Confidence is a skill that can be acquired, improved, and applied by following these steps.
You can’t win as an entrepreneur or business owner without full confidence in your own ability, as well as in your solution and business model. As an angel investor in startups, I always look for this self-confidence, no matter how innovative the solution or product is.
Of course, you can be overly confident or unrealistic in your expectations, without the skills or plans to run a business.
Unfortunately, I have seen more great business ideas sabotaged by founders with self-doubt, fear of failure, and uncertainty than by overconfidence. I found the power of self-confidence, and how to build it, confirmed in a new book, The Confident Mind, by Nate Zinsser. Zinsser is a psychology expert on the power of confidence and mental toughness in performance.
He outlines what I have often seen as the elements that undermine the confidence that all of us must have in ourselves. He highlights the ways, and I agree, that you can resist these confidence killers, choose to think differently from most people, and dramatically boost your own ability to win in business, or whatever domain you choose in life:
1. First, convince yourself of what you want most in life.
Then let your brain and body focus on going after it. Every step forward and small success will be recognized as joy and excitement, drowning out stress and fear. Failures will become learning experiences and confidence builders, rather than mistakes that lead to a spiral into the ground.
I often hear entrepreneurs talk about wanting to get rich quickly when I know that money is not usually the key to satisfaction or happiness. Perhaps you are more like Blake Mycoskie of Toms Shoes, whose real goal has always been to help others.
2. Always be your own best (and most honest) friend.
You must always stick up for yourself, just like you would for your best friend. I have found that very few entrepreneurs have compassion for themselves in moments of pain and difficulty, as you would for your best friend. Use acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion to keep up your confidence.
In my experience, honest and self-confident people don’t obsess over what others think of them. They don’t go looking for fights, but they also aren’t afraid to speak their mind, and yet they are trusted by peers. I urge you to be more true to yourself every day.
3. Use both logic and fantasy to create a new reality.
Sometimes you have to turn off your careful analytical mind to just “look and do, sense and react.” This is especially true when you are stepping into the unknown, as an entrepreneur. Use realism when making hour-by-hour decisions, but be creative when setting your long-term horizons.
For example, there are many cases where science fiction has been used as a force to drive innovation. Elon Musk, in his drive to put people on Mars through SpaceX, has already created new reusable spaceship technologies and many other new products.
4. Gather more knowledge and consistently apply it.
Find your core strengths, and apply them consistently. Trying to do all things better at the same time is not a confidence builder. I find that entrepreneurs are either idea persons or business builders, but rarely both. In these cases, it may be better to find a co-founder with complementary strengths.
5. Beliefs produce behavior, so build confidence first.
Confidence provides the energy, drive, motivation, and awareness to develop real competence. You will never know just how capable you can be until you act with full confidence. Look for that succession of small steps forward, rather than behavior modifications, to build your confidence.
6. Believe that every competitor is human and beatable.
Resist the hype, rumor, and gossip that our media-saturated world provides on competitors and reluctant customers. Do your own reality check and recognize that each is no better than you, with fears, doubts, and imperfections. You will then convince yourself that every case is winnable.
7. Above all else, always play to win.
Never let yourself worry about the mistakes you have made, or might make in the future. These erode confidence rather than build it. Instead, celebrate all your successes and the positive moments along the way. Don’t try to conform to the crowd, but think differently to capitalize on your special insights.
The notion that confidence and faith in yourself only comes from genes, or a sudden flash of illumination, is a comforting excuse for failure and giving up in business. I see confidence coming more often from determination, long-haul hard work, and practice, practice, practice.
It’s a habit you should cultivate, nurture, and perfect, even during the worst days of your life. Start now.