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3 Ways to Stay Confident After Graduation

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graduation caps

When you graduate, taking your first steps out of College or University into the big, bad world is, how to put it…

…a little bit fucked up.

The structure and support of your education and peers is no longer there to lean on. You might have just moved back home, bringing a whole new set of pressures and expectations. Then there’s the challenge of finding a damn job, maybe even something related to what you studied. It feels very much like you have to start being responsible, with few of the tools and little of the means to do so.

In the post-graduation transition, it’s easy to feel lost and confused, not knowing which way you should go while feeling like you have to get it right or you’ll fuck it all up.

Your confidence can disappear like a fart in a fan factory.

So here’s how to remain confident and trust yourself, even in the middle of all the uncertainty and change that this brave new world brings.

Stop feeling like you should have all the answers

After all that time in education and having now graduated, it feels like now’s the time when you can start reaping the rewards, and the pressure to make all the right decisions and start nailing it is palpable.

But as you try to equip yourself with all the right answers, so come more questions.

Which company culture will be the better fit for you? Which direction offers the best opportunities for growth? How can you leave your mark most effectively and most rapidly? Should you relocate or maybe take a year out? Which way is the right way?

This is about your relationship with uncertainty, and the felt need you have to counter it with answers. Truth is, uncertainty is the way things are, and trying to fight is like trying to fight an angry bear with a wet fish. It’ll just leave you exhausted, scared and broken.

There’s no such thing as “having all the answers” and nobody knows what they’re doing all the time, despite how much they might pretend that they do.

So relax a little. Understand that uncertainty is natural, and when the urge to have the right answer bubbles up, know that doing your best is plenty good enough as a response. That’s all you can do, and it’s always enough.

Prioritise play over success

Expectation demands that you’re successful. Often, as quickly as possible.

It’s an expectation that can make you look at the surest way of achieving success, which may well mean getting a job—any job—so you can start earning the dollars.

Employment is a good thing, and earning money can be even better. Cash gets you stuff, like your own place, or travel, or big nights out. A lifestyle.

But success is a trap, peddled to you by people who don’t give a shit about whether you really succeed or not.

Extrinsic success is easy, cheap even. It means nothing, and it’s where many, many, many people find themselves some years down the line, feeling lost and with all self-confidence eroded.

So please don’t go pursuing success. Just look for where the energy is, look at what seems to be tugging at you, and look at what might be a whole heap of fun.

You don’t have to figure out what it might lead to and you don’t have to sweat whether it’s “sensible” (that’s looking for the answers again, right?), because simply engaging with something that connects, lands or resonates with you can open whole worlds to you that you never even thought of before.

Bottom line: meaningful success won’t happen all the time you’re chasing an extrinsic notion of success.

So it’s through play—through engaging with the things that make you feel joy or connected or in flow—that you find meaning, make connections and experience more success than fitting in with expectations will ever give you.

Stop comparing

Through your education, chances are you’ve had your performance compared with that of your peers. You probably do some of that yourself too. You see someone who seemed to ace every test and wonder how they do it so effortlessly. You see someone who’s pulling ahead and wonder what they’re doing differently. And you see someone who got landed an amazing job and wonder what they have that you don’t.

The system is designed for comparison, but it’s not just the fault of the system.

A 2002 study into primates showed that status equals survival, with monkeys who were higher in the pecking order having lower baseline cortisol levels (the stress hormone), living longer and being healthier. While (sometimes) not as hairy, us human beings aren’t so different. Your brain is hard-wired not only to figure out where you sit in the pecking order against others, but to reinforce your position in that pecking order.

To figure out who’s higher and lower in status your brain uses similar neuronal circuits as it does when processing numbers, giving people with a higher perceived status a higher “score”.

But today, every time you compare yourself to someone else, you threaten to:

a. undermine your self and your efficacy, or
b. inflate your ego and become an ass-hat

While some people will become arrogant ass-hats, more often than not the act of comparison just gives you ammo to beat yourself up with.

Comparison short-circuits you toward shame.

Stopping that cycle starts with understanding that the act of comparison compromises your ability to approach a decision or a moment as a whole human being. It starts by practising the noticing of comparison (“oh hey, what do you know, I’m comparing myself again”), a practice that creates the opportunity to do something different.

Comparison is irrelevant. The only thing that’s relevant is your ability to approach a decision or a moment knowing that you’re already whole and enough. That knowledge and that feeling doesn’t need anyone else to
function.

It just needs your trust.

Let me know in the comments what your world is looking like after graduation, and how confidence and fear are showing up in that.

How to Always Have Confidence in What You Want

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Before I die I want to _____

“Get out there and do it” and “Follow your passion” are among the most asinine pieces of advice you’ll ever receive.

