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The Confidence Course

“Curiosity is the engine of development”

                                                                                                            Ken Robinson

Curiosity…The First Layer


Are you good?  If I asked you this question about your career, vocation, sport or academic ability and I wanted a yes or no answer, what would you tell me?  Is this question too basic or straightforward for you? It almost sounds like something that you would be asked when you were in grade school or junior high doesn’t it?  Well, this is the first question that I ask every one of my students during their initial visit in working with me.  I don’t really care if you are a grizzled veteran with decades of experience or a relatively young athlete or business person; the question is still the same: Are you good?  The answers that I have received vary from a definite yes to many times a disheartened and unenthusiastic no!

One of the many reasons that I ask this question of everyone is that I am curious. Curiosity is the fuel of a creative and inquisitive mind.  It is also the first step to exploring new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. In short, I am curious to discover what makes people want to believe in themselves and what is it that will motivate them to go after their dreams.  This is why curiosity is the foundation of creating enduring confidence because it lights the spark that creates a fire within you when you can finally say to yourself: “I think I might be able to do this”!  The question is the tipping point.  This is why I ask the question. I am curious to discover within every person I see whether I can trigger a spark within them to light their fire.

Basically, I am curious to find out what they think about themselves when they are confronted with a question that challenges their position about their belief. I am also curious to find out if they truly want to enhance their ability to perform and execute beyond their wildest imagination!  But perhaps the real reason I ask this basic question is not to put anyone on the spot, but to find a knee-jerk reaction to the premise of the question.  You don’t have to think very hard in order to come up with an answer.  And that is exactly the point.  If you think you are good, you probably are.  Your belief system suggests that you are good and there isn’t any doubt.   If you respond with no, you do not believe in your talent at this point in time and that is your present reality.  It doesn’t bother you to respond with no because that is a reflection of what you believe to be true.

However, if you hesitate to answer the question, you are either one of four conditions.  One, you are cautious to say that you are good because you do not want to appear cocky.  Many people delay their energetic response because they have learned that it is socially unacceptable to speak openly about your talent or acumen because it may appear to be too brash or heaven forbid, sound arrogant and conceited!  (And we don’t want anyone to think that now…. do we?)

The second reason that people hesitate to give an answer right away is that they are unsure of their confidence level and they are questioning where they stand on the continuum between possessing confidence and not being confident.  This creates an internal conflict where they are processing their current status of achievement with standards that have been registered internally as benchmarks of high belief.  They are debating their belief with what they once knew as high confidence and are weighing it against a standard that they are comfortable.

The third reason that people hesitate is not that they don’t believe that they are good, but that they know they could be better.  They are in a flux between saying yes and no because they realize that they are fairly good presently, but it is not exactly where they want to be.  This person’s answer is “yes, but”  because they always have to put the “but” in their answer to justify that even though they think they are good, they know there are other factors that may be holding them back.  There is always the possibility of being even better than they are presently. Therefore, the hesitation to commit to a full yes is held back.

The fourth and final reason that people hesitate to say yes or no is because they are not sure what being “good” means.  Or it could mean that they are scared to give an answer because it will validate their feelings of inadequacy or inexperience.  To say that you are good in your area of expertise or proclivity is to pronounce to the world and yourself that you can do something with ease and effectiveness.  To this type of person, they are not really certain what the word “good” could mean. Therefore, their response is delayed due to the interpretation and overall impact of what the word “good” connotes.   The degrees of “good” are not measurable in their mind and they have a hard time coming to a definitive yes or no because of this rationalization.

Now isn’t this a fine pickle of a mess you say?  How can a three word sentence derive so much conflict with human beings as to promote feelings of awkwardness and self-reflection?  I guess this is one of the reasons that I ask this question is because it can tell me so much about a person with a clear cut decision or a pregnant pause.   So, if I ask you…..what would you say?   While you ponder on your answer for a moment, let me tell you of why I use this as a basis for establishing confidence.


