My buddy Zach always finds a reason not to talk to women.
Nevertheless, I understand where he’s coming from, even if I make fun of him for it. It’s easy to think how a stranger, especially a woman, might judge you. You might not know what to say. You don’t want to feel stupid. Our brains start to parade all these crazy possibilities.
So, you end up not doing it.
On a recent visit to Paris, I met up with a friend of Zach’s at a bar. I’ve been logging some serious hours on Duolingo, but I’m far from fluent in French. And yet, Zach’s friend and I struck up a conversation with some women sitting next to us.
I can sit in a bar in Paris, barely know how to speak the language, and not be concerned about how I may sound or what French women might think of me. I know lots of people like Zach, who are way smarter than the majority of the population on this Earth but still don’t have the confidence to enter a conversation blindly.
Maybe you’re thinking: “That’s great for you, Smalls. Some people were born with a heaping scoop of charisma! Not me.”
You’re selling yourself short. Confidence is NOT a character trait.
Undoubtedly, practice is the primary way to fight fear with unshakable confidence. Building confidence is a skill that starts with reframing your own thoughts. It becomes powerful when you put those thoughts into action over and over.
By and large, honing the skill of confidence makes the difference between wild success and mediocrity. Here’s how to do it on any stage.
1. REFRAME YOUR THOUGHTS
We all create excuses. We think how we look isn’t good enough. You think, “I don’t have the status of that person. Finances are holding me back. I don’t have enough education or the right personality.”
We have 1,000 reasons why we’re not worthy.
Stop the comparisons. Stop the excuses. Who told you that you’re not smart enough or pretty enough? Who told you that you don’t have what it takes?
Most of the time, it’s YOU telling yourself that. Suitably, humans have developed an internal risk calculator that’s designed to keep us alive against wild predators. In our modern world, sometimes our self-preservation biology over-hypes the actual risk we face.
If you go into a job interview, botch it and fail, you still got this! You’re going to be OK.
If a woman rejects you, no sweat! There are tons of other women. You’re going to be OK.
In How to Stop Acting, Harold Guskin writes that “sometimes we have to actively shatter our fears, our obligations, our preconceptions to free ourselves for our best work.” Meaning, if you sit on your impulses, if you operate with a closed mindset, or, if you don’t take risks and make bold choices, then you’re depriving the world, and more importantly, yourself, of your unique expression.
Thinking of opportunities as “once in a lifetime” is a limiting mindset. So you didn’t get that perfect role or dream opportunity. Who told you that you won’t get another shot? You absolutely will! You’re going. To be. OK.
Life isn’t a straight line we travel along. It’s more like a slinky that coils around in a circle until you get to the end. When you get that feeling of déjà vu, it’s because you’ve already experienced something similar in the past. You recognize a comparable experience in your present. This recognition empowers you to fight fear with unshakable confidence.
Use the lessons of a missed opportunity to improve yourself. A new, equally good opportunity will come back around. When it does, you’ll find yourself better prepared to seize it.
2. CHEER THE BABY DEER
Unfortunately, social media heightens our human tendency to compare ourselves against others. We see inspiring pictures and think, “I don’t look like that. I’m not dining at those restaurants. I’m not enjoying those vacations.”
Remember: There’s no sense of a true timeline on social media. You don’t know how long they’ve been working out. There’s no indicator of how long they’ve been practicing. You don’t know how frequently they’ve failed. You watch a friend pull off an amazing trick on a skateboard, and immediately think, “I can’t do that.”
In reality, all the times that person fell off the skateboard have been edited out of the video.
On Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee on Netflix, Chris Rock says to Jerry Seinfeld, “Be a skateboard kid. They keep falling and falling to get a trick [but they keep getting up] and when they get it, it’s a sense of accomplishment.”
I call this, “Cheer the baby deer” or CBD. Imagine a baby deer trying to take its first steps. Not surprisingly, they wobble, they shake, it’s clumsy. Nevertheless, through each misstep, stagger, and stumble, we should cheer them on toward mastery.
