fiHow good was your first video? How good was your first marketing campaign? How good was your first sales pitch?
It is common for people to think that their learning is fixed, that they cannot learn certain topics because they were never good at them, like math. They don’t give themselves the credit they deserve for the things they have learned and don’t think of themselves as good learners. As a result, their self-esteem is wrapped up in false notions that the brain cannot expand, learn, experience, and then learn again. This is referred to as a fixed mindset as characterized by Dr. Carol Dweck in her book Mindset. Only we are all able to learn more, to process more, to expand what we are capable of if we believe in ourselves and in our ability to figure things out.
What is self-confidence? What does it mean to be confident? Does it mean we’re good at something? Does it mean we believe we’re great? Does it mean we’ve had success here and therefore, we should feel good about ourselves doing it? Self-confidence is simply our belief in our ability to figure things out. We may have been here before and prevailed. Or, we may not have experience in this endeavor we’re about to take on, but we believe in ourselves and in our abilities because we’ve dealt with similar things in the past. We have taken on something like this and it went fine. Therefore, I believe this one will go well, too. This is the essence of self-confidence: a strong belief in one’s abilities, even if you do not have experience there. With enough time, training, guidance, mentorship and coaching, you will figure it out.
We want to go through life with high self-confidence. We want to hang around confident people because their confidence rubs off on us. We certainly desire confidence in our leaders. In fact, the #1 quality we seek in leaders is high self confidence and belief in others’ abilities. But many of us struggle with our confidence. We feel insecure at work or at home or at new activities or in actions where we do not have a good track record. Our growth lies in these areas where we are not strong. We all have weaknesses. No one is strong in all areas. What do we do with these weaknesses? What we determine to do with these weaknesses is what we determine for our own growth. What’s the plan?
Do you ignore your weaknesses and only focus on your strengths? Strengths feel good, don’t they? They’re empowering. They make us feel strong. Doing them daily, maybe for most of the day, feels right and true. It feels like you were made to do those things. The more you do your strengths, focusing on your strengths, the better you get at them. No question there. What and where we choose to apply focus and action to expands. No one likes to talk about their weaknesses, let alone work on them. We write them off, “Aww, I’m not good at that so I let someone else handle that. I try to just ignore that area.” But there’s a problem with doing this over and over: we’re stealing our own growth away from ourselves.
How good was the first video you shot? How good was the first article you wrote? How good was your first marketing campaign you executed? How good was your first sales pitch? How good was your first speech or panel talk? How good was your first coaching session? If you’re honest, your first time doing each of these was likely terrible like everyone else’s. And that’s OK. Our first time doing something hard should be terrible. How can we expect otherwise? We have forgotten what it is like to suck at new things. Further, we’ve stolen the notion away from ourselves and others that it is OK to suck and be a mess when you’re trying new things. No one likes to suck, especially publicly or on social media. But it’s OK! Really. It is fine to suck at something when you are new. No one laughs at the baby as he takes the first steps of his life and falls down over and over and over again attempting to walk. Yet as adults — even as children — we’re petrified by what some random stranger thinks about our abilities at everything we do. It is a sad reality that can be overcome with simple coaching and encouragement. The truth is that great growth comes from morphing a weakness into a strength.
Think about something you used to suck at that you’re now good at. It can be speaking. It can be writing. It can be video. It can be storytelling. If you’re like all of us, you don’t remember what it is like to suck at it now. Maybe you don’t want to remember what it is like to suck at it because it was painful. The Curse of Knowledge nearly guarantees all of us that we won’t remember what it is like to not know something. Once we know it, we’ve put in the practice, we’ve run the miles, we’ve done the trainings, we’ve become disciplined in the new activity, and we’ve built momentum. We are good now. Then, we quickly forget that we once sucked. Guess what you just did? Morphed a weakness into a strength. Congratulations! You’ve won!
What many high performers don’t do is integrate that win into their lives, congratulating themselves on the victory. Turning a personal weakness into a strength is a BIG victory. That’s growth. Whether done for you or for someone else, that is a really big deal, something to be proud of. So, be proud of it. Tell yourself “Good job. You did it.” Reward yourself with something cool you’ve wanted. Go out and buy something for you wouldn’t normally buy for you. Make it meaningful. Integrate that win. Savor it. Breathe it in. Better, write about your journey from sucking to one day getting good. It is a fabulous story.
What’s next? There’s always something else to focus on for skill development. What’s an area of weakness in skill that you feel will be required of you in your professional future? Are you focusing on that? What are you doing about that? How dedicated are you to designating time each day to get better at that? How embarrassed are you that you suck at it? What would it mean to you to get good? What would that feel like? What would that do for your career?
Don’t ignore your weaknesses. Acknowledge them. Pick one to improve upon. Make it a fun 30, 60, or 90 day challenge for yourself. Get a friend to do it with you. It’s always more fun if you and your friend can challenge each other and hold one another accountable to following through. Chip away at your weakness. Get a coach to help you shortcut your improvement in morphing that weakness into strength. And don’t forget to integrate your win once you’ve accomplished your new power.