Confidence Is Essential When You Really Don't Know What You Are Doing
There are so many skills you want to learn, but how do you act confidently when you don’t know what you are doing?
It is essential that you get used to the uncomfortable feeling of knowing that you don't know what you’re doing. Whether it's getting on stage to speak, launching your product or writing a book, we tend to see others doing it and incorrectly assume that they've always been good at it. They weren't born knowing how to speak confidently, launch successful products, or write excellent books. They learned and we can, too.
We all have to do everything for the first time, and none of us does anything very well in the beginning. The difference between appearing good or bad at something is often a matter of acting confidently.
As Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert says, “I would argue that in some cases your performance can be enhanced by generating in yourself just the right amount of illusion about your own performance. A quarterback might imagine himself able to throw the perfect pass 100 percent of the time in order to succeed half of the time. He would be using confidence as a useful illusion because it keeps his energy in balance after some bad misses.”
We tend to avoid the things we are not good at simply because we are not good at them. Unfortunately, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we never do the things we are not good at, how will we ever get good? It's true, we don't need to be good at everything. However, the things we want to be good at require doing them over and over until we master them. The problem is that we don't want to do things we aren't good at, so we never get better.
Pretend you're good at it.
Don't discard this idea. It truly works if you take it seriously. Looking trained, practiced, and skilled is what we admire in others, so it is also what others want to see. They seem masterful, but they are pretending. Seriously. This is the only way to become good at anything and it works hand-in-hand with confidence.
Pretending you are confident (when you are in fact scared) is not to be confused with over-confidence. In fact, over-confidence is off-putting when we experience it in others, so do not do it yourself. But acting confident enough to get on stage and give a speech to a packed room, even when your hands are violently shaking, is necessary to learning the art of public speaking. The same can be said for a great many more valuable skills that take practice.
Pretending you are good at something will allow you to do it confidently enough times until, guess what? You become good at it, and the more you pretend the better you will become. Do you want to be a marketer? Start marketing. Do you want to become a web designer? Start designing.
Accept that you will make mistakes.
When we were kids, we learned that we couldn't get good at something unless we practiced and practiced. Yet, somehow, as we become adults we tend to stop wanting to practice things that we are not good at. We have this feeling that since we are not good writers now, we cannot become good writers. We convince ourselves that our lack of business experience means that we cannot become entrepreneurs. That is wrong and you need to know it. We gain business experience only by starting businesses. We build a successful business only by starting 10 before it that failed.
When we refuse to pretend that we know what we’re doing, we stop growing, we stop learning, and we live unfulfilled lives.
Consciously decide to do one thing that you are not good at. Pretend that you are a complete natural at whatever it is you need to learn. Do it confidently and know that you will make mistakes but more importantly you will learn. Remember, anyone watching will simply think you know what you are doing.
Jon Nastor is the author of Hack the Entrepreneur: How to Stop Procrastinating, Build a Business, and Do Work That Matters.