Confidence is such a vital aspect of life. It can take us to a whole new level. It’s what makes David believe he can beat Goliath. It’s what spurs us to take calculated risks that change our lives. Outside of that, being confident just feels good. It’s that extra pep in our step. But where does it come from and how do we cultivate it?
I have found that confidence comes from 3 places: past experience, preparation, and self-talk. Let’s use an example of sales (my profession), though this could apply to literally any area of life.
“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” — Truman Capote
The first time you do something is usually very intimidating. I remember my first ever sales call. I was selling Cutco knives and setting appointments in people’s homes to give them a demonstration. My first demo was terrible. I was sweating, stuttering and had absolutely no confidence. Needless to say, I didn’t make a sale.
My second demo was slightly less terrible. And my 10th was even less terrible. By the time I had done 40 demos, I realized I was actually pretty good. And by 100, I was on fire. Part of this was the act of repetition — the more you do something, you more comfortable you become with it. But I was also learning from my observations in each demo. The customer liked what I said in meeting 17 but hated what I said in meeting 12, so let’s adjust. Small tweaks lead to big results. I could use the data in my head from past experience to know that I actually could do this.
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin
For a successful sale, there’s a lot of preparation that needs to happen. You study the potential buyer, your pitch, predict which questions they’ll ask and your responses. Every demo needs to be tweaked to that specific scenario and no two demos are the same.
For this Cutco job, we had a massive binder of product and company info that we needed to know for each demo. It’s funny: the more I studied that binder, the more success I had. In “Art of War”, Sun Tzu noted that “every battle is won before it’s ever fought.” I see this to be a very true case for building confidence. Confidence builds when you know you did everything you could to prepare for the situation.
Someone who embodies the trait of preparation is Alabama Football Coach, Nick Saban. It’s been said that when Saban is interviewing for a job that he is so prepared that it feels as though he has switched sides and is performing the interview on the new team — why should I coach YOUR team? There’s no such thing as being over prepared. Do the homework.
“He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both right.” — Confucius
Possibly the most important piece of confidence is what you tell yourself. How many times a day do you criticize yourself? “I should have done that better”, “I’m so lazy”, I really fucked that up” and on and on.
Where things really turned for me in a positive way was when I was telling myself before the demo “Hey, you can do this! You’re going to kill it!”. When I told myself I would do well, the actions would follow. Your mind is a really powerful thing and can dictate the success you see in this world. It’s a muscle that needs to be trained. Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t you’re usually right.
The great thing about this formula is that it scales to every aspect of your life. No confidence in dating? Don’t believe you can lose weight? Afraid to develop a side hustle on something you’re passionate about? Do the work, prepare for each step and maintain positive self-talk. You can do it. And you will.
About the Author
Tom Alaimo is a passionate B2B sales professional. He is currently the host of the Millennial Momentum Podcast, where he helps millennials to fast track their personal development. Tom is also an Account Executive at TechTarget and lives in San Francisco.