They’re cheap like a $10 hooker, and as they’re everywhere online, they’re just as infectious.

I’m no fan of clichéd clap-trap, and neither am I a fan of the way these tropes make people feel they’re missing something, lacking something or getting something wrong.

What the “follow your passion” brigade neglect to mention is how often you doubt what you want rather than having confidence in it, or how you wonder if you’re wanting the right thing at all. They don’t talk about how hard it is to go after what you want, how easy it is to compare yourself with people who are further along than you or just how much you might suck at it at first. And they certainly don’t talk about how others can stand in your way and discourage you, or how your own thoughts can be your worst enemy.

What I am a fan of, and always will be, is calling it like it is. Even if that might not end up with a snappy line you can put on a t-shirt or onto an image of a mountain at sunrise to stick on your Facebook wall.

In that spirit then, here are a handful of pointers that will help you to trust and have confidence in what you want.

1. It’s not just one thing

I want to make a tangible difference to people. I want to laugh until I pee. I want to spend more time in Portland, Oregon. I want to get my novel published. And I want all of the mind-blowing sex.

While it helps to focus on one thing at a time or risk spreading yourself too thin, the notion that your “passion” is one thing that will bring everything into focus is bullshit.

It’s okay to want more than one thing, and it’s okay if your passion evolves from one thing into something else. That doesn’t mean you’re flakey and it doesn’t mean you don’t know what you want. It simply means you’re learning.

Takeaway: It’s okay to want more than one thing. The trick is in prioritising and then trusting your choices.

2. It’s not a magic eraser

Read enough of those chest-pumping, high-fiving, ego-inflating articles about following your passion and you might think that it’s a route to magically solve all the problems in your life.

It’s true that when you align your life around what matters to you it’s easier to let the things that don’t matter fall away, but that doesn’t always equal everything being sugar-coated, peachy-wonderfulness.

If you’re haemorrhaging cash, starting a new business is unlikely to stop the flow. If you have an issue in your relationship that you’ve been avoiding, becoming a digital nomad is unlikely to solve it. And if you have a health issue that’s proving challenging, that challenge will remain whether you write that novel or not.

Takeaway: Conflating going after what you want with erasing the problems in your life is fantasy. Always own the reality of how things are.

3. Scale is irrelevant

When you start to look at what you want, and how you want it, it’s tempting to go big. It’s got to be all or nothing, you tell yourself. If you don’t do it all, why bother at all? And if what you want isn’t going to make waves, surely there’s a bigger rock out there that will?

The “make epic shit” brigade will have you believe that if you’re not going after something huge, life-changing, culture-shifting or earth-shattering, that you’re not doing it right. That you’re selling yourself short, or playing it safe. They’ll tell you stories about how they’re travelling the world on a bread board or forming a collective dedicated to helping everyone make six figures inside a month, but you don’t have to get hooked or diverted by those stories.

What you want can be as gentle as breath on your neck and as warming as the sun on your face.

It doesn’t have to change everything, but it should always enrich or nourish something.

Takeaway: Purpose is as much about texture as it is impact.

4. It can’t be outside-in

We’re living in an age of cheap inspiration.

It takes zero effort to read something on Facebook and share it with the comment, “So inspiring…”. And it takes little effort to regurgitate memes and themes on article hubs that aim to distract just long enough to turn into a marketing lead rather than actually change thinking or behaviour.

Cynical? Maybe. But there’s no denying that so much of what we think we want comes to us courtesy of everything around us, and it’s those inputs that lead us toward phantom wants such as status, validation and recognition.

Want and desire don’t happen outside-in, not if you want them around for the long-term and certainly not if you want to have any confidence in them.

Takeaway: Figuring out what you want isn’t always easy. That doesn’t mean it’s any less necessary.

5. It may well make you doubt everything

Knowing what you want and then bringing it about is, in some measure, a disruptive process.

It’s moving from one thing into another, and any change brings with it resistance. It’s entirely natural and completely expected.

If you’re not watching, that resistance leads to things like self-doubt and second-guessing. It can create gulfs and even crises of self-confidence, and it can feel like everything in you is urging you to turn back, toward safety.

It’s not ideal how discomfort and resistance get to trump want and desire, and while that’s simply how we’re wired, it doesn’t mean we’re slaves to it.

Resistance and doubt don’t mean you’re on the wrong course, they’re simply indications that you need to trust more in what you want to guide you through.

Takeaway: Feeling doubt and resistance doesn’t preclude having confidence in what you want.

Having confidence and trust in what you want happens at a deep level, with all kinds of stuff getting involved (neurotransmitters, friends, physiology, family, etc).

