Confidence - Part II

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Yesterday's post (Leaps Of Faith) was kind of a prelude for today. As a matter of fact, I want to start with this comment, left yesterday by Gavin Heaton. (If you haven't been by his blog, by the way, you're missing out. If anything, go there and find out why it's called "Servant Of Chaos". Cool stuff.) Here it is:

"You may have great ideas, but you also need others to believe in them, and to support them when you face hard times (and you will). Often competition comes not from outside your organisation, but from within. You may have the drive and the ideas, but you also need your friends and enemies to ensure success."

Yep. You can have all the confidence in the word in yourself, but it's a whole lot easier when you have a core group of people around you who also have confidence in you... and your success. They could be parents. They could be a spouse. A sibling. A best friend. A mentor. Someone you've never met but have spoken with via email.

The more you espect the person, the more their confidence in you will strengthen your resolve.

I'll give you a weird little example of the dynamics of cnfidence-building, but first, I have to set this up for you. There is a 7.3 mile loop of road just outside of Greenville's city limits that serves an industrial center and small airport, called the Donaldson Center. Every spring, as soon as daylight savings comes around, hundreds of cyclists meet on that strip of pavement every Tuesday evening to race.

Not just to race, but to race each other. (Yes, there is a difference.)

Every Tuesday, these fine folks gut it out for 4-6 insanely fast laps around this hilly, windy, wretched piece of road. The pavement is so rough and pitted that bike bottles routinely get rattled right out of their cages. In the middle of Summer, the heat is so thick that it chokes you and makes your eyeballs burn. Some days, the wind is so strong that it throws riders into each other and bends the trees amost sideways.

Anyway. There are three types of riders you'll run into in bike races:

1. The ones who fall out. (They either aren't ready to compete at that level, or they couldn't gut it out when it mattered.) Many of them come back week after week until they stop getting dropped. Those eventually become one of the next two types of racers:

2. The ones who stay in the peloton (the pack) from start to finish. For them, it's all about staying in the draft (where you don't have to pedal as hard and where it's safe). Where other people do most of the work. Where you can sit safely for the entire race and finish with everyone else.

3. The ones who attack. The ones who challenge. The ones who sprint away again and again and again... until other riders either get tired of chasing them down, or become to tired to do so.

Now... you can already see where I am going with this metaphor, so I can probably stop right there.

What could be clearer than a few hundred men and women on bikes, racing as hard as they can against each other? Some fall short. Some play it safe. Some surge on ahead and push the limits of the group as a whole.

Yeah. Just like Lance.

Everyone who shows up to race already has a lot of confidence in their skills. No question. But consider the amount of confidence it takes for those rare few riders to attack again and again. To sprint off on their own. To push their own wind. To choose their own speed. To work harder than anyone else. To risk shredding their legs early and have no shot at winning the race as a result. To risk getting dropped, even, if they push too hard.

I can tell you one thing about these brave souls, and it's this: Being two hundred yards ahead of the peloton feels good. Knowing that everyone back there is hurting at least as much as you are feels good. Knowing that no on back there wants to take on the responsibility of trying to catch up feels good.

Setting the pace feels good.

Winning feels good.

Being the best feels good.

Having fifty or so of the state's best riders frown every time they see you show up before the race start every week feels good. It's exactly the kind of reinforcement that Gavin talks about in his comment. (Sometimes, your competition's reaction and performance are just as important to confidence as a friendly pat on the back from someone who is actually in your corner.) Earning your competitor's ire is always fun, but earning their respect is even better. That's when you know you've arrived.

Earning your competitors' respect, your family's, your friends', your customers', and your employees' respect feels really, really good.

The reality is this (and I've seen it everywhere - the military, school, business, sports, art, love, politics, medicine... everywhere): Not everyone has the confidence to answer the call of a worthy challenge when it comes. Not everyone has the confidence to lead the pack. Not everyone has the confidence to challenge it. Not everyone has the confidence to risk embarrassing themselves if they fail.

Not everyone has the confidence to make sure failure truly isn't an option.

(And not everyone has the confidence to have that much damn fun pushing the limits of their art.)

Again, confidence manifests itself in innovation, in entrepreneurship, in design, in advertising, in marketing, in politics, in sports, in philosophy, in operating rooms, on battlefields and in boardrooms all over the world in one unmistakable trait: Leadership.

Leadership isn't about bars on your sleeves or imposing little letters next to your name. Leadership is a trait. It's a behavior. It's an inner nature.

It's confidence in action.

Now, think about this: In your work, what kind of rider are you?

In your market, what kind of rider is your company?

If the next ten years are a race, who do you think is going to win, and how are they (or you) going to win it? By sitting in the pack or by leading it when the time is right?

Do you want to be Lance Armstrong, or do you want to be one of the other guys whose names you'll never know?

Food for thought. :)

Push your limits. You'll be surprised how elastic they really are,

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