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    The Confidence Con Game

    Personal note: You may have noticed that the frequency of my posting has diminished quite a bit. In part that’s because I started this blog to have a way to get out of my head the various rants that make appearances while I’m in the hot tub or in the car. And, I’ve gotten a lot of them out of my head.

    Every now and then, I’ll get an idea about something to write and then realize, “I’ve already made that post.”

    I don’t feel an urge to beat the same dead horse just for the sake of having content… so, I’m not saying a whole lot lately.

    Now, that said, I’ve probably already talked about the subject of this post, but I was overtaken by the urge to scream and, instead, turned here…

    I just got an email advertising Tony Robbins’ ‘Creating Unstoppable Confidence” course.

    If ever there were an idea that needs to be taken in the back and flogged, it’s the notion that you need to be confident in order to succeed.

    Come on, think about it.

    Is it possible to have REAL confidence about something you’ve never done before you do it?

    No, that’s called bravado, or naivete, or arrogance, or… oh, what’s the Latin word?… right, STUPIDITY.

    Like all these ideas about “what leads to success” if you just look at your own life, you can find innumerable examples that disprove the theory.

    Confident you could learn to ride a bike? Nope. Not until the AHA! moment where you understood what balance felt like. And even then it took more time until you were able to hop on and start riding without a bit of anxiety.

    Confidence is not something you get in ADVANCE, it’s what you get with EXPERIENCE. And, even then, it’s iffy and, probably unnecessary.

    I was remembering how, back in 1976, when I learned to do a standing back flip, I would spend 5 minutes psyching myself up before I gave it everything I had, with the hopes I wouldn’t screw up and land on my head. Now, 200,000 back flips and 33 years later, I know I can spin around with the best of ’em. AND, if I haven’t done one in a couple of months (you might be surprised at how infrequently one needs to do a standing back flip in real life), I’m still a bit anxious as I throw myself in the air.

    It’s only when I land, preferably on my feet, that my confidence comes back, and then I’m more than happy to play circus monkey and do another one or two for the kids (not mine; whichever kids were around).

    And think of the number of things you’ve attempted because you were confident you could do them, and then, well, reality had a different opinion. Orthopedic surgeons pay for their Porsches with the confidence of weekend warriors who are SURE they’ll be fine if they go chasing a Frisbee like they remember doing 20 years earlier.

    Of course, you don’t need to rely on your own experience to debunk the “Confidence leads to success” theory.

    Ever heard of a politician who DIDN’T believe, with utter confidence, that s/he would win?

    I met one of Walter Mondale’s kids back in 1974… by then Walter had already spent 2 decades getting ready to become president. I’m sure he’s just waiting in the wings for his comeback.

    I keep a collection of videos of interviews with people who are thought of as successful (not saying they aren’t, but yesterday’s success may become tomorrow’s bankrupt jailbird).  My two favorites are Lance Armstrong and Larry David (co-creator of Seinfeld) when each of them was interviewed by Charlie Rose.

    In each, Charlie tries to get his guests to admit they had confidence about their successes.

    But in each, neither one concedes that point. Lance keeps saying, “Anything can happen in a race. You never know.” And Larry talks about how, every time the network asked him for more shows, he was 100% confident… that he couldn’t deliver!

    Does that remind you of the stories you’ve read about actors and athletes who have to puke before each performance because they’re so anxious about bombing?

    See? It doesn’t take much to debunk the theory.

    I’m sure that, were I in a different mood, I could posit some clever idea from evolutionary psychology to say why, despite all the evidence to the contrary, we still hold onto this lie that confidence and success have any correlation… in fact, I have unstoppable confidence that I could.

    3 Responses to “The Confidence Con Game”

    1. Ric Says:

      Tony Robbins = more NLP. Keep in mind that the basis of NLP is the manipulation of mental states through applied linguistics, so how you define “confidence” is relevant to its outcomes. Success arrives to whatever questionable extent language can enable useful action. Ironically, language seems best suited to talking oneself out of doing anything that might lead to success.

      My own experience shows that NLP has some interesting tools, some modest positive outcomes, largely unlearnable skills and a whole lot of hype leaving me to consider that “I am an NLP failure”. 😀

      NLP’s greatest achievement appears to be its ability to sell more NLP.

    2. Sam Says:

      >> basis of NLP is the manipulation of mental states through applied linguistics

      nope. It’s a grab bag of little tricks that folks gleaned from hypnotists, performers & therapists. Mostly IMHO it only works coincidentally (a problem was about to go away by itself & the person just happened to use NLP accidentally around the same time)

      To the extent it doesn’t do much of anything, certainly it does NOT live up to its claimed efficacy, It’s a lifelong employment scam for a couple of people, a now-and-again income stream for many others.

      Check out the mistakes the self help crowd has made, from the Yale 56 / Harvard 74 “goal setting study” (that never happened, it’s complete fiction), to the “tell people your goals” (tends to sabotage goal-getting).

      They’re a waste of time (the self-helpers & the NLP’ers), likely to set people further from where they want to be, than to help them get there.

    3. Sam Says:

      sorry, my objection didn’t come through as I intended.

      >> basis of NLP is the manipulation of mental states through applied linguistics

      This makes it sound as if NLP is some kind of unified theoretical framework, “scientifically” developed and skeptically tested.

      Almost none of it has ever been double blind tested, and when it has been studied under controls, (last time I checked there had been 3 studies), it’s failed to have statistically significant outcomes.





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