It’s a quiet core that can persist and fuel even in the middle of turmoil.

Confidence is a turmoil-whisperer.

(Wanna stick that on a t-shirt?)

How to Be Greater than the Sum of Your Beliefs

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'A PLACE BEYOND BELIEF' Lumiere Festival, Durham

Folks used to believe that the Earth was flat. Then Magellan came along and proved otherwise. But somehow, there are still people who think the Earth has more in common with a pancake than a football.

People still believe that global warming is a huge hoax, despite overwhelming evidence from the global scientific community to the contrary.

And perhaps most bizarrely of all, there’s a whole heap of people who believe Fox News to be an actual new channel, despite its output.

But let’s not talk about those things. I’m more interested in what you believe.

You beliefs are the things you carry around with you every minute of every day that inform your choices and your behaviour.

Your beliefs shape your world

At first glance, you’d think your beliefs are formed from things that happen to be true, but that belief, ironically, isn’t true at all.

Your beliefs are only thoughts, just really sticky ones.

Believe that people have to earn your trust and you’ll make people work hard for it. Believe that you’re better at what you do than anyone else and you’ll have a hard time when others get their way. Believe that you have to prove yourself and you’ll work and work and work for it ’til you bleed. And if you believe that you’re a pirate you’ll start wearing an eye patch and find yourself a little parrot friend.

It’s astonishing just how much your life is shaped by the beliefs you hold, and it’s shocking that you might not even know it’s happening.

So rather than have your beliefs confine you to a life that’s smaller than you deserve, here are a couple of ways to be greater than the sum of your beliefs.

Strive for meaning

Beliefs provide a framework for thought and behaviour, and when some of those beliefs no longer reflect who you are or what matters to you, something’s mightily wrong.

This is how people find themselves lost and floating, disconnected from meaning in their own lives. Confidence and self-trust evaporate as there’s no foundation, nothing anchoring decisions and no way to know which way is up. Sometimes, and sadly we see this too often in the world, people end up clinging to their beliefs no matter how crazy, dumb or out-dated, simply because it’s the only thing left to trust.

So you have to move towards meaning.

You have to bring into your life the things that matter most to you, and you have to honour, express and demonstrate what matters most even when that flies in the face of a belief you hold. Especially when it flies in the face of a belief you hold.

That’s a sure sign that you’ve outgrown an old belief, and a big clue towards a more empowering belief that you can hold confidence in.

Let go of what doesn’t work

Which brings us to where many people get stuck and turn back—letting go.

Your beliefs are some of the strongest pathways in your brain, able to be activated without any deliberate thought. They’re among the go-to circuits your brain leans on most. You might say then, that your brain has confidence in your beliefs.

That makes them super-sticky, and it takes zero effort to leave them be and just go about your day as you always have.

But a sweet and beautiful life sometimes demands that you let go of what doesn’t serve you any more, and doing that starts with the thought, “I don’t need to keep this close any more.”

That’s it. That all it takes. A gentle acknowledgement that what once might have worked, now doesn’t work so well.

That’s what I did with the beliefs I first held about my illness; maybe one of my best moves ever.

You don’t have to pick it apart or try to understand it, you just need to soften into what your life might be like without that thought, without that belief, without that thing that’s holding you back.

It’s through letting go that you get to grow.

Test new beliefs

Letting go and leaning in to a fresh way of thinking doesn’t need to be a huge upheaval.

In fact, sometimes the blocker to a new way of thinking or a new belief is the belief that making the shift will be hard or painful, or that it might turn you into something you’re not.

You’ll see how beliefs might get stacked on top of one another or how they can lead to circular thinking, so it’s important to find a simple way to cut through that with minimal fuss.

So instead of thinking about it as a fundamental change, a hard process or something that will disrupt, just try on a new belief like you might a new coat.

Take the pressure off yourself, slip into a new belief and see how it fits. Check to see how it makes you feel (clue: if it makes you feel lighter, then it’s a great fit). See what works, and discard the rest.

You are greater than the sum of your beliefs, and it’s by placing your confidence and trust in your ability to explore and evolve that you get to step into that.

So what’s keeping you?

3 Big Reasons You Never Change

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CHANGE

Change.

It’s what strangers ask for and all of us try once in a while.

But while it’s pretty easy to offer up a few coins, changing yourself is often a whole heap of trouble.

Let’s face it, change is hard.

You might want to stop feeling so damn shy in large groups. Maybe you want to make a change in your work so you can feel good about Monday mornings. Perhaps you want to change the way you think about health or your body. You may feel like you have to change your relationship to money, or maybe you’re tired of sitting on your gifts or holding back from your desires.

