My Dad has lots of sayings, picked up from books, plays and tv down the years that have passed into family lore. One of these, recited in an iffy west country accent, is “if ‘e be a natural thing, where do ‘e come from, where do ‘e go?” As with most of my Dads sayings, I didn’t know where this came from. I’d never asked as most of his offerings are conjugated from several phrases and don’t have a single derivation, but I was listening to a radio play, The Ghost Train by Arnold Ridley, who found further fame as Corporal Godfrey in the tv seies Dads Army, when I heard the station master say “if ‘e be a natural thing, where do ‘e come from, where do ‘e go?”.
I was delighted to hear this refrain from my childhood. It brought a huge smile to my face. The real significance was the timing. I’d been sitting with a blank piece of paper considering the theme of this months issue of the3rdi magazine, ‘confidence‘, and writing, or failing to write this editorial and then this phrase “if ‘e be a natural thing, where do ‘e come from, where do ‘e go?”
Confidence then. Where does it come from?
We all have it at birth, I think. When my son was about 3 years old we were on a family holiday in Portugal. We were having a meal in a beautiful courtyard and, as with most children, he got fidgety when he’d finished his meal and wanted to head off to play. We were still finishing wine and coffee so he had to stay close. Whay he did was to stand in pathway and smile at people. He didn’t stand in their way, he wasn’t pushy, he just smiled. If they didn’t smile back he smiled more. Everyone smiled. Imagine having the confidence to do that now. Street entertainers do this everyday but most of us feel nervous meeting new people and don’t feel we have the confidence to make an impression.
One of the most interesting stories I heard this week was about the neice of a friend. She had been looking for a job and my friend had suggested that she take a look at her LinkedIn contacts and see if there was anyone there that she might like an introduction to. The young girl looked at LinkedIn and decided that there were indeed great contacts to be made so, without third-party introduction, she contacted key individuals, including the CEO of a major Knightsbridge retailer and asked for an internship. He responded personally and has given her many great contacts and introductions to help her along the way. Would you have had the confidence to make that direct contact or would you have waited to be introduced? Her confidence came from not knowing that you’re not supposed to do that. But who says that you’re not supposed to?
At speaking engagements and through the3rdi magazine I tell people all the time that they can contact me personally and directly to get publicity for their business stories. Few do. While this is not all about lack of confidence, it may be that the time isn’t right to look for help or publicity with the business, but it often is that people don’t feel confident enough to introduce themselves.
So we all start out with confidence so where does it go?
There are many suggestions in the3rdi magazine this month of things that may, over time, erode our confidence. The media driven imperative for young girls to attain the perfect figure is one. The celebrity culture that has led young girls to aspire to be a WAG or a reality TV star, and berate themselves if this does not happen for them, is another. Something as simple, and beyond our control, as being the middle child of three is another example given by one of our contributors for lack of early self-esteem. The point is that the list is endless and infinitely variable. Things that may have happened to me to shake my self-belief may have left another unaffected. Business setbacks that may have fatally undermined someone elses ability to prosper have not dampened my desire to succeed. We are not all the same and the reasons for our confidence being built on shaky foundations varies.
So how can we build firmer foundations.
There are hundreds of suggestions in the3rdi magazine this month. Each offers a solution to particular crisis of confidence. I want to offer my own, broader based solution. AS ever, I’ll explain by way of a story. There are several times in my life that I have felt utterly indestructible, times when nothing was a problem, when nothing could shake my confidence. I can remember each time very clearly and the funny thing is that none of these times is closely linked to a moment of particular success. They seem to have arisen independently of the circumstances in my life at that time.
For example one time, very early in my career I was a salesman and I remember driving north up the M1 listening to Black Man Ray by China Crisis as I drove. I felt indestructible. The feeling didn’t follow a particularly successful call, I hadn’t just earned a huge bonus and I wasn’t driving a brand new car – all causes for euphoria if your in sales! The feeling just was.
If the feeling can arise without obvious cause then we are free to create it within ourselves. If you act like a confident person then people will think that you are a confident person.
And a final point about confidence. We all assume that other people have it! When we walk into a crowded room at a networking event everyone who is already there looks relaxed and confident. Think about this. Two minutes ago they were exactly the same as you are now; feeling a little nervous about entering a room full of strangers. It is not confidence that separates you, just two minutes. Once you are in the room and settled you will be the confident one, so take that ‘two minutes later‘ feeling with you into the room.
Think of a time when you were indestructable and take that feeling of how it feels with you wherever you go.