The Confidence Guy

Wired into Truly Confident Living

Category: ‘Making decisions’

Jun 28

Time for change.

I mentioned a little while ago how I was working on something new, something big, something that I was jumping up and down about in excitement.

That’s all true, and while I’ve made some important progress with the project I haven’t made as much progress as I wanted to.  I originally wanted to launch it by the beginning of June, and as you can see, that hasn’t happened.

So I gotta make a choice.

It comes down to time, energy and focus, and I simply don’t have enough of those things to split them between The Confidence Guy and Project X.  Something’s gotta go, and in order to focus on my new project I’m ramping down my writing here at The Confidence Guy.  And once Project X is up and running, that’s where I’ll be be hanging out.

It feels really strange to be letting go of something that’s been so close for the last 4 years, and while I’ve grappled with the decision a fair bit, it feels like the perfect thing for me to do.

And I know that this is the only way I’ll get to launch Project X.

If there’s one thing that I’ve talked about here that I want to stick with you, it’s that you have to make choices that honour what matters to you.  I’m just practicing what I preach.

What I want you to know is how grateful I am to you.  Grateful for your readership.  Grateful for your thoughts.  Grateful for your comments and emails.  From day one my aim with this blog was to give you tools, insights, ideas and strategies to change; to really change; and I’m not going to abandon that intention or abandon you.

Believe it or not you matter to me, so I will post the odd update or two here to let you know what’s happening and where things are at with Project X.  If it’s okay with you, I’d love to keep you in the loop.

I’m genuinely excited about this change but equally I have no idea what’s going to happen.  Project X could fail spectacularly for all I know, but I just have to give it my best shot (and to be honest, if I wasn’t willing to do that then just who the hell am I to be telling you to do what matters?).

I can’t wait to share it with you if you’re ready for something that’ll knock your socks off!

Thanks so much, and as ever, just holler if there’s something I can help you out with.

Mar 29

Give a damn: Banned Books Week 2008Why the hell should you give a damn?

Really.  Why should you?

It struck me recently that if there’s nothing at stake or if nothing’s at risk in life then you’re living in a curious equilibrium.

The gravity of where you are negates the pull of where you want to be going, resulting in stasis.  You don’t move.  Things continue as they are.  Nothing much changes.

On the surface that might not seem like a big deal, especially if you believe yourself to be perfectly happy where you are.  But, as Jonathan Fields pointed out – “There is no coasting.  There is no neutral.  No sideways.

Just ask the next space-dwelling-dude you see and he’ll tell you that living in zero-gravity will, over time, result in muscle atrophy.  The same goes for you and your life.

Live long enough in a state of equilibrium or stasis and the muscles that support your ability to live a rich, meaningful life will atrophy.  I’m talking about your confidence muscle.

The only way to stop that atrophy – that long, slow death – is to make something in your life worth giving a damn about.  You gotta care about something so much that it makes you stand up and move.  You gotta be engaged enough to raise the stakes and put something on the line.

If nothing’s at stake, just what the hell are you doing?

Tell me, what’s at stake for you?  Or maybe you’re in that place of curious equilibrium?  Let me know in the comments.

Mar 22

How to Quit Like a ProContrary to popular belief, quitting isn’t always the easy option. Leaving something (a job, a relationship, a place) can often be the hardest thing to do in your life.

You go round in circles and second guess your decisions.  You look in fear at what might happen if you quit.  You decide that “sticking it out” a while longer is the best thing to do, or you hold back from making a decision at all (which, as you well know, is also a decision).

In other words, it’s easy to lose confidence in your decisions and your judgement, and the ensuing confusion is enough to befuddle even the smartest of bears.

So here are a handful of thoughts on how you can keep your head, think confidently and quit like a pro.

1. Go Before The Damage is Done

Waiting until you’re hurting is waiting too late, the damage has already been done.  There’s a simple equation here – if you can’t afford (on a personal, emotional level) the cost of staying, get out.  Where a job or relationship is at the point where it’s costing you your self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth there’s only one way things will go if you stay put.

Of course, this kind of damage tends to happen gently and almost imperceptibly over a period of time, and this erosion of self is the worst kind of death.  Slow, uninterrupted, heart-breakingly sad and totally unnecessary.

