I’ve never thought of myself as a confident person. Yet sometimes people ask me where I get my confidence from, so I must be projecting the illusion of confidence at some level.
I don’t feel confident right now. I feel vulnerable.
For the past year I’ve been working in my secret underground laboratory creating something new.
It’s a novel. The first in a series.
Writing the novel was fun most of the time (apart from the month when I couldn’t write a single word and couldn’t figure out why.) I allowed myself to imagine my cast of characters walking, talking and doing interesting stuff. And there was no risk of public failure, because I kept my words hidden from the outside world.
Now I am showing people what I’ve spent the last year working on. I’m making myself vulnerable to criticism. I’m suggesting to people that what I’ve written is worth them spending a chunk of time reading. I’m even asking them for money.
‘Huh? For that?’ I hear them saying (in my imagination.) ‘What a terrible idea. What a stupid book. What a useless writer you are.’
To protect me from this, I need confidence. But where does it come from? Let’s think of a metaphor.
Suppose you’re lost and you don’t know how to reach your destination. That’s all of us, right?
There are lots of options, lots of possible routes, but you don’t know which one to choose.
Now, one option is certain to result in failure – don’t make a decision, and stay exactly where you are.
Every other option has at least a chance of success, so it is always better to make a decision than not. That’s the first part of confidence – overcoming the fear of failure, by realizing that failure is guaranteed if you don’t act.
So you choose a route and set off. If you set off along your chosen route and never consider whether it is right, you may not reach your destination. Equally, if you set off hesitantly and timidly, it’ll take you a long time to get anywhere.
The optimum solution? Make your choice and set off confidently, but keep your choice under continual review.
Doing this consciously, you can engineer confidence. You can know, rationally, that in a world of confusing choices and incomplete information, you are embarking on an option that’s better than most.
No decision you make in life should be final. Every choice or direction or decision should be provisional, and subject to review. But until something forces you to reassess and change your decision, it is better to stick with it as if you had confidence.
So I am publishing my book, whether it is good or bad, knowing that to not publish it would guarantee that no one ever gets to read it.