Change starts by compassionately noticing that something isn’t quite right, and even though you might start the process of changing something, which is fantastic (round of applause), you soon find that one of three things happens:

  1. You get diverted or sidetracked by something else, or just by “life”.
  2. You hit a block or a wall, and things fizzle out.
  3. You rationalise that this isn’t the right time to change, or find some other “reason” to back out.

Look, I’m not here to judge, blame or point fingers. We all do this. It’s how we’re wired.

So here are 3 reasons that change never seems to stick, and a couple of thoughts about how to do things differently.

You get attached to your identity

Your identity is really just a set of beliefs about who you are. You’re the type of person who always sees the silver lining. You’re the kind of person who gets stressed out too easily. Or you’re the kind of person who good things don’t happen to.

You’re all kinds of different things, and all of the beliefs you hold about yourself get smooshed up together to form an identity.

Then you get attached to it. You start to believe that your identity is who you are. When in fact, it’s just a collection of thoughts, beliefs and stories.

Your identity may echo some important parts of who you really are, way down deep. But it will also include some batshit crazy stuff.

Like when you end up thinking you must be a bad person for wanting to change. Or that you’re someone who doesn’t deserve to change in the ways you want. Or that you’ll become someone you’re not as a result of change, and that would be horrible.

So when faced with change, your job isn’t to ask yourself “does this fit with who I am?“, because that will leverage those old beliefs and assumptions about yourself that may well be limiting the hell out of your life.

Instead, ask, when I think about changing this, what kind of person do I want to be?

See the difference? One gets you stuck in thoughts about who you’ve been. The other opens up possibilities based on the kind of experience that really matters to you.

There’s safety and warmth in wrapping yourself up in your identity, and it feels damn exposing to shed that. But when it comes to change—real, meaningful change—you can’t do it without letting go of who you’ve been and finding the confidence to explore what’s next.

You slip into old patterns

The things you do are often as comfortable as an old pair of slippers and as familiar as an old carpet.

Driving a car or brushing your teeth. The way you behave with a friend versus how you behave with a sibling or a parent. The way you approach a personal project you want to get started versus how you approach getting something going at work. The way you deal with conflict versus the way you deal with praise.

These things are all patterns of behaviour—reactions to circumstances—that your brain triggers in order to get you through safe and sound.

When it comes to change, your brain will lean on the old patterns it knows well, and it’ll even reward you with fuzzy-wuzzy feel-good chemicals when you use those patterns.

This automatic triggering of behaviour is functionality that comes right out of the box, and it’s incumbent on you to be aware of whether that behaviour is serving you well, or if it isn’t.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is, you don’t have to unravel or even understand the old patterns of behaviour that might not fit or serve you now. You just need to entertain the notion that there might be a better way. A way that honours what matters most to you. A way that opens up possibilities rather than closing them down. A way that knows how much you love certainty and still says, “Fuck it, let’s try.”

Old patterns don’t need to be an impediment to change, just as long as you’re confident enough to call them out for what they are.

Baggage.

You don’t consider the environment

I love the panda’s and penguins. I think trees are pretty cool. And I freakin’ love breathing fresh air.

I’m all over this environment thing like a climate-change-denier over a GOP rally.

But the environment isn’t just about green issues, it can also stop you dead in your tracks before you’ve even finished tying your running shoes.

Your environment is made from 9 elements—relationships, work, physical, body, nature, spiritual, financial, network and identity. It includes everything around you in your life. All the stuff you encounter and all the things you move through.

As a human being you have a bi-directional relationship with your environment. You can impact it just as much as it impacts you.

And here lies the rub.

You can only grow and change in an environment that’s congruent with that change.

You might have a friend who doesn’t want you to change. Or a partner who doesn’t give you the support you need. Maybe you have a haemorrhaging bank balance. Or a body that’s healthy like a toxic pond. Or perhaps you’re in a job that doesn’t give you room to grow or have a social life that’s as enriching as an Iranian plutonium plant.

Any one piece of your environment can block change like a lack of sunlight blocks growth or drought stops a flower from blooming.

The point isn’t to try to control everything in your life (however tempting it might be), it’s to spot what’s in your environment that takes away from your ability to enact meaningful change and put a strategy in place to accept, minimise, transform or eliminate it.

If you don’t spot it first, something in your environment will bite you on your tush like a puppy smelling brisket in your knickers.

So see what stymies, throttles or denies in your environment. Then tap into the vein of confidence that gives you the power to make a choice, and have that choice be one that helps shape an environment that’s congruent with the change you want to make.

Change is hard. Or at least, it can be.

It can also be sweet and beautiful and marvellous and strange and wonderful and necessary.

What kind of change would you like to make?