Ultimately, learning to do something new is difficult. It takes dedicated work and time and each success, no matter how minor it may seem, should be celebrated before repeating the cycle of growth. The celebrations create cascading energy that motivates and positively directs you toward success.
We recognize the accomplishments of William Shakespeare and Michael Jordan and J.K. Rowling without seeing their many failures along the way. For every widely recognized sonata, Beethoven wrote 50 other versions that weren’t as good (this is speculative, but as a creative, I can imagine it’s not far off). Surprisingly, Rowling’s manuscript of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was rejected by 12 publishing houses before its roaring success.
It’s natural to compare ourselves to others. The key is to reframe that comparison into fuel rather than excuses. All in all, the ability to reframe your mindset emboldens you to fight fear with unshakable confidence.
If you find yourself envious of a famous DJ spinning records at your favorite club, don’t beat yourself up for not being at that level. Instead, consider what they had to do to achieve that skill. They probably took classes, learned from mentors, put in long hours of training, and practiced at smaller clubs. It takes dedicated work you don’t see to achieve any visible level of success.
So plan out the dedicated work, and be realistic about where you are. Leadership expert Michael Hyatt uses the acronym S.T.A.R.T., which stands for Schedule The Action Required Today.
If you want to drive from New York to California, you can’t start planning your trip from Georgia. Start where you are. Start small. But START! What do you need to do today to get to tomorrow?
3. PRACTICE COMPASSION FOR YOURSELF
As you begin your journey of confidence, let go of your need for perfection. It can be hard to start a task if you think you won’t meet your own expectations.
Get in there and do it. Your 80% is still 100% for someone else. Sometimes I get a great compliment after a performance. Meanwhile, I’m thinking: “Nope. Nope! I should have done that transition better. I messed up that part back there.”
Often, it’s much easier to console other people than be compassionate with ourselves. It’s easy to send the food back at a restaurant on behalf of a friend who’s unhappy. It’s harder to speak up for ourselves, especially when the objections are within our own minds.
Get out of your own way. Be compassionate to yourself. If you wouldn’t let your friend beat himself up over a small mistake, don’t let yourself do it. Compassion supports your ability to fight fear with unshakable confidence.
4. KEEP AT IT, AND WATCH YOUR CONFIDENCE GROW
Confidence takes practice. The more you step out of your comfort zone, the more you learn from your mistakes, the more confidence you’ll gain.
When you first started driving a car, you had to stop and think about adjusting the mirrors and carefully checking your surroundings before backing out of the driveway. When I first moved to New York City, I had to carefully study the subway map and watch for each stop to make sure I ended up in the right place- not deep in the Bronx or Far Rockaway.
After a while, that stuff just happens naturally because you’ve done it over and over again.
I like to say: “What we repeat, we concrete.” This applies to both good and bad habits. Once you’ve programmed yourself into a system, you create “grooves”. The longer you remain in a habit, the deeper the grooves become raising the walls on either side thus making the habit harder to break. Hence, “What we repeat, we concrete.”
Repeating good habits — the skills of confidence, for example — concretes them into our being. Once you’re grounded and secure in your own self, you’re free to interact with authenticity.
People pick up on fake. One of the ways you earn their trust is when you act in a way that’s authentically you. Honing the skills of confidence allows you to speak boldly and candidly with your audience, no matter what kind of stage you work from.
In summary, remember to reframe your thoughts, cheer the baby deer, be compassionate with yourself, and you will instinctively fight fear with unshakable confidence. You have it in you to put those thoughts into action over and over.
For more information on evolving your confidence and reframing your mindset read about The Charismatic Advantage® by visiting AaronSmalls.com/Keynote
Thank you and I appreciate you taking the time to read this blog entry. If you enjoyed it, please feel free to reach out to me and tell me what resonated with you or how you improve your confidence.
I’m excited to share more with you and connect more directly or on social @TheAaronSmalls.