You might not notice the change in how you feel and how you think, but you sure as hell notice that you’re not having a good time.  The longer you put up with it the more damage it does to your confidence, so the trick is to remember that the circumstance you find yourself in doesn’t determine your choices and your behaviour – you can always make a choice.

Don’t wait for a crisis point, you’re worth so much more than that.

2. Don’t Deceive Yourself

Pretending that everything’s peachy when it’s oh so wrong is freakishly commonplace.  You hear you telling yourself what you need to do, but you keep your head down and tell yourself to just hang on a bit longer, things might change.

Sure, things might change.  Oprah might become Queen of Denmark and butter might become the new penicillin.

Don’t kid yourself; listen to what you’re really saying instead.  The things that matter to you matter for a reason – they’re the things will bring you a great life.  Ignore what matters or turn away from the stuff that means something and you’re kidding nobody else but you.

So if quitting gives you the opportunity to go towards what matters, you gotta listen.  Deal?

3. Calculate Collateral Damage

It’s not all about you (sorry to break it to you).  Throw a pebble into a still pond and what do you get? Ripples. And potentially wet feet.

Leave a job under a cloud or leave in the wrong way and it might damage your reputation.  Leave on bad terms and it may damage a current relationship or a future one.  Leave too rashly and it may damage your finances.

So it’s worthwhile to consider the effect of the ripples that spread from your decision to quit (and the manner in which you quit), and any potential damage that might be either a. irreversible or b. in conflict with your values.

If the collateral damage will be irreversible, is that a price you’re willing to pay or is it just too important to you?  If it’s reversible, what damage limitation measures can you implement and what are you willing to do to reverse it?

More importantly, if the ripples of quitting directly causes something to happen that flies in the face of your personal values (the things that mean the most to you) then you’re gonna find it very, very hard to live with yourself.

Consider the cost of collateral damage, but – and this might be somewhat controversial – this should always be secondary to points 1 and 2.

Quitting Isn’t Wrong

Sometimes quitting is the best thing you can do, for you and for everyone else.  There’s a dangerous idea out there that quitting is what losers do, but I think that’s deeply, deeply flawed. Quitting is often the boldest, most courageous, most lip-smackingly brilliant move you can make.

So how about you?  Have you struggled with quitting?  What have you just quit, or what would you love to quit?

Jan 12

FlyingTwo of the best times I’ve had in life recently have been when I gave up needing to control what was happening.

The first was a party in London that my good friend Claire took me along to.  An old friend of hers was over from the USA, so we headed to a very swish apartment that overlooked Harrods, with a throng of people I’d never met before.  Those of you who know me will know that I was in my element – laughing, schmoozing, charming and fizzing.  I loved it.

At 10:30pm I knew that the last train out of London was soon departing, and when I said to Claire that we needed to go she look all sad and asked if we could stay.  Normally this wouldn’t even be something I’d entertain – we were 40 miles from home, neither of us had brought as much as a toothbrush and I’m no fan of sleeping on floors.

But I said okay, let’s stay.

The next morning I’d managed to sleep upright in a chair for 3 hours, my mouth felt furry and I had a headache that could have beat the Grand Canyon in a “things that are big and splitty” competition.

But I’d had a ball.

The second time was a meal when I finished up a contract after putting on Rihanna Live.  I was really sick with CFS (I mean really sick) and would normally have got the train straight home to bed, but something about the occasion made me say “Yes” when my friends Colin and Shi repeatedly asked me to head out with them.

We’d been through the trenches together, and it felt only proper to mark the occasion.

So we went for some amazing sushi, had some great sake, told stories and had a ball.  It was a special night for me, and the first time I’d said yes to these folks.  It was the first time I relegated my health in favour of what could happen, and it was the perfect decision.

On both occasions I deliberately put aside logic and my desire to be in control.  On both occasions something wonderful happened.

Cause and effect.

Sometimes I can be as flexible as a mahogany wardrobe, I know this.  So the memory of these 2 occasions is an important reminder for me as I head into 2011.

If you keep hold of the need to be in control you’re fooling yourself – that control doesn’t exist.  All you’re doing is limiting your options, limiting the richness of your experience and leaning back from life.

Trust yourself to give up control, and lean towards life.

Dec 21

Was 2010 extraordinary?In the ocean of end-of-year wrap-up posts and articles telling you how to do your own end of year audit, I’m going to share something a little different; something that might change the way you look back at your 2010, and forwards to your 2011.

