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You Don’t Have a Freakin’ Clue

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You Don't Have a Clue, and Nor Do You Need One
Life is hard.

I’ve learned that…the hard way.

Twists, turns, slaps and roundhouse kicks. Life is full of surprises.

We all go around pretending we know what’s going on. That we have our shit together.

I do it too. I want people to think well of me. I want to be the best at what I do. I want to create stuff that matters.

But really, I’m just making shit up as I go.

We’re spinning through space at 1.2 million miles per hour, and yet we’re still dumb enough to think we’re in control.

Anything can happen. At any time. Good or bad.

When you get right down to it, you don’t have a clue.

Nor do you need one, if “having a clue” means pretending to have your shit together and being someone you’re not because you want a bunch of people who don’t give a damn to like you

So…improvisation then.

The ability to meet a moment in its fullness and come up with something worth a damn.

The only things that needs is:

a. dropping the pretence that you know exactly what’s happening
b. acknowledging that you’re good enough to meet this moment head on, and
c. trust in your ability to make a choice

Sounds a lot like confidence to me.

And maybe that’s what life has wanted from us all along.

3 Reasons You Keep Losing Confidence In Yourself

3 Reasons You Keep Losing Confidence in Yourself
Everyone has moments when self-confidence seems to vanish quicker than a shiny election promise.

It’s frustrating, especially given how far you’ve come and everything you’ve done. As soon as you seem to be on top of things, something happens and you realise that, once again, you’re out of your depth and shaking in your metaphorical boots.

Happens to me too, and here’s what I think is happening.

You’re somewhere new

It’s easy to feel confident when everything around you is familiar. It takes zero effort, and that confidence isn’t really confidence at all. It’s safety, perhaps even complacency.

But life is full of new places. Your first day at school or college. A new job or a new relationship. A fresh challenge or a new town. And new is, of course, wholly unpredictable.

Your natural response to the unpredictable and unknowable is fear. And where there’s fear, there’s a voice in your head designed to make you turn back toward safety. A voice that will tell stories designed to undermine you. A voice that knows how to make you feel small.

Your expectations call the shots

Your brain is a real piece of work. It really is. It has a billion expectations about how the world needs to work. Expectations about what you’ll do (you’ll get up a certain time, do a certain job, see certain people, take a certain route, etc). Expectations about what others will do (help you out, get in your way, hear what you’re saying, be home on time, etc). And expectations about what you expect others expect of you (they expect me to play ball, they expect me to speak up, they expect me to be compliant, they expect me to show affection, etc).

Expectations will fuck you up faster than you can spell spleen. Not only are these three levels of expectations rolling around in your head all the time, but they’re often in conflict and drive your behaviour.

These expectations are only stories designed to help you make the world a little more predictable and a little less scary. But any time that they’re violated, denied or countered, all you’re left with is uncertainty and your own inability to make sense of the world.

You want perfection

You have high standards. I like that about you, and it’s good to want to do things to the best of your ability. Land a new job, and it feels like you need to make a fabulous impression and do faultless work that everyone notices. Start a new relationship and you want to fit together perfectly and hide all your weaknesses. Start a new creative project, and you want it all to flow naturally and for what you create to come together at the first attempt.

Perfection, I’m thrilled to say, is bullshit.

The second you fall short of it, your brain kicks in and tells you that you were never really good enough. Who are you trying to kid?

Chasing perfection is one of the surest ways to short-circuit your self-confidence that exists.

How to stop losing confidence in yourself

Your confidence vanishes because you’re not paying attention to how you’re thinking.

It’s really just that simple.

Natural confidence is still there, but it’s smothered by thinking that’s layered on top like a old, damp carpet. Thinking that can be tough to shift, but can always be interrupted.

Good news though. You can train yourself to notice when thoughts of not-being-confident are rolling through your head.

You get to point at them and say, “Oh hey, it’s you again”, without any judgement or self-flagellation. That might not stop you from shaking in those boots of yours, but it affords you the space to reconnect.

And that’s the important thing. To realise that not feeling confident doesn’t mean that you don’t have confidence*.

You can reconnect with what matters to you most. You can reconnect with everything you’ve become. You can reconnect with what it feels like to be at your best.

Those are the things that are hardwired into you.

They’re not going anywhere, and even when you loose confidence in yourself, you can still place your confidence in them.

* Feel free to read this sentence again. It’s a tricky one.

Q&A: How to Be a Force to be Reckoned With?