Success from Confidence, not Confidence from Success

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The Key To Your Success

Finishing up a confidence coaching session where we hit all the right notes and something clicked in my client makes me feel on top of the world. When I’ve had a day with good people where I’ve been able to riff, laugh and connect, I feel like the most confident man who ever lived. And when I wrap up a corporate gig where I worked my socks off and got the respect of the team, it feels like I could tackle anything.

It’s really damn easy to feel confident when you’ve just got a big win under your belt, and the confidence that flows from success feels wonderful.

But it’s easy.

And it’s temporary.

This is extrinsic confidence—confidence that’s made and fuelled by external events, and when the buzz from the success dies, so does the confidence.

Natural confidence is intrinsic. It doesn’t flow from what happens around you, it flows because of what you already have and who you already are.

A confident artist will throw their heart and soul into their work. A confident piano teacher will love every step as their student grows. A confident manager will give their team what they need to do great work and not get in their way. A confident student will engage with studies and friends without needing to fit in or prove anything. And a confident athlete will love the very fact that they get to play and compete to the best of their ability.

Sometimes people get lucky, sure, but don’t wait for your confidence to be built from events that happen around you. You might be waiting a while.

Einstein said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

A core of natural confidence provides the landscape for being of value.

Creating, adding, serving.

And in a beautiful twist, that’s where real, meaningful success happens.

Are you tired of waiting?

3 Ways to Overcome the Fear of Criticism

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Pointing

In College, people saw my calm demeanour and inclination to study and called me boring.

At work once, I came back from vacation to be raked over the coals by my boss for the “embarrassing” way I’d handed a project over to her (just 1 out of 17) and told me I should be ashamed of myself.

And a 1-star review on Amazon that says “What a great name for such a lame book” doesn’t exactly light me up with joy.

While criticism is frequently unwelcome, there can also be things to learn and ways to grow. What’s worse than the criticism itself, is the fear of it.

The fear of criticism is what leads us towards people-pleasing and needing praise. If someone praises us, then we’ve successfully avoided criticism. Phew.

The fears we have around criticism—both our fear before the fact (i.e. what if I get criticised here?) and our fear when it lands (i.e. what does this mean?)—drives behaviour that erodes all confidence and self-trust.

So just how do you deal with the fear of criticism? How do you take something so seemingly painful and strip it of its ability to drive limiting behaviour? How can you remain confident in your capability and sense of self in the face of criticism that’s levelled straight at you?

Here are 3 ways.

1. Don’t go inwards

Living in fear of being criticised is a little bit like living in fear of being eaten by a whale. You kinda like whales, they’re all sea-dwelling and kinda graceful, but hell, if there’s a chance one of them is going to eat you then it’s for the best that you steer clear of Newfoundland.

This kind of thinking pulls your world inside you, making you justify self-protection because it’s dangerous out there.

It’s the same when a piece of criticism lands on your plate. It hurts. It’s hard for it not to, because it’s about you. Right?

Well, not entirely. You don’t know what’s in the head of the person offering the criticism. Maybe they’ve had a shitty day, maybe they’re just transferring pain or anger from somewhere in their own life and you just happen to be there. Or maybe they think they’re always right and that nobody else can touch them.

Criticism is an observation based on someone else’s perception, and it might be as reflective of “truth” as a penguin at the zoo thinking that your pink skin and funny hair makes you look a bit like Miss Piggy.

You’re not obliged to take the criticism and internalize it if it doesn’t serve you to do so, just as you’re not obliged to take a fear around possible criticism and make it yours.

Instead, ask yourself, “What would it be like to let go of this?” and see what opens up for you.

2. Don’t conflate it with your fear of not being good enough

Criticism feels a lot like rejection doesn’t it?

Bad appearance, horrible attitude, shitty performance – when someone criticises you it’s like they’re saying, “This thing about you? It’s not good enough.”

Rejection is what we fear; criticism is the vehicle for it.

Criticism hits that nerve that thinks you might not be good enough after all. It touches that part of you that thinks you’re not worthy of love and belonging and it stirs the fear that you’re fatally flawed.

These parts of you are like an exposed nerve, and when criticism comes your way it’s easy to feel that twang of hurt and turn it into evidence for you being not good enough. And then you just want to disappear.

Criticism is external. Fear of rejection and fear of not being enough are internal. The only reason to connect the 2 things is to confirm your worst fears about yourself.

Instead, ask “How would I respond to this if I was unconditionally whole and already good enough?“.

3. Check in on denial

We finish on a tricky one that probably warrants 5,000 words all to itself.

There may be times when a piece of criticism levelled at you touches on something you’re in denial about.

Let’s say, for example, that I continued to believe that I have a full head of luxurious hair. Then along comes George who says, “Hey baldy, need some polish for that?