See, there’s just one vital ingredient before you can learn or achieve anything.

Uncertainty.

We typically like to stay clear of uncertainty, because we don’t trust it.  It’s like opening your front door and shouting, “Free accommodation and food for all – come on in, pull up some floor!”

You might get a troupe of ballerinas.  You might get a hobo and a trombonist.  You might get the world’s tallest man and Liza Minnelli. (Whoever you get, it’s gonna give you one hell of a story.)

It seems as crazy as a box of frogs, but think about it – if there’s no uncertainty in your life then what replaces it is certainty.  What you have is the known, the quantifiable, the predictable.  Certainty is exactly the sum of its parts, nothing more.

In other words, certainty equals ordinary. How damn boring is that?

On the other hand, uncertainty provides you with:

  1. The potential for something unexpected to happen.  This could be good or bad; it could take you 2 steps back or rocket you forwards; it could screw up like you feared or could go better than you dared hope.  There’s only one way to find out.
  2. An opportunity to test yourself.  It’s only by stepping into the unknown that you get to see what you can really do.
  3. A sure-fire way to grow.  Whatever comes from uncertainty will be something you can learn from and build on.  Every uncertain experience makes you better at life.

Uncertainty fuels the extraordinary.

A line from the TV show Ally McBeal sticks in my head. “If you can look back on your year and say that you’ve either laughed or cried, it’s been a year well spent.”

So if your 2010 wasn’t as compelling or extraordinary as you would have liked, then it’s a safe bet that there wasn’t enough uncertainty.  For your 2011 to be truly extraordinary, there’s only one way to go.

Say hello to uncertainty, say hello to extraordinary.

Coaching rates for 2011

I wanted to let you know that my coaching rates will be going up from January 3rd 2011.  They’ve stayed at the same level for the last 3 years, and so you have until January 3rd to pick up confidence building packages or individual sessions at the current rate.

That doesn’t give you long, so head over to the coaching page and you can pick up your sessions right there.  You can also drop me a line if you’re not sure what you’re looking for, and I’ll get right back to you. Either way, I’m looking forward to helping your 2011 be extraordinary.

Jul 06

I had an email recently from a woman – let’s call her Carla – who explained how she felt like she couldn’t get behind the life she’d chosen for herself because she wasn’t confident in the choices she’d made.  She’d given up the corporate lifestyle for a new, more creative way of living but was constantly looking at other people and judging her choices as the wrong ones.

Having left her familiar world behind her and embarked on what she hoped would be a more fulfilling life, she felt trapped by her choices and had forgotten how to trust herself.

Like everyone who emails me, I wrote back to her with a few ideas.

She replied to tell me that one thing I said to her made the biggest difference and stood out above everything else, and on the off-chance it could make a difference to you too, here it is.

“You’re always able to make a new choice – you’re life isn’t constrained by the choices you’ve made in the past, it’s constrained by the choices you’re not making right now.”

May 25

39 today :)A couple of people have asked me how the whole Amsterdam Adventure is going.  Well, it’s been interesting.  This makes for a somewhat self-involved post, but today’s my Birthday and if I can’t be self-indulgent on my Birthday then when can I?  (I’m hoping there’ll be cake later)

The office is pretty chaotic and they need a load more great people – people who “get it”.  I’ve had to make fast decisions and step on a couple of toes in order to get things on track or at least get them away from the perilous cliff edge that they were petering over when I arrived.  But the job is the job; all I have to do is remember how to do a great job and keep on doing it.  As chaotic and difficult as it might be, that’s the easy bit.

The trickier part has been finding my feet and keeping hold of my confidence outside of the office.  I’m finally in an apartment, and while it wouldn’t have been my first choice there’s nothing really wrong with it.  The mattress and bedding were, how can I put it, nasty in a way that makes you turn your face away while making an “yeurghh” noise, and I put up a fight when they wanted me to move in without replacing them.

I had to check out of the hotel as my time there had run out, the bedding situation hadn’t been fixed and so I was effectively homeless.  I was close to jumping on a plane and heading back home.  It wasn’t impressed, but I stuck to my guns and got the bedding replaced; that felt like quite a win, let me tell you.

