The confidence of living

The confidence of living

The confidence of living

This beautiful phrase came from a friend, Satvinder Singh. It set me thinking because it describes so accurately the aim we have as mentors to help people who have lost, or think they are on the way to losing, ‘the confidence of living’.

In such a scary world when our own predictions often seem futile, it is no wonder that people are losing the confidence of living. The consequence of that is not purely personal or family based. It reaches widely. It is well known that an unconfident boss generates anxiety and bad performance from his subordinates. Less obvious is the damage a subordinate can do to the boss by being insecure. I have seen powerful men lose their grip because they were surrounded by nervous employees.

We think of confidence as relating to us because it determines the front we show to the world. How we are seen is, of course, important. The firm handshake, the enquiring but not invasive eye-contact, the demonstrated ability to be wrong and admit it, these are all signs of a confident person. For many the business of acting on a stage in front of the public, whether a play or a formal speech, is torture. We do not all have the fantastic ability of Ivan Heng.

Some will rehearse endlessly to perfect their message. Rehearsal is good – essential for an actor where s/he is assuming a different personality for the play – but it still focuses on the deliverer of the message. To see real confidence you have to watch for the small signs. In Ivan’s case this is his gift of putting young talent centre-stage and in the spotlight. When an actor does that he demonstrates a sense of security nobody can take from him.

Similarly, when a boss praises an employee to other people he shows his confidence in a way that benefits the boss as well as the subordinate. Bosses who steal the limelight from their employees are top of my list of reasons for restoring capital punishment!

The most confident performance I have seen for a long time was presented by the Irish Minister of Finance, Michael Noonan. Giving a talk in Singapore on 17th March 2017, Mr Noonan spoke for almost an hour apparently with no notes. He was completely lucid, setting out the European scene post Brexit, as he saw it. He was humble, recognising that like many others he had real reservations about the divorce but was by no means certain they were fully justified. It was masterly. My worries about Ireland’s future were calmed.

And this is what the confidence of life is all about. It is not the swaggering, bluffing of a Donald Trump. It is not the methodically, meticulously refined speech accurate to the last comma. It is knowing that the audience know you have asked yourself “What is this audience’s position? Where must I start from? Are they informed enough for me to talk the same way I do to my colleagues? Are they interested enough to absorb some facts and statistics? Do they have an open mind or are their minds already made up?”

The top achievement of our mentors is helping others acquire “the confidence of living”.

That is the best endorsement of mentoring anyone could ask for.