I live in Maine, and if you haven’t heard, we recently got more snow in 10 days than we did all last winter. That’s alright by me because this year I’m confident I’m prepared for it.
Living out in the country, I knew losing power was a possibility back when we moved here, but having never lost power for more than a few minutes to an hour or two, I didn’t plan for losing it long term. One year ago this week we had an ice storm and lost power for five days. I learned a long, cold, dangerous lesson. As my neighbors were firing up their generators, I sat huddled in front of a small propane stove wondering how many hours of fuel were left in the tank, hoping the power company would have things back to normal before the pipes froze in my house. (Note to self: Hope is not an effective strategy.)
I lost confidence after the third day and with stores sold out of generators I called equipment rental centers looking for one. Eleven calls later, I found the last one in the county. It worked poorly and had just enough power to run my furnace only. I wasn’t confident it would keep working. Fortunately, it did the job for the next two days until power was restored. I vowed I’d never let this happen again and a week later bought a generator with enough juice to light up Times Square.
I suffered because I didn’t prepare for the fact that power failure was a reality of the environment I was in. Many of our professional failures are a result of the same thing – failing to prepare for the realities we are going to face. In entrepreneurship, the biggest thing we often find ourselves unprepared for is failure. Entrepreneurship should come with a warning label. “Danger: Failure Ahead.”
We will all fail, often. We fail in important meetings, fail to make sales, fail to retain customers and maybe even fail to keep our jobs.
The failures themselves aren’t the problem. The problem is that with failure comes emotions: regret, frustration, anger, desperation, mistrust and shame, to name a few. These emotions cause us to suffer “personal power outages” that damage our most important business asset, our confidence. It’s the one thing that influences everything, so you’d better protect it.
Are you protecting yourself and your team’s confidence for when failure inevitably occurs? If not, starting making this priority number one.
I’ve had people tell me it’s negative thinking to be focusing on this concept of failure. I couldn’t disagree more. Here is why: If a student believes “positively enough” that he or she will get straight “A"s yet they never read the textbooks or study for the exams, what do you think will happen? You’ve got to put the work in and prepare.
Confidence, like a generator, is a power source, but you must create it yourself internally. In this regard, confidence isn’t really a trait, it’s a muscle, and if you train and protect your confidence, it will grow.
Just like we want to have multiple streams of revenue to protect our finances, we also want to have multiple streams that feed our confidence. Here are five strategies I teach to gain and maintain confidence.
1. Advertise to yourself.
To improve your confidence, you need to improve the content of the messages you feed yourself. Print out, post and recite affirmations to yourself about your strengths and talents instead of beating yourself up over shortcomings. Talking down to yourself about a mistake is equivalent to driving down the road looking only through the rearview mirror. It’s just going to cause more damage.
2. Avoid negative people.
They will try to erode your confidence because they lack it themselves. As the speaker Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of your five closest friends.” The law of five refers not only to your wealth but also your health and happiness. We have enough trouble battling the thoughts and voices in our own head, we don’t need to be outnumbered by listening to negative colleagues, relatives or friends.
3. Make a “Fab Five List.”
This is a list of five fabulous activities you can do on a daily basis that can immediately boost your confidence. They should be things you’re fabulous at, enjoy doing and are fabulous for you. (For example: exercising, writing, meditating, walking the dog, hydrating.)
4. "3 by 5"
Journal three successes you have by 5 p.m. every day, no matter how small they may be. Re-read yesterday’s entry each morning. If you’re feeling low on confidence you can read through a couple weeks of your many successes to gain some confidence and perspective.
Some of my clients huddle up their teams at the end of the work day to share success stories before heading home. (This is especially helpful for sales teams because sales people face a lot of rejection and failure each day.) It helps them end the day on a high note and emotionally leave work at work when they walk out the office door.
Note: Confident kids become confident adults. A simpler version of 3 by 5 is also great for parents to use. I ask my kids to tell me one thing they did well each night before they fall asleep, then I kiss them good night. If they go to sleep feeling confident this means they will wake up confident the next morning.
5. Stand up for yourself, literally.
Your posture as well as the amount of space you take up in a room impacts your confidence. Acting small by sitting down or hunching over will make you feel small. Acting big and standing up with a straight spine will make you feel bigger and better.
Confidence can be a competitive advantage, so invest a few minutes each day in making your staff and clients feel more confident. I’m confident you’ll notice a return on your investment.