I met some folks in a hotel bar (hi Danielle, hi Sophie) who I had a couple of drinks with and we got on like a house on fire.  A friend of Sophie’s turns up, and it turns out that he’s in town for a big MBA reunion weekend with his classmates.  I get invited along to their big MBA dinner along with Danielle and Sophie, which was awesome and made me feel lucky to have met them.  Number’s exchanged, Danielle’s invited me over for a meal with her fab family, and I’m hoping to meet up with Sophie in London this week for a glass of wine.  Good people.

I’ve figured out where the good food markets are, and I’m even beginning to decipher the Dutch food packaging.  I’ve found a couple of great writing spots for my weekend mornings, and I’ve found a couple of nice bars for a relaxing glass of something nice.  I’m engaging with the work and my colleagues, and am regularly laughing around the office – a sure sign that things are working.

2 things have struck me.

  1. I forgot how easy it is for me to connect with people.
  2. Confidence is about engaging with problems, not avoiding them.

Perhaps my biggest weakness (there are many) is wanting to avoid problems to maintain a smooth course, even if that course is heading right for the ravine.

I’ve learned that being confident in applying my strengths (particularly my ability to connect with and instill trust in people) is more than a match for that.  I’ve learned that I can trust myself to make decisions and solve the problems that present themselves, no matter how much I might want to hide.

Confidence really does make a world of difference when you’re somewhere new in life.

May 18

Which way to go, and how to know if it's the right way?We’re all going somewhere.  Some are going up, some heading down and many others are going round and round and round.  “Wheeeee!”, they cry, as they spin themselves nowhere fast.

The entire self-help industry is centred around the idea of helping you go somewhere; the notion that individuals want to travel from point a to point b and that they want to do it with as little trouble as possible.

I’m not going to talk about goals in this post, regular readers will know my thoughts on that one by now, but instead I want to talk about what’s necessary in order to go from point a to point b successfully, meaningfully and with confidence.

There are 2 parts to it – Inspiration and Participation.

Inspiration

The pre-requisite to going anywhere is the motivation to make the trip.  No motivation to travel and you’ll never get off the sofa.  Finding the right kind of motivation requires the right kind of destination, and that destination has to do one important thing – matter enough to you personally so that it sparks the best parts of you to move.

The destination has to resonate with you – it has to be something you can see yourself being a part of; a place you want to belong; a place you connect with in your bones and an outcome whose potentiality fires you up because it reflects what matters most to you.

Listen to that small voice inside you, because it will always know which direction fits.

A destination that connects with your values, and therefore your sense of identity is vital, but it’s not just about the destination.  It’s easy to lose faith when the journey’s a struggle, and it’s hard to keep motivation going when each step is painful.  So you also need to make sure that the route you take to your destination fits with who you are and what matters.

Undermine someone else in order to take a step towards your destination when respect is one of your values and you’ll hate yourself.  Get side-tracked onto something else that isn’t “you” and your energy will slide.  The road ahead will be littered with problems, but if you bring your values with you they’ll help you every step of the way.

Participation

The word “participation” sounds fairly pedestrian.  It’s something that you begrudgingly do when someone invites you to something you’d rather not go to or join in with.  It’s something you want other people to do when you want them to help you out with something.  It has that ring of “having to” about it; it’s not always an enjoyable thing.

But there’s a different way to look at it.  Participation is about taking action within your own life.  It’s the method by which you make stuff happen.  Don’t participate in your life and watch as nothing happens.  It’s up to you Daddio. That’s right, I said “Daddio”.

But there’s more to this than simply participating within the boundaries of your own life, it’s about having the confidence to operate at the boundaries of your experience and capability.  That’s where participating fully in your life pays real dividends.

Inspired Participation

Put inspiration and participation together, and you’ve got something that’s blow-your-socks-off-fan-bloody-tastic.

One without the other is missing something important, like an egg without salt or Bert without Ernie.  Have the inspiration but not the confidence to participate?  You keep on bouncing against the walls you’ve imposed and getting mightily frustrated and disappointed.  Have the confidence to participate but not the inspiration to go somewhere that matters?  You’ll do a lot of things, some good, some not, but none of it will feel quite *you*.  There will always be a disconnect between your real identity and values and what you’re working on and achieving.

