The Confidence Guy

Wired into Truly Confident Living

Category: ‘Leadership’

Jun 10

BelongI’ve read some really amazing accounts of the World Domination Summit that resonate and echo a lot of my own thoughts.  But before I get into what I took away from the Summit, here are my 24 of my favourite things from last weekend.

  1. Pam Slim’s face as I introduced myself as Steve, and the surprise and delight as a heartbeat later she said “Steve….Errey? ERREY!”.  Pam Slim was delighted to meet me.  Pam Slim.
  2. Karen Walrond’s stunning session, Different is Beautiful.  Adored every moment.
  3. The universal and sincere curiosity of every attendee.
  4. The abundant smile and warmth of Jodi Womack.  Thanks for the trombones!
  5. Writing “Belong” on my arm with a Sharpie.
  6. Smiling and laughing more than I have in a very long time.
  7. Still meeting great people and having that common connection days after the conference closed.
  8. The Communicatrix’s new asshole.  Funny is everywhere, even when life sucks.
  9. Pam Slim’s generosity.  Yes, I’ve already mentioned her, but her generosity is tangible, palpable, magical.
  10. Hatching a plan with the gentle Joshua Harbert to get a grizzly bear through UK immigration.
  11. Being buoyed up by the support of people who really get it.
  12. Hearing real stories.  Stories of hope, fear, dreams, confusion, peace, frustration and love.  Does it get better than that?
  13. Mercedes Grant’s disco pants and exciting new film project. Watch out for this one.
  14. We are all rooting for youThe hand-written notes attached to the bottom of our chairs by Jen Lemen and Andrea Scher from Mondo Beyondo.  Mine was “We’re all rooting for you.”  Exactly what I needed.
  15. Cynthia Morris’s testicular breakfast.  You kinda had to be there.
  16. Not having to try.
  17. Mark Silver‘s gentle talk and powerful ideas that just might have opened a door for me.
  18. Hugs.  Lots o’ hugs.
  19. Not having CFS/ME define me.
  20. Sitting in Stumptown coffee the morning after the closing party, not being able to write and having the gorgeous Shannon O’Donnell come through just by chance and come sit with me.  Just what I needed, just when I needed it.  And I picked out her favourite photo because it was mine too.
  21. The feeling of being in a room with 500 of the most talented, gifted, generous, insightful, creative and driven people in the world.
  22. The sheer energy and vitality of Chantelle Baxter – she’s doing amazing things.  “I’m driving the bus!”.
  23. Not being online.  With no wifi to speak of at the venue there were no distractions.  It was about people.
  24. Telling people about my “No Goals” approach to coaching at the opening party, then having Leo Babauta and Danielle LaPorte say the very same thing the next day.  That’s some pretty, pretty, pretty good company right there.

Some great times to be sure, but with all of that noted I’ve struggled to know exactly what I want to say about it.

The messages are nothing new, right?

Chances are you’ve seen the ideas from the Summit before.  Follow your heart.  Do what matters.  Don’t fit in, stand out.  Dare to be different.  You’re the answer.  Be of service.  Go the extra mile.  You need the hard times as well as the good.  You’re already awesome.  Beauty is everywhere.

Many, many more ideas that are as relevant to you as you allow them to be.

There was a lot of content, which is good an’ all, but the Summit was one of those rare “conferences” (the word conference doesn’t fit WDS at all well) where the content was perhaps the smallest ingredient.

The people, the conversations, the hugs, the support, the curiosity, the sharing, the laughs, the friendliness and the generosity were all stirred into the same pot and left to bubble away for 2 and a half days.  Flavours developed and richened.  Ingredients harmonized.  Deliciousness filled the building.  Everyone became hungry.

In his session, Mark Silver said that when your heart is hungry or thirsty you feel needy.  God knows I’ve been feeling needy.

Rather than giving in to the temptation to jump right into action, Mark explained how actions stemming directly from that need won’t bear fruit; but that it’s possible for that need or emptiness to turn into a deep desire that moves you into congruent, graceful action.

