A Lesson in Confidence

Anyone who’s attempted the impossible, or even the improbable, has most likely been confronted with a healthy dose of skepticism. Maybe from the media, from rivals, acquaintances, but possibly from those more personal like family, friends, or mentors. Whoever wielded it, and however it was wielded, there’s no denying that when already attempting a difficult challenge, deep-seated skepticism can cause even the most confident to experience a shiver of doubt.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a raw-raw speech. I don’t even know what you’re about to take on, who the hell am I to tell you you’ll be fine? I have no idea. No, instead what I offer is a small window into the mind of someone telling you, you can’t.

Every human is unique. Not just to the extent that we come from different parts of the world, speak different languages, and raised with different values. But even two kids who grew up as best friends on the same block their entire lives are still going to be completely different. They’ll be different because they see and analyze things in their own way, and take a different lesson out of the same experience. Leo Tolstoy once said that two people are ensured to never see the same thing in the same way. This diversity has benefitted our species greatly. It’s what drives ideas and innovation.

But the other side of the coin rests on our complete inability to see ourselves through the lens of another human. It’s impossible. I wasn’t there to experience what you did when your grandfather died. I didn’t feel what you felt when you got accepted to that university. I don’t know exactly what it felt like to have your heart broken by your first love. These experiences, plus literally thousands of others have shaped the person you are, creating thousands of slight deviations from even your closest friend. And in turn they’ve been doing the same, living in a way that has created thousands of little lessons and deviations from you. So if two best friends who grew up on the same block spending most of their free time together have such different outlooks on life, can you imagine what a person 5 years older than you, who grew up on the other hemisphere thinks? No, you can’t.

It is for this reason, that when someone says you’re one in a million, they’ve underestimated you by about 7.4 billion. For better or worse, you’re about as unique as the DNA that courses through you. While we all may share 99% of our DNA, that remaining 1% ensures that none of us see and process the same event in the same way.

So how the hell, with this much variation, could someone possibly question your ability to complete a challenge? They can’t. All that person is capable of doing, the only thing their DNA is good for, is internalizing that which you are attempting, and making a quick assessment as to their chances of completing it. Once they have decided it’s impossible for them, they’ve decided it must be impossible for you too. But don’t be mad, it’s not their fault, and most likely you’ve been guilty of the same type of judgement many times as well.

Once I realized this was what was going on with the skeptics in my life, I realized and memorialized one very simple fact. Confidence doesn’t come from believing you can do something, it actually comes from not taking into consideration those who say you can’t. In other words, imagine a world in which everything you attempted had no precedent. Imagine you never knew how hard something was until you completed it.

So ignore those who believe its impossible for them, gain your confidence, attempt the “impossible” and succeed or fail. In the end it really doesn’t matter to me, hell I’ve got my own shit people tell me I can’t do, and it takes most of my energy to shut them out.