Confidence Is a Powerful Tool for Success

By Marshall Goldsmith

Sometimes we come across someone who exudes confidence. They radiate a belief in themselves and their abilities, so much so that you may be swept up with them as they talk about their work or their plans or their goals. Confidence seems elusive, especially to people who may be less sure of themselves, or who haven’t yet identified their own strengths.
Confidence is a belief that you can accomplish what you set out to do. But it’s more than that — it’s a belief in your own abilities. It’s not arrogance — it’s strength of character. It’s an understanding that you can succeed.
You acquire confidence through an imprecise alchemy of training, repetition, steady improvement, and a string of successful results, each one feeding the other. Sometimes our parents help instill confidence in us by reinforcing our strengths, or supporting us in our efforts despite our setbacks. Sometimes our friends help our confidence by reassuring us of our gifts or the value of our goals.
We feel confident most often when we’re facing a challenge that we’ve successfully overcome before, such as speaking in public. A less appreciated source of confidence is having a special skill that other people lack.

I once asked a marathoner friend—who was not quite an elite runner but who was dedicated to his training and was someone who other amateur runners paid attention to in a race—how many miles a week he had to log in order to meet his goals. 

“It’s not about mileage,” he said. “It’s about developing speed so you’re confident you can outrun anyone when it matters. Speed instills confidence. The confidence creates more speed.

I knew that confidence was essential in skill sports like golf or baseball. Sports history is filled with athletes who lose their confidence and overnight can’t find the fairway or throw a curveball over the plate. But I’d never thought that it mattered in long-distance running, which struck me as an exercise in brute force endurance rather than athletic skill. But I take my friend’s point. When you have speed and believe you can call on it at will, you’re creating a positive feedback loop that creates more speed, and thus even more confidence.

That’s the beauty of confidence — It is the product of all your other positive virtues and choices, and then it returns the favor by making you even stronger in those areas. 

As a general rule, if you have motivation, ability, and understanding, lacking confidence is unfortunate, almost inexcusable, because you have earned the right to be confident.

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