Fucking George. Who does he think he is coming over and saying that garbage to me. What the hell planet is he on? Baldy? Why I oughta…

The next time I see George, it’s likely that I’m going to be particularly sensitive to what he says. Maybe I go in on the offensive right off the bat, or maybe I dial up my defences. Regardless, the fear and hurt about what George said is driving my behaviour while all the time I’m pushing away the undeniable fact that my hairline strongly resembles a retreating ice shelf.

Point is, nobody likes to be found out or exposed, especially for something they’re in the habit of pushing away out of embarrassment or shame.

Your level of commitment to a project or a relationship. Your efficacy in a skill you’ve been faking. Your level of honesty with regard to who you are at your core.

The level of fear in this “exposure” can be immense.

Chances are someone who’s in this place knows, at a deep level, exactly what’s going on and exactly what they’re in denial about.

So the task here is to be gently aware of what’s down there. To gracefully and non-judgementally acknowledge what’s true without it being a statement about your self-worth. It’s only through a loving acceptance of what’s true for you that you can take the fear out of any criticism levelled at it.

And maybe that’s the most important thing to remember when it comes to criticism—that it loses it’s power to make you afraid if you already know yourself and trust that you’re good enough.

What’s your experience with criticism? How do you struggle with it, or how do you manage it?

4 Ways Organisations Can Stop Destroying Employee-Confidence

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4 Ways Organisations Can Stop Destroying Employee-Confidence
People are funny creatures.

Especially when they’re all smooshed up together in an organisation and told to work together. Stuff like peer pressure happens. Things like judgement. Pursuing status. People pleasing. Fears of being singled out or found out.

At every level, a lack of confidence in people and a lack of confidence from people is what stops great work from happening.

So I think there are certain imperatives organisations need to own so that their workplace is one where great work happens, all threaded with a single word.

Confidence.

Here’s what I think needs to happen.

The Confidence to Try

There’s a way to get a sale. There’s a way to run a project. There’s a way to track financials. There’s a way to serve people. There’s a way reporting’s done upstream.

An organisation develops systems in order to streamline a process, which is often a good and necessary thing. But when it’s expected that people will simply fit into these systems and execute them, something’s up.

When an organisation places more confidence in the systems than in the people maintaining them, the ability for an employee, manager or C-suite exec to try something new is severely limited.

For people to have the confidence to try something new, there has to be space to think a little differently, the acknowledgement that it’s okay to run an experiment and see what happens and the invitation to innovate systems and services.

After all, when the people in an organisation stop trying to do new stuff because they don’t feel able to, the result is atrophy.

The Confidence to Fail

In my experience, the biggest killer of innovation in organisations is the fear of being laughed out of the room.

People love certainty, and shareholders crave it. So in a world that prioritises results and growth, it’s no surprise that boardrooms are more and more inclined toward certainty.

That need for certainty and the drive for results ripples into every part of an organisation, and it’s not benign.

People don’t speak up and offer up an idea because they don’t want to be singled out or ridiculed for how dumb it might be, and should someone give you a green light there’s zero appetite in the organisation for failure. So the project gets scoped out, rationalised and watered down until the reason for doing it in the first place is obscured under a mountain of hijacked good intentions.

People need to be allowed to fail if an organisation is to innovate.

Tacit and explicit acknowledgement that failure is sometimes what happens is the only way to give people the confidence to fail in the first place.

The Confidence to Get Back Up

With failure comes blame.

Post project reviews or post mortems seek to understand what went wrong and to name the causes. That’s all well and good, but many organisations will run these reviews, ignore the findings and blot the copybook of anyone who’s perceived to be responsible.

Chances are you’ve been there when someone talks about how Larry screwed something up and it all went to shit. You’ll have heard how Janet won’t work with Fred because she didn’t like the work he did that time. Or you’ll have witnessed the excruciating discomfort as someone gets balled out for a failure.

Being labelled and judged leads people to do one of two things. Either they’ll want to disappear and will shrink as they try to never get noticed again, or they’ll go on the offence and come out swinging.

Neither of these is what you might call a happy ending.

Judgement strips people of their confidence. Offering support that enables their own resourcefulness nurtures it.

This is about learning from mistakes, sure, but it’s also about being clear that how people respond to failure is just as important as their willingness to fail in the first place.

The Confidence to Be Yourself

There are some strong personalities out there.

When you’re in a room with people who are louder, funnier, more experienced or maybe more charismatic than you, it’s easy to clam up and hide.

But an organisation’s success isn’t a function of the voices of the loudest, it’s a function of everyone’s best.

Introverts and extroverts both have strengths and talents. Baby-boomers and Millennials can each add value. Men and women can lead equally.

