it neatly with his emphasis on paranoia. Confidence and paranoia just aren’t great bedfellows.

Everybody has weaknesses and shortcomings. If you are an achievement-orientated person, you are constantly focused on self-improvement. Confidence too easily migrates to complacency. To achieve success, you need and emotion that has energy: survival is typically driven by ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ – both emotional and physical states are high-energy states.

There is a world of difference between being confident and appearing confident. Actual confidence is a rare commodity anyway: even the best sports people get really nervous (to the point of vomiting) before a match. Is that the sign of confidence?

It’s much better to practice appearing confident, than actually believing yourself. Everyone has weaknesses – including you. Everyone agrees you can’t trust other people. Just remember that you are one of those other people too. You will fail. You will screw up. Confidence simply speeds up the process. Objectivity is hard enough to achieve, and by definition you can not be objective about yourself. If you are confident, then you simply are over-estimating your abilities.

Doubt and fear are healthy: emotions that keep you alive and focused. Confidence makes you soft and vulnerable. Some people believe confidence is the more desirable state of mind because it (supposedly) feels good. That is true if you allow yourself to make the connection between confidence and happiness. But the one does not have to lead to the other. Similarly a worrier does not automatically have to be unhappy. A pinch of worry is a good thing. An ounce of self-doubt might just save your life – and make you a nicer person too.

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