Friday, December 18, 2009


Main Entry: con·fi·dence
Pronunciation: \ˈkän-fə-dən(t)s, -ˌden(t)s\
Function: noun
Date: 14th century

1 a : a feeling or consciousness of one's powers or of reliance on one's circumstances b : faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way
2 : the quality or state of being certain : certitude
3 a : a relation of trust or intimacy b : reliance on another's discretion c : support especially in a legislative body
4 : a communication made in confidence : secret

Synonyms: confidence, assurance, self-possession, aplomb mean a state of mind or a manner marked by easy coolness and freedom from uncertainty, diffidence, or embarrassment. confidence stresses faith in oneself and one's powers without any suggestion of conceit or arrogance . assurance carries a stronger implication of certainty and may suggest arrogance or lack of objectivity in assessing one's own powers . self-possession implies an ease or coolness under stress that reflects perfect self-control and command of one's powers . aplomb implies a manifest self-possession in trying or challenging situations .


Last night while painting I was thinking about how much our attitude impacts outcomes. For example, I paint some of my best work when I am feeling confidence as explained in the first definition, "a feeling of consciousness of one's powers." I have noticed that the more I like a piece as it nears completion, sometimes fear creeps in and paralyzes me. I fear wrecking something good, marring it beyond repair.

Perhaps this same thing happens in relationships. In a normal healthy relationship, we are ourselves, acting freely, valuing other. In contrast, the more desperate our own neediness, when there is too much at stake if the relationship fails, whether with a person or employer, this feeling erodes our confidence and paralyzes us.

An older friend (now gone) who was in real estate in the late sixties shared a story that encapsulates this very thought. He used to be quite successful at selling homes until something changed. There was an influx of housewives selling real estate as one income families morphed into two income families. Many of these women were very good salespeople in part because they were simply charming, and were having fun. Their husbands worked as bankers, accountants or other occupations with steady cash flow. My friend was a sole breadwinner, and when he failed to close a deal it was food for his family that was being taken off the table. Home buyers sensed his anxiety and became uncomfortable around him. He ultimately had to leave the business.

Earlier this year a documentary about Mike Tyson showed how he always entered the ring with total confidence. As soon as he saw his opponent he would lock eyes, before the introductions even, and search the man's face for any sign of weakness or fear. Or soon as he caught even the slightest hint of fear, his adrenalin would surge.

Time does not permit me to elaborate on the Consumer Confidence Index, youthful idealism, Napoleon, the application of confidence to the theory of "any given Sunday", or the value of confidence in mental health. Sometimes the basis of our confidence may even be unfounded, but unless it is present we be left immobilized, whether in business, sports or life.

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