Maîtriser la force

Question: How do you make sure that you are perceived as a force to be reckoned with? Some people just have a presence in a room and it’s felt by everyone without a doubt. How do you achieve that?

Sounds good doesn’t it? Having people notice you. Attracting people towards you. Becoming a force to be reckoned with.

But, if I might answer a question with a question – do you want to be a force to be reckoned with, or perceived as a force to be reckoned with?

Maybe it’s just semantics, but if your goal is to be perceived as the kind of person who has presence and charisma then your focus is in the wrong place. People will perceive whatever the hell they want, and spending your effort and energy on having people perceive you in a certain way is sure to leave you exhausted, frustrated and empty.

It’s a hollow aim, focused on what others think about you rather than how you feel about yourself.

Real confidence comes from the inside-out, not the outside-in. Seems to me that the people referred to in the question have reached a point where they:

  • accept who they are, warts and all, and stop beating themselves up for any weaknesses or for their “darker”, less desirable parts
  • understand and honour what matters to them most
  • shift their decision-making behind the things in themselves, in other people or out there in the world that matter the most
  • prioritise being who they are over fitting in or pleasing everyone
  • recognise that they’re simultaneously a work in progress and whole, without the need to prove anything

What these qualities (and many more) lead to is a sense of congruence. A sense that someone is whole, together, flowing.

That’s what those people have, and that’s the aim here. It’s everything to do inner work, and nothing to do with how someone else judges your insides from the outside.

Reaching that point is a process of acceptance and integration of who you are and what matters to you—bringing all the pieces together— and also letting go of the expectations and drives that get in the way of that (messy stuff like fitting in, staying safe, people-pleasing, second-guessing, etc).

Your Comfort Zone Isn’t the Enemy

Your Comfort Zone Isn't the Enemy
There’s nothing quite like a warm bed on a weekend morning.

The ability to luxuriate in the comfort and simplicity of that is something that, after considerable practice, I excel at.

But comfort gets a bad rap.

It’s looked down on as the unwanted and undeserving-of-your-respect relative of getting uncomfortable. Of taking fresh action. Of doing things you’ve never done before.

I’ve even spoken about it myself, right here.

And then there are some other coaches who constantly tell you to fuck comfort, take a cold shower, go bungie jumping and hustle like your life depends on it.

But how do you reconcile how damn delicious comfort is, when there are messages all around that it’s the new Big Bad?

Let’s start with the dictionary definition shall we?

Comfort, noun

  1. a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint
  2. things that contribute to physical ease and well-being
  3. prosperity and the pleasant lifestyle secured by it

Don’t know about you, but I want those things. I want oodles of those things. I want my cup to runneth over with comfort and for it to get all in the carpet and between my toes so I’m walking around in the stuff and traipsing it wherever I go.

There’s wonder in your comfort zone. There’s ease there. Pleasure. Joy. Freedom.

The problem comes when your comfort zone stays static, or when it shrinks. That’s when your life gets smaller and the ease and joy become harder to find.

And so this is the thing that occurred to me…

What if instead of talking about getting out of your comfort zone, you instead sought to grow your comfort zone?

What if your comfort zone was the whole goddam world?

What kind of playground would that give you?

Instead of thinking that you shouldn’t look for comfort, or that feeling the need to be comfortable somehow makes you less than someone else who’s out there doing “epic shit”, what if you sought to use the ease and joy and freedom that comes with comfort, and expand it outwards?

This, friend, is what natural confidence offers. A foundation. A bedrock. An unshakeable knowing that whatever happens, you’re enough, and you’re okay.

Confidence is the means to find comfort in the whole wide world.

How does that sound to you?

Q&A: Why are people turned off by lack of confidence?

IBM 26 on/off switch

Question: Why are people turned off by lack of confidence?
Like… if you show any lack of confidence.. it makes people suddenly not want to talk to you anymore..

When I saw this question it felt like the guy asking it had seen this happen too often. It felt like he was having a tough time. It felt like he was wondering what was wrong with him.

Nothing.

There’s nothing wrong with him.

It’s just that sometimes, people are selfish idiots.

Evidence suggests that people are more attracted to confident people, so it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to see how people could be turned off by a lack of confidence. We also know that we’re steered in all kinds of way by our unconscious biases, this being just one of them. But picking apart those biases feels like a distraction from the heart of the question—this one man’s experience.

The chain of events in the question goes something like this: (1) you have a lack of confidence, (2) you show this lack of confidence to someone else, (3) someone else doesn’t like what they see, (4) someone else decides not to talk to you.