People are hired based on who they are and what they bring with them, but the urge to fit in or act a certain way is a compelling one, especially when disparate people are brought together into a hierarchy. It’s a social drive fuelled by expectations that leads to a homogenised workforce where most everybody holds back.

So when an organisation recognises that it’s responsible for providing an environment in which every employee is invited to show up as they already are and do great work, people will feel more confident in their ability to do just that.

Confidence isn’t a big mystery. It’s not tree-hugging, fluffy clap-trap. It’s not even about delivering a great presentation or chairing an effective meeting (that’s outer confidence, it’s ten-a-penny and it’s easy to fake).

What confidence is, is the vehicle for individuals to do great work.

And that’s where everybody thrives.

How to Get Over The Fact that You’re Deeply Flawed

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This is me. I will try to make my intentions take flight into #reality--- fully formed as awesome worthy and (likely) semi flawed stuff. And if my intentions dont see the light of day I will try again tomorrow and hope the world understands. #intention
Flaws.

You got ’em. I got ’em. Vegas hotels have got a gazillion of them. (Oh wait, that’s floors).

I’ve judged myself for the flaws I have.

But I’ve also learned some ways not to dwell on my obvious and not-so-obvious flaws so that I’m not continually beating myself to a pulp because of them. And I’ve learned some ways to keep my sense of self and my sense of confidence rolling, not in spite of these flaws, but because of them.

Ain’t Nobody Not Flawed

I could look at my flaws and conclude that I’m massively flawed. That would be logical. It would also be true, because I am. So you are you.

Flawed, flawedey, flawed-flawed.

If you think you’re too sensitive, others will share that. If you hate how you react to pressure, others will share that. If you wish you were better at the whole commitment thing, others will share that. If you wish you didn’t shrink away when in large groups, others will share that. And if you wish you  could stop worrying so much, others will most definitely share that.

Flaws connect us.

They make us human.

They make us beautifully imperfect in ways that make us connect with each other and sometimes even fall in love.

Thinking that nobody else shares your flaws or that nobody is quite as flawed as you is, well, deeply flawed thinking.

Flaws Aren’t the Whole Story

If your flaws are all you see you’re missing a heap of cool stuff.

If you have a fiery temper you may also be incredibly passionate about the things you care about. If you have a hard time dealing with personal finances, you may have a wonderfully generous spirit. And if you find yourself getting stressed or anxious when the pressure piles up at work, perhaps you have the ability to empathize with your friends and colleagues.

Point is, you’re not just flaws.

The other side of the coin reveals a whole world of strengths and talents that you can apply in any moment you choose.

The talents that feel like someone’s just switched on the lights when you use them. The strengths that are the powerful combination of your skills, experience and aforementioned talents.

These are the things that makes you a force to be reckoned with, so have confidence in them.

You’re Not “Fixed”

As Carol Dweck ably points out in her fab book “Mindset”, people tend to either have a fixed mindset (i.e. the belief that your intelligence, talents, etc are fixed qualities) or a growth mindset (i.e. the belief that your qualities can be cultivated or nurtured through action).

It probably won’t come as much of a shock to you that those who have a more rounded or richer experience of life tend to be those who have a growth mindset, simply because any failure or setback isn’t seen as evidence of your shortcomings, but simply a thing that happened that you can grow out from.

Your flaws are not necessarily etched in stone. You could, if you chose to, work on one or two of them if doing so would help smooth the road ahead.

I’d argue that it’s better to apply your strengths and talents than it is to expend effort on improving a flaw, but there are times when that’s entirely appropriate.

When your eyesight prevents you from reading or taking part in sports. When your lack of personal management has you haemorrhaging cash. Or when you regularly piss off friends or family by disregarding their opinions out of hand.

The principle of neuroplasticity shows us that our brains continue to grow, adapt and change.

The last thing you are, is fixed.

So there’s ample room for changing things up.

Who Said You had to Be Perfect Anyway?

Perfectionism isn’t your way out of being flawed, it is a flaw.

Perhaps it’s the most damaging one of all, because it will rob you of your confidence and strip you of any sense that you’re okay.

It has you judging every step and beating yourself up for falling short.

Every. Single. Time.

Striving for perfection robs you of any chance to have a sweet, dumb, beautiful life, and nobody but you expects perfection.

Buddhist monk Shunryu Suzuki said “All of you are perfect just as you are and you could use a little improvement“, and I’d like to paraphrase that, if I may.

You’re deeply flawed and fucking beautiful.

So please, learn to hear that voice that drives you towards perfection and know that it’s bullshit.

A Chance for Course Correction

Sometimes, when you’re running low, in a rut or on the wrong road you’ll become more focused on your flaws.

