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Tuesday, May 29, 2012


          Confidence is optional.
          You’re confident when you are absolutely sure that what you’re doing will work. That’s true of all of us. When we’ve worked out all the kinks and gotten the routine down, we have no doubt that whatever it is will come out exactly as we intended.
          The trick is to have that conviction when none of those factors are present. How can I be sure I’m going to succeed when there are all kinds of problems I don’t know how to solve, when I’ve never done this before – or worse, when I’ve tried it a couple of times and failed?
          Just to add to the description: What if everyone tells me it won’t work, can’t work, will never work?

          What kind of fool just sails ahead, serene in the certainty of success, when everything points to failure? We’ve seen people do that, and suffer painfully public pratfalls.
          Maybe, once in a great while, we’ve seen such carefree people succeed without suffering any apparent pain. Not often, and we might have suspected that they were just as surprised as anyone. Was that confident competence . . . or just dumb luck?
            More directly important to us project managers are those who sweat and claw and fight, staggering and persisting their way to success, no matter what. These are people who get knocked back and knocked down, and just keep coming.
          Is this noble commitment or foolish stubbornness? Who cares? It works.

          People who do this can pay a heavy price, in the exhaustion of their personal stock of emotion, mental balance and even physical strength and endurance. They may not sleep well, eat properly or exercise enough. Their health can suffer significantly. This is not really a good way of life.
          Equally important can be the toll on their relationships, personal and professional.
When you work long hours and focus your attention on overcoming difficult workplace challenges, you don’t have a lot of time for the wife or husband and kids. Or much else for yourself as a person. Where does this go?
Similarly, when you’re stressed and overworked on the job, you simply can’t devote the proper time and attention to listening, explaining and collaborating. Things go downhill.
You can make it in such demanding circumstances, but you tend to become more driven than confident. There’s a difference, and it’s a very obvious one. Not good.

True confidence, on the other hand, is made up of competence in performance combined with contentment in attitude. I believe it is a state that can be consciously sought and gradually built – both the external skills/practices and the internal attitudes/feelings.
          Amazing discoveries can result from the candid and thoughtful consideration of one’s own habits and assumptions. You might find that the barriers are only in your mind, and the possibilities are breathtakingly at hand.
          You thought you just couldn’t deal with conflict. You might discover that you can focus on mutual rewards without distraction from  overblown and uncontrolled emotion. Not only can you arrive at an adult agreement, but you can win the admiration of combatants and onlookers. It depends upon movements of the mind that are fully within your control.

          And you can be persistent in follow-through where you never have been before. You slow it down. You apply your mind, judgment and experience instead of allowing your feelings and unthinking reactions to divert you.
You focus your thinking on the logical steps along the way, making it specific and do-able in your mind, instead of thinking about all the reasons why it’s a pain and/or all the things you’d rather be doing instead.
You can purposefully design and implement a program of logic to command your behavior in situations of demand and stress. You can train patience into your previously impulsive behavior.
You can install a little red light in your mind to warn you when anxiety or fear is rising, so you can immediately kick in your personal problem-management process. It works.       

          So confidence indeed is optional. It takes some work. But the payoff can be lifelong, and incredibly worthwhile.


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