You have no control over 3 and 4. You can’t control what people will think or decide is best for them.

It’s in how you approach 1 and 2 that you can make some huge shifts.

Everyone lacks confidence somewhere in their lives

You can be confident socially but not so confident with intimacy. You can be confident in your work but not confident in your friendships. Experiencing a lack of confidence somewhere doesn’t mean that you don’t “have confidence”. It just means that you have the opportunity to practice growing and stretching in a particular direction (if indeed that direction is something that matters to you).

Don’t think that a lack of confidence is a problem

It isn’t. It’s just a thing that happens from time to time. You are not a lack of confidence. That’s not who you are. You have strengths, talents, experiences, values and hopes that make you way more than the sum of your parts.

Showing a lack of confidence is a brave thing to do

The difference between allowing yourself to be vulnerable and undermining yourself in pursuit of self-protection is huge. The first is brave, the second is life-limiting. You can open to someone or share something that makes you feel vulnerable, but that is categorically not a lack of confidence. In fact, confidence is the quality that makes it easier to be vulnerable, because you know you’ll be good enough, no matter what happens.

Other peoples judgements aren’t truth

Some people will judge you harshly. Too quiet. Too timid. Too weird. Some people will judge you positively. Great energy. Very capable. Good looking. Others won’t judge you at all, because they’re wrapped up in their own stuff and you’re somewhere on their periphery. However you feature in their judgements is all down to their perception, which is down to the stories they tell themselves, which are focused on making sure they’re safe in the world. You’re under no obligation to taking those judgements as truth.

Showing up and demonstrating who you are through your actions is everything

Holding back because you’re afraid that someone will judge you or decide that they don’t want to talk with you will fuel feelings of not being good enough. Show up in the ways that are meaningful for you and spend time with the people who allow you to do that.

And my last words to go you, if you’re the type of person who walks away when you see someone who seems to lack confidence.

Have a little compassion. Think about how you can leave the room better than when you entered. Don’t be such a selfish prick.

Why Faking It ‘Til You Make It Is Terrible Advice

fake it

Six months ago a journalist asked me for some tips for an article about self-confidence she was writing for Monster.com. I sent her some nuggets of wisdom that I thought were pretty good, and she recently emailed me with the link to the finished article.

I clicked the link, and my heart dropped when I saw the title of the piece: “This is one emotion that you should fake”.

First, confidence is not an emotion. Second, it’s not something you should fake.

Let me break that down for you.

Confidence is not an emotion

Emotions are things that bubble up in response to circumstances. Things like fear, happiness, sorrow. Confidence not something that’s driven by events. It’s the ability to make a meaningful choice in response to events.

It’s your capacity for self-trust. A foundation. A bedrock. A core of knowing you’re already enough.

Confidence is not something you should fake

What does “faking it” mean?

It means that you pretend to be something you’re not. It means making assumptions about who you need to be to move forward. It means ignoring who you are and playing the role of someone else.

It’s bullshit. Dangerous bullshit.

The research that people refer to when they say that faking confidence makes you feel confident, is based on 2 fundamental misunderstandings.

  1. They say that adopting so called “power postures” will make you feel more confident. These postures increase testosterone and swell short-term feelings of outer confidence, making you more likely to bluff and bluster your way through to make other people think you’re confident. That’s not confidence; it’s arrogance.
  2. Confidence is not the absence of fear, it’s the ability to respond to fear in a meaningful way. Feeling afraid doesn’t mean you’re not confident, in fact, you can be shaking in your boots in the face of a challenge and still have confidence.

Worst of all, by choosing to fake confidence you’re reinforcing the belief that you don’t have something that other people do.

You’re telling yourself, “Face it, you’re not good enough to get through this in one piece, so you’d better pretend to have your shit together and be good enough, and then maybe you won’t get shamed.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is incredibly damaging to your self-confidence.

Don’t respond to a challenge by pretending to be good enough. Don’t respond to it by thinking that you you shouldn’t be afraid. Don’t respond to it by thinking that you need to make up for something you lack.

Respond by choosing something that matters more than fear.

The Extinction of Over-Confidence

The Extinction of Over-Confidence
Sometimes you see someone and think they’re over-confident.

They’ll be loud, brash and make it all about them.

They’ll make assumptions, believe they’re right and expect everyone else to think the same way.

And sometimes, especially when it makes you feel bad, it’s what you call someone who seems to have more confidence than you.

