“A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.” — Larry Bird American basketball player.
I’ve observed that many of the most successful people in the business world are so absolutely confident in themselves and everything they do that they can come across as brash and cocky. Think of people like Richard Branson, Donald Trump, and Bill Gates. They take to heart the axiom formulated by John Eliot, author of the book Overachievement, who pointed out: “The best in every business do what they have learned to do without questioning their abilities—they flat out trust their skills.”
Eliot, a highly-regarded psychologist, focuses on cultivating self-confidence as one means of what I call becoming SuperCompetent (also the title of one of my books). I prefer it to the term “overachiever,” because the latter term has a negative connotation, almost like there’s something wrong with achieving more than the average person. There’s not. Nor is there anything wrong with being average; however, average people do set the benchmark for high achievement. Real success goes to those with the ambition to spurn the brass rings and reach for the gold instead.
Eliot’s brand of confidence is effective and infectious, and it can definitely help you climb the SuperCompetence ladder. People trust and believe in confident individuals. But take care to ensure you acquire your confidence in the right way.
You’re Doing It Wrong
I was shocked when a well-known blogger, who will go unnamed here, used a sweeping generalization in a blog last Christmas that most overachievers use pharmaceuticals to get ahead—especially the prescription drug Adderall, one of the go-to meds for ADHD and narcolepsy. She claimed the drug has become “de rigueur” among those with high-powered jobs. Yes, some top achievers may in fact abuse the drug, and certainly, if you need Adderall for an actual medical condition, by all means, take it. But she stopped short of telling people not to do it. So let me say it: DON’T take drugs in an effort to up your achievement or even to give your confidence a boost. It’s misguided and temporary at best, seriously debilitating in the long-term, and often illegal—even if you obtain the drugs by prescription from an irresponsible doctor.
The RIGHT ways to “flat out trust your skills” don’t involve drug abuse. Instead, follow these tips.
1. Focus on what you’re good at. As a leader, you’ll always have to maintain a certain minimum level of competence at specific skills required by your profession. Those skills vary from job to job; just make sure you know what they are and push hard at them until you’re where you need to be. But otherwise, I suggest you focus on improving the things you already do best. There’s a world of difference between going from good to great with a particular skill, as opposed to moving from abysmal to mediocre. Don’t waste time of things you have no talent for. You didn’t see Michael Jordan out there brushing up on his football skills instead of practicing with the Bulls…although he did play baseball for a while. But he gave even that up when it got in the way of his basketball responsibilities, and it became clear he’d never be more than a competent minor-league player anyway.
2. Let things go. Allow some opportunity doors to close. You can’t do everything, even everything you want to. Don’t try, especially at the expense of your time and health. If minor things fall off your to-do list, let them. Delegate what you don’t have time for when you can, and practice purposeful abandonment when you must.
3. Take care of yourself. How confident do you feel when you’ve got the blues, don’t get enough sleep, feel exhausted all the time, or just lack energy? If you’re down and out, you certainly won’t “flat out trust your skills.” You know the drill: eat right, in ways designed to up your energy; get the right amount of sleep; hydrate yourself appropriately; and exercise daily.
4. Get up early. Many achievers get up while the chickens are still asleep, so they can spend alone-time reading, meditating, or catching up on work without the distractions of phone calls, IMs, emails, ringing phones and other people in general. You can get a lot done in your quiet time. Just make sure you go to bed earlier to compensate.
5. Regularly brush up on your skills. Most skills have an expiration date, especially now that communications and technology have reached an era of constant upgrade. Take time out to improve your personal ROI by furthering your education, taking refresher courses, or attending seminar that may benefit you and your organization now and in the near future.
True confidence comes from pure certainty about your skills, based on a self-evolving competence arising from constant use and improvement. You reach this level of infectious confidence only when you have everything down cold, then consciously choose to bet on your skills and their application to your current situation. Once you do this and achieve it successfully, you’ll be so confident in your contributions that you’ll stop questioning yourself. A high-performance mindset will become more or less automatic.
How has confidence in your abilities helped or hindered your career? How did you achieve that confidence?