And that’s what I’m feeling.  Both empty and full at the same time.  I’m building a relationship with that need that I hadn’t figured on when I arrived in Portland, and I’m taking it slowly.  And it’s not just me, in conversations after the summit I found that people were taking it slowly.  Letting the dust settle.  Making space for that quiet voice inside.  Allowing the need to turn into desire.

Look what I found under my coffee cup in StumptownAnd that’s my take-away – a growing relationship with the part of me that I’ve neglected, and a quiet beginning of a transformation that’s already moving me.

The timing’s perfect, and not only will this help to make my next project fly but it will help to satiate that hunger I’ve been pushing aside.

The next few months will be extraordinary indeed.

Some unexpected perspective

A couple of hours ago on my way from London Paddington to Charing Cross having just flown back to the UK, my cab driver told me that his 31 year old daughter had been killed 3 nights ago by a drunk driver.  He said that the man’s car was embedded in his daughters’ car and couldn’t even be separated.  He told me that he didn’t have the money available to bury her, so was working extra hours to make up the cash rather than spending it home grieving with his wife.

I asked about his daughter a little bit, and she seemed to be much like everyone else – imperfect, but hopeful.  He was angry with himself for not being able to provide for his own daughters funeral, feeling like he’d failed everyone.

I gave him £30 for a £10 cab fare, which was everything I had in my wallet, shook his hand and said goodbye.  Nothing I could have said or done would have fixed it, but I hope at least the surprise in his face let him see that there is help out there.

So while I entered the cab feeling pissed off for being back in a country I don’t really want to be in, I left the cab feeling grateful to be home, and with a quiet sense that I simply have to get my next coaching project out into the world.

Not pursuing your true north serves no one.

A little perspective goes a long way, huh.

Jun 07

This last weekend will be one long remembered by me, and by the 499 other people who attended the very first World Domination Summit in Portland.

If there was one word for it, it would be ”Holy cow”.  Yes, that’s 2 words, but the rules don’t apply here.

The absorption of messages, people and connections from the weekend is going to take some time (and from the tweets I’ve seen, everyone else feels the same), and I have a very strong feeling that ideas will continue to land, link and coalesce for quite some time to come as a result.

Once the immediate dust settles there’s likely to be a couple of changes round here which I’ll tell you about as soon as I figure them out.  In the meantime, there are 3 things I’m immensely grateful for:

  1. Having the opportunity to spend time with truly extraordinary people.
  2. Getting back the feeling that my next project will be relevant, needed and HUGE.
  3. My CFS/ME was a challenge at times, but my body delivered when I asked it to and allowed me to be present.

I’ll write more about the Summit soon, but wanna leave you with a couple of photo’s from the trip and with one, important thought that echoes what I’ve been talking about right here for the last 3 years.

If you’re not engaging with what matters to you, start.

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May 27

The big 4-0And just so I can stretch out my 40th Birthday celebrations even longer, here’s the remaining 20 things I’ve learned in my first 40 years on this curious little blue and green rock.

  1. I leave religion and religious beliefs alone, otherwise we both end up getting offended.  Even with subjects I’m passionate about, I gotta see that there’s no single “right” way.
  2. Individually, people rock.  Collectively, they’re crazy.
  3. I’m a great believer in sticking at something, but sometimes the best and most courageous things is to get the hell out of dodge.
  4. There’s good in everyone.
  5. Wanting to belong to something continues to be one of my strongest drivers, but it’s also the thing I feel the least and doubt the most.  It’s such a powerful motivator that there are layers of positive and sabotaging behaviour around it, so I’ve learned to be aware of it.
  6. There’s no substitute for grace.
  7. My imagination is bigger than I ever imagined (paradox anyone?), and that creativity has to be put to use or I go crazy.
  8. Music talks to the soul and can rejuvenate in moments.
  9. I find it irresistibly attractive when someone is able to create a moment in time based on what feels true to them.
  10. Sitting at a bar in a new city and chatting with the locals never ceases to make me feel alive.
  11. Meditation is not fluffy, fu-fu, guru, hippy shit.
  12. I love superhero mythology because they always stay true to what matters the most, even against seemingly insurmountable odds.  If I can do that in even the smallest way, then I’ve lived extraordinarily well.  Plus, the outfits rock.
  13. Nobody else can tell me what to believe or where to put my energy.  I’m always at the helm of this thing.
  14. However much my body and health slows me down is the pace I need to accept.  Fighting my body won’t get me anywhere.
  15. I’m smarter than the average bear, but the average bear can probably catch a ball better than me.  In other words, everyone has stuff they’re good at and not good at, and the only time that becomes an issue is if I turn it into one.
  16. The single biggest impact you can have on your life is being aware of your thoughts.
  17. As far as money goes, hoping that things will turn around while prioritizing short term pleasure is not a great combination.
  18. Everyone has a story and every story is valuable.
  19. When I forget that there’s beauty in everyday life I feel embittered.  Valuing the tiny, extraordinary elements of a moment can always make it beautiful.
  20. Looking back on the last 40 years, knowing what I know now, I may have made some different choices.  So perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned is to apply what I’ve learned so far to the next 40.