This so-called “over-confidence” happens when someone believes they’re better than others, when they believe they’re right no-matter-what, or through repetitive actions and behaviours that become rote and don’t need any thought.

It’s spoken about by coaches, by journalists, by pundits, by business people, by athletes and by friends…

…but here’s the thing – over-confidence doesn’t exist

Over-confidence isn’t a glut or overspilling of self-confidence. It’s either arrogance or complacency.

That’s all it ever is.

Over-confidence has nothing to do with confidence.

You can never have a surfeit of confidence, because natural confidence fits you perfectly.

It’s not too cold and not too hot. It’s not too loud and not too quiet. It’s not too big and not too small.

It’s just right.

It’s built for you.

It’s made to fit you perfectly so that you have exactly what you need to feel whole.

Over-confidence is already extinct, because it’s always something else.

And ironically it’s the things that lurk under the label of over-confidence, that need real confidence to move through.

How to Stop Being Socially Awkward

How to Stop Being Socially Awkward
Clammy palms. A racing heart. A plunging in your stomach, or a sense of impending doom. The awkwardness that comes from standing in a room surrounded by the pressure to socialise makes a lot of people run and hide.

Hardly surprising. All those people ready to judge. All those eyes on you. All those people to impress.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to experience ease in social situations, just like you see others do.

Here’s how to stop being socially awkward.

Don’t make it about you

You stand there, your thoughts spinning and spiralling. How to get through it? What to say? How soon can you leave?

When fear strikes, it’s natural for your thoughts to turn inwards. But in social situations that just makes things worse. The solve is to focus on someone else, just one other person in the room. Have a question ready—a “Hey, how’s your day going?” works just great.

The point is to get out of your head by focusing on others. Be interested, not interesting.

Leave perfection behind

Standing there looking at everyone around you, it’s easy to feel pressure to perform. Gotta come across well. Gotta make a wonderful impression. Gotta say the perfect thing at the right time.

Wanting to be perfect will fuck you up faster than a horny bunny at a hot tub party during rabbit Spring Break.

It’s based on the thought “If I’m perfect, they won’t reject me”. But nobody’s perfect, and avoiding rejection is not only a horrible motivation, but is also out of your hands.

When the pressure you’re feeling is coming from the desire to be perfect, realise that you’ll make better connections by being imperfect.

Change what’s important

It’s possible that the wrong things are important to you.

For example, is it more important that someone else likes you, or that you like you? Is it more important that someone else feels comfortable around you, or that you’re comfortable around you? Is it more important that you fit in, or that you’re being who you already are?

You’ll never feel good enough when your thinking comes from things that might not be serving you well.

So notice what you’ve been making important, then shift them back onto the things that matter.

See where the energy is

Human beings are social animals, in as much as we’re hardwired to make connections. The differences come in how people prefer to do that. Some prefer large groups. Others prefer one to one.

Truth is, you can be an introvert or an extrovert and feel confident in how you engage and connect.

So if you feel more energised in smaller groups, go towards that. If you feel more open having one person next to you who you know, do that. Or if you make connections better over a shared activity, do that instead of a stiff networking event. Figure out the kinds of social engagements that make you feel energised and which don’t. Then go towards the energy. You don’t have to be someone you’re not.

It’s not going to kill you

There’s that moment, when it feels like the world is closing in around you and you can’t make it through. But unless you’re attending a meeting for Cannibals Anonymous, the risk of actual bodily death in social situations is kinda tiny.

Notice when you’re investing the rest of your life in this one, brief moment, and take a step back. You’ve made it this far. You’re not going to die. You’re going to be fine.

Even if it’s uncomfortable, or feels weird, that’s okay. Make peace with that and laugh with that, safe in the knowledge that you can deal with whatever happens.

Let’s not forget…

Now, while those strategies can all be employed to help you out, there’s one notion that soars above the others.

Have fun.

Social situations are supposed to be fun, right? So if you can let go of the rules and your expectations and just have fun in the moment you find yourself in, you’ve nailed it.

5 Massive Signs You’re An Arrogant Ass-Hat

The arrogant selfportrait

Confidence is a Good Thing.

You can quote me on that. Maybe write it down on a slip of paper and bring it out when you hear someone say that confidence is a Bad Thing. “Aha!” you can shout, “look, I have proof on this piece of paper right here in my hand that’s it’s not a Bad Thing. Came from this Steve guy. English dude.”

But arrogance? Arrogance (sometimes mistakenly called over-confidence) is another kettle of fish entirely. So much so that it isn’t even a kettle and doesn’t have any fish in it.