The Story of Satchel Paige


Many years ago I heard the story of the great African-American baseball player, Satchel Paige.  Now, if you never heard of Satchel, then you don’t know one of the greatest sport and success stories of all time.  Leroy “Satchel” Paige was a baseball player who grew up playing in all sorts of leagues starting in 1926. He became the showman for the United Negro League and pitched against all sorts of great hitters including Joe Dimaggio of the New York Yankees who declared that Satchel was the fastest and best pitcher he ever faced!  Satchel played in the United Negro Baseball league for many years and when he was finally spotted by the professional majors, he was a rookie at the age of 42!  Paige was a right-handed pitcher and when he signed with the Cleveland Indians on July 9th, 1948, he was the oldest major league rookie to ever play the game.  Satchel went on to pitch professionally until 1966.  He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.

But that isn’t where my story ends.  This story about Satchel begins when he stepped onto the mound to pitch spring ball for the Cleveland Indians back in 1948.   While Satchel was warming up and throwing some heated “pills” to the catcher, a few of the other younger ball players crowded around to see this legend of the ballfield.  Here is where the story gets good.  The unique thing about Satchel was that he never told anyone how old he was or the year that he was born!  Based on his physical appearance, you couldn’t tell how old or young of a fellow that Satchel appeared to be!   This led a few of the younger ballplayers to finally ask Satchel: “Hey Satch, just how old are you man?”   Towhich Satchel replied: “Well fellas, how old would you be….if you didn’t know how old you was”? This reply made a few of the young ballplayers shake their heads in disbelief.  Satchel then made a follow up comment: “Age is mind over matter…….. If you don’t mind….it don’t matter”!

Satchel Paige went on to play for almost twenty years in major league baseball before he retired.  This meant that he played professional baseball in his 50’s and early 60’s!  This is an unbelievable achievement for any athlete or person who wants to do things when others feel that it isn’t realistic or possible.  What I think is great about this story is that it made me think about how we view ourselves and what is possible if we use our minds to direct our behaviors towards what is possible versus our minds limiting our abilities?

This revelation and what he told the younger ballplayers got me to question how we learn and what we can do to push ourselves to greater personal achievements. I turned his “how old would you be”statement into “how good would you be…if you didn’t know how good you was”?   If you think about this question for a minute or two, it really strikes home to what we think is possible or impossible!  How good would you be if you didn’t know how good you actually were…….and you kept striving to improve your performance?  This question then led me to ask another question.  “How good would you be if you didn’t know how good you had to be or needed to be”?   It begs to ask what your personal criterion for success could be and if you know you can get better, then what is holding you back?

The Value of Curiosity  

This is why curiosity is such a vital ingredient in the development of building, creating and sustaining confidence.  Curiosity is a starting point for wanting to grow and develop. Curiosity by popular definition suggests that it is the state of being inquisitive and it makes you ask questions, learn from your failures and your successes and always looking for ways to get better!  When you want to find out more about yourself and achieve more, you probably look around and compare yourself against others and finally ask the question to the reflection you see in the mirror and ask: “Why not me”?


Albert Einstein


Buoyed with this enthusiastic inquiry to find out how good you can become, it is the initial launch fuel for building a platform for your success pyramid. That is why I have it as the cornerstone of this structure.  Curiosity is always the motivating force to want to learn more and grow and become bigger, better, faster and stronger than you could have ever thought possible. According to Albert Einstein, he thought of curiosity as a mode of personal genius.  His great quote about curiosity begins with not being afraid to question.  He stated: “Do not stop to think about the reasons for what you are doing, about why you are questioning.  The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence” (Albert Einstein, 1955).

Also, when one describes curiosity as a way of creating and looking for something new, then the aspiration of trying to become confident is directly linked to curiosity as being the first step towards creating a resolute belief system.

Therefore, in your road to creating a foundation for building your confidence platform, I have provided you with some questions to answer.  Your questions will be part of the platform that you create for yourself. Go through each question and write down your answers as honestly and simply as you can. Remember, simplicity does not mean being or becoming a simpleton.  Keeping things simple and honest allows you to view your answers with clear feedback for review and contemplation.  Let us begin!

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