Over to you. What’s something you’ve learned that you can tell us about?

May 25

How did I make it to 40?So, it finally happened.  It’s not like I didn’t have plenty of notice, but it’s still kinda hard to believe that today’s my 40th Birthday.

Just before I put on my slippers and start researching hip replacement procedures, I’ve decided to bring together some of the biggest things I’ve learned in the last 40 years.  There’s been a few of these “x things I’ve learned” posts around recently (I’m just waiting for the first “5 things I’ve learned now that I’m 5” post), but it seems fitting somehow that I give some good thought to the last 40 years to see just what the heck happened and what I can learn from it all.

While a lot of it’s a blur (anyone seen my 20’s?), here’s the first 20 things I’ve learned (the second 20 will be along soon).

  1. There really is nothing more valuable than your health.
  2. It’s natural for friends to come and go, but my family is both persistent and wonderful.
  3. Whenever I resist something, the more of a struggle it becomes.  As Picard used to say, “Engage”.
  4. Laugh with life.  Always. Frankly, I don’t like the alternative.
  5. Even if I want to punch someone, curl up into a ball in pain or run away as fast as I can, always have a smile ready to go.
  6. Some solitude is required, too much is dangerous.
  7. Singing to yourself in the car always feels good.
  8. When I’m faced with something insurmountable, I make a choice as to whether it’s something I want to start or not, and then I trust myself to begin. Whatever happens after that is for later.
  9. I can’t be all things to all people.  The best I’ve got is all I’ve got.
  10. Intimacy is probably the scariest and most wonderful thing I can think of.  The trick then, is to not let the scary bit overwhelm the wonderful bit.
  11. Some of life’s very best moments are spent with good people over a good meal.
  12. Life is too short to spend it working with assholes.
  13. My expectations of myself are almost impossibly high, because I know just how big a dent I could make in this little universe of ours.  I know that those expectations can sometimes hurt me, so I’ve learned to reset them when they’re harmful.
  14. I waste too much time watching TV and playing PlayStation, but that time soothes me.  So perhaps it’s not wasted after all.
  15. I’ll always find it hard to ask for help, but that doesn’t change the fact that I sometimes need it.
  16. I could never date a smoker or a vegetarian.
  17. I have the ability to engender trust from just about anyone in no time at all, which is all the more reason not to abuse that trust.
  18. The most precious thing to me is seeing a moment of undeniable truth.  I call it magic.
  19. Don’t cling tightly to a belief or a way of thinking if I know deep down that I can’t defend it or honour it.
  20. My heart leaps every time I see an underdog trying hard, and it breaks every time I see someone who thinks they “can’t”.  As much as I might want to help or jump to the rescue it’s not always my job to.
May 03

Ready to throw away your plans?“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” – Joseph Campbell

Here’s a toughie.  Could your plans actually be stopping you from getting what you want rather than helping you get what you want?  Could the plans you’ve carefully put in place be more of a hindrance than a help?

I’ve recently chatted with a few people who have big plans.  They’re going somewhere, have clear ideas about what that looks like and the steps they need to take to get there.  Their big plans are broken down into small steps and they have a good idea of what they need to do next week, next month and next year.  They have a clear investment in the plans they’ve made for their career, their social life and for their romantic life.