Here are 5 signs that you’re an arrogant ass-hat.

1. Nobody else gets a word in

It’s not simply that you love to be the centre of attention. The hard truth is that you’re more interesting than the other people in the room and have more to say. Whether at a party or in a meeting, the stuff that other people say never really seems to hit the mark. It’s never quite astute enough, clever enough, insightful enough, funny enough or valuable enough, right? If you can add all that value and hit the mark every time, wouldn’t it be a waste, or a crime, not to?

Think of it as a public service. You’re speaking up and being interesting so others don’t have to.

2. You’re right. Period.

You know your way is the right way, you just know it. Everyone else wants to go round the houses, cover all the bases or do their due diligence. Others seem determined to go about things in a way that’s nowhere near as efficient and effective as it should be. So you state your case, let people know they’re wrong and even get into arguments because you know full well your way will get the best result.

If only they’d listen to you more of the time they’d get great results all of the time.

3. You can’t date just anybody

You can have your pick of partners, but if you dated the first guy or gal to come along not only would you be settling, but you’d be selling yourself short too. You’d be dooming the relationship to failure before it’s started.

No, you’ve got to be sure that your date—whoever the lucky soul is—is capable of keeping up with you (even if they can’t match you) as well as recognising what a catch you are.

Maybe you should hold auditions…

4. You can deliver the moon on a stick

You’re damn good. You really are. Other people are content to go for reasonable challenges or to push themselves just a little bit. You’re different. You’re better than that. If you need to deliver something in a week, you can likely deliver it in half the time or deliver twice as much. Double the fun.

It wouldn’t be right to limit yourself to a level of performance that you can far exceed; limits are for wimps. Don’t settle for what other people can do; you know that you can go further, stronger, longer and faster than them. Let the world know.

5. People don’t “get you”

You do and do and do, and still people never seem to grasp how good you are. Friends have come and gone, romantic dalliances seem to be short-lived and even colleagues and bosses criticise you for tiny things that have no bearing on the results you get. That’s okay though, you don’t need other people and it’s probably nothing more than a little bit of jealousy on their part.

The fact that other people don’t get you doesn’t mean that you need to lower your standards. Stay strong.

Disclaimer

I’m being facetious.

If you find yourself doing any one of these things then make sure you recognise it. If you find yourself doing all of them, then I have an emergency coaching session on standby with your name on it…

Just please…don’t be too full of ass-hatery to not to use it.

Fuck the 5 Year Plan

Fuck the 5 year plan
A lot of people have big plans. Maybe you’re one of them.

Carefully constructed with strategies, tactics, vision boards, mission statements and publicly declared goals for accountability, people put a lot of time and effort into long term plans.

You might think that I’d be right behind this kind of focus, and that I be grabbing my trumpet to fanfare all of this goal-setting and planning. I should be congratulating these people for their mature and responsible approach and for having a firm hand on their rudder.

But five year plans, are, I think, dumb. Here’s why.

Plans replace meaning

Details consume you, and planning often falls into the trap of being a replacement for meaningful action. Making a plan is a marvellous strategy for procrastination.

Life doesn’t go to plan

Life isn’t orderly. It’s more drunken dock-worker than pious nun, and it’s ready to tip the table and start a fight at the drop of a tidal fluctuation. People go insane trying to control the detail of life, and a plan is often a means to feel in control.

You grow by letting things go

Hearing what’s next in your life can be impossible when all you can hear is the rattle and hum from the plans you’ve made. It’s easy to miss an intriguing, hidden path when your eyes won’t move from the map you drew before you left home.

Hey, if you’re a believer in plan-making, then go for it. Do what works for you. Just don’t come to believe that if you don’t have a plan you’re doing something wrong.

Writer Joseph Campbell said, “You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you”. So the most essential ingredient to any great plan is to have it be flexible enough to throw away if you need to.

You don’t need to a plan to explore.
You don’t need a plan to be joyful.
You don’t need a plan be yourself.
You don’t need a plan to belong.
You don’t need a plan to feel good enough.

Have a direction of travel. Know your values. Understand what you’re like at your best. Prioritise nourishment. These are some of the things you can add to your life to move it forwards. Other times it’s what you remove that allows your life to take shape.

Often, it’s by letting go that you get the best shot at the life you really want.

Which takes real, balls to the wall confidence.

To live without a hard and fast plan, to fly by the seat of your pants, to lean into uncertainty and trust yourself—isn’t that what this is all about?

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