Inspired participation is being comfortable making decisions that might seem crazy but feel absolutely right.  It doesn’t mean you know exactly what will happen, it just means that you trust yourself enough to operate at the boundaries of your life when necessary. It’s what makes it okay to take the road less travelled.

Tell me in the comments where you might be missing a little inspired participation, and what you’d do with it.

May 30

I tweeted yesterday how much I’m looking forward to not tweeting about being sick.  Really, it would be funny if it wasn’t so old.

Right now it’s an absolutely stunning day outside and I’d normally be out there making the most of it, but I’m indoors because it hurts to move.  Everything aches, from my eyeballs to my toes.

So the reason for this post is to simply let you know that there won’t be any posts for a week or so, until I get my blogging legs back.  I’ve even cancelled clients, which I hate doing.

Blogging experts say that not posting for a while is like committing blogging suicide, but I have to listen to what my body’s telling me and just rest for a while, and to be honest anything I was to write now wouldn’t be up to scratch.  Part of me is trying to convince myself that I can still write and post, but I’ve decided to continue the theme of making decisions that serve me well and am listening to the part of me that knows better.

I’m off for a nap.  See you soon.

Nov 10

Big scary tigerHuman beings are hard-wired not to change. That’s why we find it easier to stay where we are than to move forwards. Forwards is unknown. Forwards could spell danger. Go forwards and you might get eaten by a ruddy great big tiger.

Okay, while getting eaten by a tiger isn’t up there as a common risk these days (tell that to Tarzan), we still have long-running traits and mechanisms left over from thousands of years ago. One of these is that we all develop a belief system that allows us to attach meaning to the world and everything in it.

I do it, you do it, everyone does it. A human being without a belief system is like the sea without a tide, a football game without a score, a computer without a program, an egg without salt, a honeymoon without a big bed or like Tom without Jerry. You get the picture.

It looks the same, but the essence isn’t there.

It’s this belief system that allows us to derive meaning from events and to put our lives into context. Your belief system also allows you to develop opinions on anything from the best washing powder to the best President. It’s actually pretty darn brilliant, but the trouble is that because this belief system is developed over the course of your lifetime it quite literally becomes woven into your brain – your brain develops pathways to assimilate information efficiently and attach meanings based on what it believes to be true. And that makes it hard to step away from. It makes it hard to change your mind.

Like fellow coach (in a much sunnier part of the world) Tim Brownson, I love it when I see people change their minds about something they believed to be right, because it means they’ve got the balls to be wrong. As Tim wrote recently, “It often takes guts and strength of character to change your mind because first and foremost you have to accept that you got it wrong originally”, and I have to agree.

Nice and clean underwearHave a belief that Daz is the best washing powder and that nothing else gets your clothes cleaner and you’ll be buying Daz year after year after year. Even if another product comes along that gets your shirts so incandescently, resplendently white that God starts using it to wash his Calvins, you still might shrug it off as “not for me”.

Have a belief that a black Democrat can’t be President of the USA and you’ll be buying the Republican ticket because you’re convinced that your position is right. Even if said Democrat becomes President you’ll justify it with a chain of reasoning that fits with your belief that the Republican candidate was the better choice.

The same goes with other, more personal things too.

I have a client who believed that she’s not special. She’s developed this belief over many years, and it gives her sanctuary. Even though it’s a place that confines her, it’s a place she knows and it’s a place she finds comfort and normalcy.

She’s wrong.

When I challenged her to see what makes her special – her fantastic sense of humour, her ability to bring the best out of people and her tremendous spirit – she at first recoiled from it. There wasn’t space for it in her belief system, there wasn’t a place for it in her filing cabinet marked ‘Me’.

So I kept on challenging her, showing her the evidence and not letting her hide from what she was. And then there was that fantastic moment when she admitted she’d been wrong, a moment where she created a new belief that fitted with who she was instead of who her old belief system told her she was.

What are you hanging on to?She had the guts and confidence to allow herself to be wrong, and that gave her more guts and confidence than she ever knew she could have.

I want you to look at your opinions. I want you to look at your beliefs. What are you hanging onto simply because admitting you’re wrong is too uncomfortable, too scary or too unthinkable?

What do you believe that’s holding you back? What do you believe that’s getting in your own way?

If you could be wonderfully, fantastically wrong about something that would open up a whole world of potential, what would you rush at being wrong about?

Being wrong is the new being right. Get in ahead of the crowds.

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