Some go into greater detail than others – one guy I spoke with had looked at the stats and established that he has a 60% chance of getting married in the next five years, and he’d started making contingency career plans based on that probability.  He was putting plans in place having considered a demographically based statistical projection of what was likely to happen to him over the next 5 years.  That’s pretty darned detailed.

As a responsible personal development professional I’m supposed to be right behind this kind of focus, and I should be trumpeting 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.  After all, fail to plan and you’re planning to fail, right?

Well, I for one don’t believe it, for 3 very good reasons.

1. Plans replace meaning
Details can consume you.  Planning can easily fall into the trap of being all about the detail and nothing about the meaning, vision or distinct value of the undertaking.  Keep on planning and you’ll keep on seeing the detail, never the big picture.

In my freelancing I’m sad to say that I see this a lot – mountains of impressive looking detail, but none of it adding up to very much.

2. Life doesn’t go to plan.
You can have the most fool-proof plan ever devised, everything laid out nice and neatly and orderly, and life will come along, spill red wine all over them, call you a useless fecker, then kick over the table they were laying on and do an Irish jig right on top of them while wearing dirty work boots.

(Yes, in this metaphor life is an Irish labourer who drinks cheap Shiraz, loves Riverdance and swears like a drunken docker).

The most essential ingredient to any great plan is to have it be flexible enough to throw away if you need to.  Which leads me to my third point.

3.  You grow by letting things go.
What you want now might not be what you want next year.  And I very much doubt it’ll be exactly what you want ten years from now, or even five years from now.

Hearing what’s next in your life can be impossible when all you can hear is the hum from the plans you’ve made.

It’s easy to miss an intriguing, hidden path when your eyes are fixed on the map you drew before you left home.

Sometimes you gotta add things to your life to move it forwards, but other times it’s what you remove that allows your life to take shape.  Letting go not only frees you up from your out-dated assumptions and rules, but it gives you strong, undeniable evidence of your ability to learn and grow.

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

When it’s right to give up the life you planned

People hoard things and clutch things tightly out of insecurity – having “stuff” around you that you put there makes you feel safe and makes you feel like you’re in control of your environment.  Same goes for plans, and you have to know when you’re making plans because you want a comfort blanket.

It’s easy for plans to become noise and clutter – full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.  If you’re pouring more focus, time, energy or spirit into your plans rather than the right now, I’d suggest that something’s out of kilter.  Yes, giving up long held plans is probably the most courageous thing you can ever do in your life, but focus too much on your plans and you’ll miss out what’s right there in front of you.

Sometimes in life, your plans are the very thing that keeps you from the life that’s waiting for you.

Are you guilty of over-planning?
Does it feel like you can’t let go of what you thought you had to do?
Or are you just terrified of going off-plan?

Let me know in the comments.

Feb 22

You look confused and you dont know what to doEver feel that sometimes you’re missing out on who you were supposed to be because you’re so busy being who everybody – including you – expected you to be?

It’s a fairly well-worn, twee and whimsical concept, the idea that there’s someone who you’re supposed to be.  Something you’re supposed to be doing with your life.  Gifts that you’re supposed to be using.  A difference you’re supposed to be making.

But like most folk tales, there’s some truth to it.  I think you probably know it too.

The thought that you’re in the wrong place doing the wrong thing is one that’s just too daunting and colossal for many to face.  I know, because I told myself the same thing for years and lost my mind as a result.

The IT career I’d carved out for myself lacked everything that I cared about the most – creativity, fun, connection and the opportunity to build something that actually makes a difference.  But I carried on regardless, ignoring how unhappy I was because I so was busy pretending to be happy all the time.

Continually burying the thought that I was supposed to be someone else and doing something else, I completely destroyed my self-confidence and became totally lost.

You’re the only one…

I had to put myself back together from the ground up, piece by piece by piece.  It took a long time, but slowly I built enough confidence to take myself in a new direction.  To be honest, I’m still figuring it out and pushing at the edges of what I know about myself, but taking the time to nurture my self-confidence and make it okay to go and follow what matters to me is the best thing I ever did.

So don’t you even think about making the same mistakes I did.  Screw what the doubters say.  Ignore the cynics.  Don’t pander to the masses.

Especially if those doubters, cynics and masses are all in your own head.

