Coaches: Whence Confidence?

Coaches, we all know that confidence is key, yes? It’s not the only key, but it’s key, especially in the beginning.

People look to you for ideas, then. And they’re lookinig to you for a number of reasons, but one of those reasons is because they think you’ll have some. And early on, there’s very little reason for them to think that. They don’t know you, they are guessing. And that perceived confidence in them is matched by an internal confidence in you. It takes a lot of nerve to stand up on your hind legs and offer an idea to a group you don’t know well.

So where’s that confidence come from?
Well, you could just know all the things. If you knew all the things, you’d always be right and could always be confident as a result. You could also just pretend to know all the things, of course. That’ll help with their sense of your confidence, but it won’t help all that much with yours. I know some of the things pretty well, and some of the things kinda, and a whole lot of the things not very much at all.

Where’s my confidence come from?

One place it comes from is my past successes and failures, which are plentiful. Both have lent me a great deal of confidence.

  • Successes in the past give me a little confidence because they were successes, but they also lend confidence at a higher level because, frankly, they amounted to very little in the grand scheme of things. They are relatively unimportant.
  • And failures might seem to subtract confidence, which they do, but again, in the grand scheme of things, they just don’t matter that much. I’ve failed more than i’ve succeeded, and i’m still here. Still hungry. Still beloved by some. Still at it.

It’s strange to say that my confidence comes in part from the relative insignificance of my choices. But strange doesn’t make it untrue.

Another place my confidence is rooted is in my extreme capacity for doubt. Again, rather strange. But I gain tremendous strength from knowing in advance most of what’s wrong with my ideas. By the time my idea gets out, it’s already been hit and hit hard by my very own doubt-magic. To a remarkable extent, I already know what’s wrong with it or what might be wrong with it. This means i’m very rarely surprised or troubled when others critique it.

I also get my confidence from two kinds of "meta-". Essentially, the confidence is inherited from my process. It’s not that I have so much confidence in the value of my idea as that I have so much confidence in the value of my idea-valuation process.

I call the first meta- "do to know". Once I get an idea past a rudimentary scratch & sniff test, once I establish that it’s not definitely wrong or evil. I turn my attention to splitting it into steps that attempt to reap partial value from it. I do one of those steps, and I get to see if I got the partial value I was hoping for. I am doing the thing — in steps — to know whether it is valuable or not to do the thing. "do to know".

The second meta- ? I have nearly complete confidence that the people I share my ideas with will take the idea, lose the fat, and cash in on the protein with tremendous vigor and enthusiasm. This gives me confidence because I don’t have to be that smart. Even if i’m the smartest person in the room, we are smarter than i am, if we’re just given the chance to be.

As long as my process gives us the chance to be, we’re as good to go as we’re gonna get. "as we’re gonna get" is an important clause. I’m not saying our ideas always work, or that even if they work they’re the best. I’m saying, we live in the heideggerian "thrown", and inaction is an action, and being right in advance just is not within our reach.

We have no choice but to share ideas and try the ones that aren’t definitely wrong or evil.

So that’s where I get my confidence. It comes from insignificance, doubt, do-to-know, and community. It doesn’t always work, because nothing always works. But it works often enough.

Where do you get your confidence?

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