Your Talent Is Irrelevant. This Is the One Skill That Counts.

A lack of it can cripple professional sports teams.

Max Phillips
Sep 14 · 5 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Image from Pixabay

“You are a very nice group of guys. But, for 90 minutes, you cannot be nice. For 90 minutes you have to be a bunch of f*ckers.”

hat is what football head coach Jose Mourinho told his Tottenham Hotspur squad in Amazon Prime’s latest ‘All or Nothing’ docuseries.

In it, viewers get unprecedented behind the scenes coverage, displaying what makes a multi-million-pound team tick. There are so many aspects behind what thousands of fans (used) to see every weekend — training, analysis, meetings, catering, and more meetings.

It all feels incredibly professional. There is one thing that rides above all else, and it doesn’t require a multi-million-pound training facility.


All of the clubs latest issues stem from their lack of it. In 2019, Tottenham reached the final of the Champion’s League — a huge accomplishment from a side who haven’t won anything since 2008.

They came close but ultimately lost as rivals Liverpool won 2–0. The defeat had a demoralising effect on the team which carried over into the following season. Their confidence was shot, and they had the joint-most losses amongst Premier League clubs in 2019 — sixteen.

By November, the club lay in 14th and the manager, Mauricio Pochettino was sacked, to be replaced by Mourinho. Mourinho managed to steer the side to a 6th place finish by the end of the season, but it wasn’t easy. He found his team would quickly drop their heads after conceding. Confidence was the issue.

It seems unlikely a team of professional sportsmen would be so drastically affected by an albeit demoralising defeat over four months on. They are supremely talented players, but without confidence, they could not perform.

Mourinho needed to remind them to stay strong. When they were losing a game, they needed to deal with it. Confidence lies at the core of everything we do.

If I didn’t believe in my ability to write, it would suck. The less confidence you have, the fewer chances you are willing to take. For a sportsman, it can be career-defining. For you or I, the effects can be just as detrimental.

So how do you build confidence?

Have Someone You Can Rely On

A robust support system is the best way to sustain a high level of confidence.

Whenever I worry writing isn’t going well, I have my girlfriend who reminds me of all the good that has happened so far. Whenever there is a family issue, I can rely on my sister to be on my side.

You aren’t a good judge of character. I read somewhere that if you saw yourself walking down the street, you wouldn’t recognise yourself. You have only ever seen reflections or pictures — you don’t truly know what you look like.

The people close to you are the best judges of character. Studies have shown that your coworker is likely better at recognising how your personality will affect your job performance.

Yes, you may feel you can take on the world by yourself. I am quite a private person myself and don’t particularly enjoy opening myself up, but having someone there to remind you how good you are at something is helpful.

Actionable tip: don’t hang around people who bring you down all the time. Your mental health is worth more than weak social ties.

Assess Your Accomplishments

One of the Tottenham players described football as a “quickly moving sport.” He said:

“One week you score the winner in the 90th minute and you’re on top of the world, and next week you won’t be in the squad and you’ll feel like your career is over.”

Sport is brutal like that. It’s why players need immense mental strength to keep their confidence up. You can’t let a sports-style attitude to mistakes swallow you up.

I am often far too cynical on myself an forget to look at my accomplishments. Even when I recognise them, I nearly always attach a “but…” on the end.

So, you need to have a system in place for when your support network may isn’t available. For me, I look at my Medium stats at the end of each month and evaluate the progress I’ve made. While I am not where I would like to be, things improve month after month.

Seeing how I’ve done is a big confidence booster, which then renews my energy going into the next month.

How often you assess your accomplishments should depend on how low your confidence is. While I have blips, my overall base levels are growing. A few months ago, I struggled to call myself a writer. While I still do hesitate sometimes, I own it more.

If you struggle with confidence on a day-to-day basis, you should assess your achievements every day.

Actionable tip: Dr. Brene Brown suggests writing down one thing you have accomplished today, big or small. If you’ve exercised, write it down. If you’ve down the laundry, write it down. Seeing your achievements on paper helps you to realise them.

Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket

Anyone who has watched Love Island UK will cringe at that subheading but bear with me. Sometimes, we have low confidence because we have too many things on our plate.

You can’t possibly put 100% effort into five things at a time. Consequently, your performance may drop, and you lose confidence, making things worse.

Instead of splitting your efforts, focus on getting one thing done to the best of your ability. For a baseball player, it’s hitting the ball. For a striker, it’s scoring. For me, it’s writing. Determine your primary focus and work on that alone.

You may feel like you’ve done more when multitasking, but it is a fake feeling. Multitasking is known to be detrimental to your focus. Your IQ can be lowered by about 17% just by sitting next to someone who is doing it. That’s hardly good for your confidence.

Actionable tip: Write down one clear goal at the start of every week, but make it specific. For instance, “I want to be making $1000 a month on Medium by November.” With clarity comes focus. With focus comes confidence. With confidence comes achievement.

Confidence Is All You Need

The more work you put in, the better you’ll get at something. Once that happens, the more self-esteem you’ll develop. Then you’re unstoppable.

Sure, talent helps, but it flourishes with confidence.

Whether it’s the confidence to score a 90th minute winner or to wear a new outfit in public for the first time, it’s deep-rooted in everything you do. Don’t neglect it. Work on it.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness and fulfillment.

Sign up for Elevate Weekly

By The Ascent

A weekly tip to live a better, more sustainable life and help humankind live up to its fullest potential. Take a look

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Max Phillips

Written by

22 | Creativity & Productivity tips to help you push through the mud. Sign up to my email list to stay in touch =

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 120,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Max Phillips

Written by

22 | Creativity & Productivity tips to help you push through the mud. Sign up to my email list to stay in touch =

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 120,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app