You’re the only one who knows what matters and you’re kidding yourself if you’re not listening to what you’ve known all along.  You’re the only one who can be confident and courageous enough to make a new decision.

You’re the perfect person to be who you’re supposed to be.

Ever felt like you were in the wrong place doing the wrong thing? Tell me about it – and what you did about it – in the comments.

Oct 04

If I got my way, the Earth would explodeIf everyone on the planet woke up tomorrow being completely, naturally self-confident, the world just might explode.

Just picture it for a second.  If everyone on Earth was able to make a decision with implicit trust in that decision, nobody would need to let their doubts or fears divert them from what they wanted.  Nobody would second-guess their decisions or avoid them altogether because of what might go wrong.  Nobody would pursue the wrong things because they thought that’s what they ought to do.  Nobody would think they weren’t good enough.

There would be bedlam.  Society as we know it would erupt into chaos as we all ran around making wild and woolly decisions, quitting our jobs and doing things for fun.  But what about the bus drivers, the hospital porters, the factory workers or the electrical engineers?  What if, with their new-found confidence, they decided they didn’t want to do those jobs anymore and chose to follow what really matters to them instead?  The buses would stop.  The hospitals would creak and break.  The products would stop rolling out of the factories.  The electricity we depend on would stutter and die.

Chaos.

Our society depends on having people in their place.  We need people to work in the whole spectrum of jobs and to fit into structures that society can deal with.  Our assumptions about how things work and what we should do in our lives serves that structure ably, but if everyone had natural self-confidence those assumptions, roles and expectancies would no longer apply.

What if we all had it wrong?

Right here in this article I’ve assumed that people wouldn’t make a positive choice to drive a bus, work in a hospital or a factory or keep our infrastructure going.  But what if even that assumption was wrong?

People would no longer follow what they assumed they had to.  They’d no longer run their lives based on what they think they ought to do or what they thought was expected of them.

People would no longer be prepared to let their fears and doubts influence what they did and how they did it.  They’d be free to make a choice and to dive right in to the consequences, no matter what happened.

People would no longer talk themselves into taking the safe and comfortable road.  They’d be willing to take a risk and would be willing to accept responsibility for however things turn out.

People would no longer feel like they weren’t good enough to have, do or be what they wanted.  They’d be free to engage with what really matters to them and their world.

People would have extraordinary stories to tell.

We would soar.

I want in.

Jun 15

Would Ron Burgundy give you confidence?Watched the news recently?  Holy cow are we ever in trouble.

War.  Financial ruin.  Unemployment.  Volcano’s.  Strikes.  Violence.  Oil spills. Intolerance. Rogue nations.

The news seems determined to drive home what a negative, futile world we live in, and it’s hard to believe that we make it through a day what with all of the horrible things reported to us.

I’d be willing to bet that if you were to watch the TV news every day, it would change you.  It would shift your perception so you see all the problems in the world, and notice all the problems in your life.  It would draw your attention to the bad that people do and point out everything negative in your world.

The culture of the 24 hour news media is one of negativity, cynicism and drama.  It’s a monster fed by some of the worst traits that we humans share, and its power to shift perception shouldn’t be ignored or underestimated.

Focusing on the negative, distressing, shocking and scandalous in life will only destroy your spirit.  Focusing on what’s wrong reduces your ability to see what’s right.  You see the dysfunction rather than the function, and over time this rubs off on your own choices and your own behaviour.

Garbage in, garbage out.

You make decisions based on what you don’t want, not what you do want.  You move away from what you hate rather than towards what you love.  Your life becomes a matter of survival and safety rather than an enterprise of meaning and possibility.

Your ability to make positive, meaningful change is buried under the weight of the world, and the cost is your spirit and your self-confidence.

But the news is not the world.  The news is not your life.

Amazing things happen every single day.  People make huge leaps of faith.  People create wonderful things and have remarkable ideas.  People connect to each other in ways that make us feel alive.

We are not isolated, scared and vulnerable; we are giants.

Dec 02

I wanted to be Face when I grew upWhen I was 11 I couldn’t wait to be 30, because then I could be just like Face from the A-Team.  Flirting, conning people out of their speedboat and saving a small Mexican village would be daily occurrences.