The grind makes you look at your feet rather than up at the stars.

You beat yourself up more, using tiny details as evidence for not being good enough.

But when you notice that happening, when you notice that part of you that judges and blames yourself for where you are, you create an opportunity for course correction.

You might choose to apply one of your talents and strengths in a new or bold way. You might choose to go where the energy is instead of continuing where it isn’t. Or you might ask yourself some big questions, like what kind of experience you want to have or where you might be able to create real value.

Noticing your flaws, in a peculiar turnaround, can sometimes be the catalyst for meaningful change.

So, how about you? How do you manage your flaws or how do they help you?

Trying Something Crazy to Serve More People

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SERVE

“If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another.” – Winston Churchill

Back in January I gave a away ten free confidence coaching sessions.

They were snapped up within a couple of days, and talking with the people who got them has been fan-bloody-tastic.

I’ve loved serving the people who got those sessions, just like I love serving all of my clients.

Something comes alive in me when I’m using everything I can to serve a client, and that offer in January opened my eyes to the fact that there are many more people I can serve who simply can’t afford my coaching fees.

So here’s what I’m going to do.

I’m opening up 40 coaching slots at vastly reduced rates, purely for people who might not be in a place to think about working with me otherwise.

You can read more about the offer, how it works and how to secure slots here.

Two important things to point out.

  1. Just because these are reduced-cost slots doesn’t mean I’ll hold back or be less inclined to help and serve. The whole point is to serve more people, better.
  2. What you can afford is absolutely up to you, and do consider that there may be people worse off than you when you’re looking at what you can afford.

I’ve never done this before and it might be a little crazy.

But if I can be of service, have fun and add value, then I’m all in.

How to Embrace New Opportunities Without Fear

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Jump Into The New Year
Any new opportunity will come with fear attached.

It’s like the care label inside a new top or that new car smell when your shiny new ride shows up.

It’s just there.

Difference is, a care label won’t prevent you slipping into your new purchase and looking damn fine, nor will that amazing new car smell stop you from jumping into the drivers seat and hitting the road.

A care label or a new car won’t strip you of your confidence.

But a job opening that needs you to step up and deliver at a whole new level will have you trembling in your shoes. Entering into a romance after your heart’s been broken will bring out that fear and make you wanna run. And quitting work and starting your own business is likely to have you shitting your pants about what you’re doing.

So, here are 3 ideas to help you confidently embrace new opportunities without runny-hidey, shoe-trembly, pant-shitty fear.

Does it look like fun?

Put the fear aside for a second, and look at this new thing.

Could it be fun? Could it give you an experience you’ll love? Is it possible that you could have a great time?

If your answer is “yeah”—or maybe even a big, fat, juicy YES—then focus on that instead.

The point at which your energy around doing this thing—whether it’s a new creative pursuit, a physical challenge, a relocation, a career change, leaving a relationship behind or leaning into a new one—is greater than your fear around it, then you have it nailed.

The trick then, is to look for the gold in the opportunity and the richness, texture and joy in the experience, and anchor your energy behind that.

Ask yourself, “What kind of experience am I choosing?”, then make a decision that honours your answer.

Are you just making shit up?

If you’re feeling fear, the chances are that you’re just making shit up.

Fear is something of a drama queen, and will spin you stories about the stuff that could go wrong and how you’ll end up losing out or looking silly in front of everybody.

But fear doesn’t know what’s going to happen any more than you, me or that idiot pundit who tells you that he knows the way it’s going to go.

The stories in your head aren’t real. That includes the one about how Ryan Gosling would totally love you if you guys got to hang out, the one about winning the lottery, buying a huge house up on the hill where you’d hold huge parties filled with beautiful people once you were done eating all the wonderful food and getting pampered to within an inch of your life at that luxury spa in Tuscany, and it definitely includes the ones that fill you with fear and try to tell you that you’ll only fuck it up.

Notice the stories that don’t serve you (the ones that fuel a lack a confidence), remind yourself that you’re better than they would have you believe and ask yourself, “What old stories would I love to let go of?

Will it kill you?

Unless your new opportunity centres around a mission to Mars in a home-made space podual or a radical new approach to deep sea diving that involves holding your breath for a really long time and then counting on the Law of Attraction to manifest you some lovely oxygen, any new opportunity you face is unlikely to kill you.

You might lose out. That remains a possibility. You might get egg on your face. That could happen too. But unless this thing will actually end your life, the rest can be taken care of.

Whatever happens, there’s always a way through. Fear will try to persuade you otherwise, so try responding to it with the question “What kind of person do I want to be?” and see what happens.

Over to you. What helps you to embrace new opportunities without that runny-hidey, shoe-trembly, pant-shitty fear?

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