Confidence and positivity

We like confident people. They reassure us that someone – anyone – is in control. They lead us to believe that we can learn everything we want to know. We follow the confident because we think they have a destination and we know that any destination is better than none. Those who lack confidence are navel-gazers. Introspective, risk-averse, clinging, they make us squirm with a mixture of distaste and pity.

Self-confidence is largely a mirage. Watch any group of workers on a site and you will see that one person is making progress, the rest are watching. The progress-maker is taking decisions and implementing them. S/he is the driver of the situation. They are accepted in that role because they are confident. They are leaders because their behaviour, words and body-language convince their followers that they know what they are doing. Most leaders have no more idea of what they are doing in totally unfamiliar situations than you or I.

Making it up as you go along is the sign of a good leader. Certainly s/he has to have an intelligent and reasonable approach to the problems and opportunities that crop up. They have to be imaginative and creative to see all the options. But above all they have to demonstrate confidence. Do you do that? If so, how? Trump does it too, doesn’t he?

Like everything in life moderation is what makes things work. Excess always spoils them. This is true of confidence and positivity. What makes us able to show the way to others includes an awareness that, however confident we appear, we know that we can be wrong. The true leader is one who says “It may not be the right way but it is the way we are going” – and is followed. A decision is a destination by another name.

The single biggest contribution to confidence is stimulus and stimulus comes from perceiving, asking, listening, imagining and jumping. If we don’t perceive what is going on around us, physically in the near-term and internationally in the wider-term, we lose the best source of stimulus we have. If we don’t ask questions and listen to the answers we miss a source of learning that is readily available and mostly free. If we don’t use our creative imagination we confine ourselves to a narrow, often dark, tunnel with no escape.

So what is the ‘jumping’ in this equation? Clearly the expression describes risk. ‘Make a leap’ is a euphemism for implementing a risky decision. I use the word more literally than that. Before I negotiate a deal that I think is important I go into a room by myself and jump up and down for five minutes. This has the effect of increasing my blood circulation and pumping lots of adrenaline into my system. It makes me alert, ready to take on any roadblock I many come across. It has worked remarkably well.

So what is the Trump factor that seems to deny what I have said?

It is an excess of confidence, coupled with breathtaking stupidity and it leads inexorably to loss of confidence. “They told him that it couldn’t be done; he said there was nothing to it. So he tackled that thing that couldn’t be done – and couldn’t do it”. Trying subsequently to pass the blame to others compounds loss of confidence. In the end the perpetrator is seen as a buffoon, a situation from which it is difficult to recover.

But not impossible. You see good thinkers maturing all the time. They trip up now and then but soon get going again. If they deal with it correctly, their fall gives them more confidence, not less. Because confidence is a mirage.

And it can be yours just as easily as it can be anyone’s.

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