Or so I thought.  The reality of being a grown up is somewhat different.

Bills.  Property maintenance.  Career management.  Decreasing health.  Transport issues.  Responsibility.

I’m sure the Faceman didn’t have to deal with that stuff when he was “surviving in the Los Angeles underground”.

Being a grown-up has its up-sides, like air miles and swanky bars, and when you get it right responsibility is just about being happy making decisions, but on balance I think it’s much better to be a kid.  That’s what I want to be when I grow up.

Kids have imaginations that create worlds.

Kids act silly even when times are tough.

Kids believe themselves to be indestructible.

Kids are always ready to laugh at the absurdity of life.

Kids act based on what’s important.

Kids throw themselves into each moment.

Kids will try something just because they can.

Kids will connect with people without judgement.

Kids believe in possibility.

It’s easy to forget these things as a go-getting grown-up; it’s easy to become jaded, cynical or tired.  It’s easy to become so focused on doing stuff that you forget who you are while you’re so busy doing all that stuff.

It’s easy to lose confidence in those child-like qualities, but it’s by trusting them that life becomes richer.

If, as a grown-up (which I’m still not convinced I am), I can keep even some of those things alive, then I’m onto something special.

Who’s with me?

May 19

Old leaders, while successful, are increasingly out-datedThe over-confident, autocratic leader of old is a dying species.

And not before time.

Only a fool would admit to knowing exactly what’s going to happen in the business world these days, and business leaders who routinely gave the impression that everything was fine and that they knew exactly what they were doing are finding themselves increasingly obsolete.

Over-confidence is dangerous, something that’s been demonstrated in board rooms across the world in the last few months.  Don Moore, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business hits the nail on the head when he says, “Overconfident businesspeople routinely delude themselves.”  And he’s very clever, so he should know.

The likes of Jack Welch of GE, Howell Raines and Arthur Sulzberger of the New York Times and Bob Diamond of Barclays Capital (who a friend of mine described to me as a ‘psychotic American lunatic‘) have either gone already, or are finding they need to seriously update their approach or risk everything.

I certainly wouldn’t want to work for an autocratic leader.  I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw their dogma.

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower

But finding the right balance of confidence as a leader is tough.  Over-confidence is certain to ensure you lose your way and that your people lose trust in you.  The same happens with under-confidence – checking in with your team every hour to see if you’re doing things right will annoy even the keenest team member.

So there’s a balance to be struck, and (at first, at least) it takes constant course-correction to maintain that balance.

That doesn’t mean that a leader has to second guess themselves or constantly check which side of the confidence line they’re on.  I’m of the opinion that it’s both fine and useful for a leader to show they’re not wholly confident sometimes.

It’s fine to admit you don’t know the answer.  It’s useful to ask for suggestions.  It’s both fine and useful to lead on a basis of inclusion.

I’ve been around people in leadership roles who’ve admitted they didn’t’ know the answer, and it made me respect them more and want to help more.  I believe it takes more natural confidence to say that you don’t know than it does to make up some crap and tell people to get to it.

It demonstrates the value of inclusion and relationships over hierarchy and reputation.

As a leader, once you’ve figured out a direction or a strategy you need to be ready to make the decision, but the method to get to that point is through relationships, not through old-style leadership.

Stephen Graves and Thomas Addington have some interesting insights in their book ‘Clout‘ (although the more religious content isn’t my bag), particularly when they point out how important influence is in leadership.  “Leadership is the surface, influence is the current,” they say.  And they’re both very clever, so they should know.

Leadership is public; influence is often behind-the-scenes” they go on to say, and this is a key point.

The old style leaders amassed power and glory as figureheads and symbols of strength.  There were public displays of leadership and authority (board meetings, company briefings, official memo’s, etc.) to imprint the perception of confidence.  They’d sit in their ivory towers casting decisions down through the organisation, expecting people to fall in line.  All very animal-kingdom-y don’t you think?

The new leaders amass respect by wanting to do great work and by forging strong relationships.  They use their personal influence to get things done, can artfully manage consensus and might even shy away from being in the spotlight.  New leaders leverage natural confidence and positive influence to move mountains.

I know which one I’d rather work for.

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