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Content Marketing & SEO Blog

Blog about startup growth strategies revolving around content marketing, SEO, CRO, and social media marketing.

Riding on self-confidence

Sean Smith

The other night I was watching the movie "We Bought a Zoo" for the first time and an ideal stood out to me. The ideal of "20 seconds of blind courage" and the impact that it can have on your life. "20 seconds of absolute courage is all you need to change your life forever." I thought about how this related to me and my life and how absolutely true it is. How blind courage, and un-backed confidence has altered me in some absolutely incredible ways.

Confidence seems to be the catalyst to some of the most incredible achievements and happenings in my life. From asking out the most incredible girl i've ever been with, to putting on a show in the interview that landed me my first agency job at 19 years old. 

There's an expression in mountain biking of "Riding on Confidence" which instead of 20 seconds of courage is present about 90% of the time in mountain biking. You don't have time to turn on and off your confidence, you have to keep moving. You have to ride on confidence, you have to be switched on. Losing confidence on the bike means less momentum, less belief in yourself, less aggression, more room for failure and less chance of success. You fall, you get hurt, you get frustrated, you lose even more confidence and it's a battle to get it back. In mountain biking, especially downhill you have split second decisions that are carried out nearly entirely by your subconscious instincts. There is no room to consciously think "I have to graze my tire slightly off of the lip of this berm or I'll slide in and crash into these rocks at 25mph" no, you do it off of sheer reaction.   

Confidence lies in the subconscious. That's where it has to be, but nothing comes to the subconscious without first being a conscious practice. We must discover confidence and how it acts in our lives before we can routinize it and let it impact us on a consistent basis. This becomes not 20 seconds of blind courage, but constant realistic belief in yourself for no apparent reason other than you know you should.

In mountain biking as in ordinary life you don't know your capability of success until you do something astonishing that you know is beyond your perception of possibility. Each accomplishment of this sort increases your personal level of confidence, it makes it closer to your subconscious. It revitalizes your trust in your own capability. These are the experiences you need to facilitate, go after, endure and overcome. The more you have the more you will be wanting the next to occur, until you are addicted to the feeling of overcoming the barriers that your mind tells you are present. 

"The only limits are the ones you set yourself" - Felix Baumgartner

Experiences like this do not have to be associated with an extreme sport in any way, there are plenty of perceptual barriers. Social barriers, business barriers, communication barriers, each just as thrilling to break down as the last.  

Tim Ferriss expressed this in one of his talks at Princeton University and wrote about it on his blog and in his book "The 4-Hour Workweek."  

He had the students who were present at his lecture make a list of high-level celebrities, public officials, business executives and general "higher-ups" and made each of them contact and get a response from at least one of the people on their list.

The interesting thing was on the first attempt not one person even tried to contact anyone on the list. They were so paralyzed by fear of failure that they didn't even attempt it.  These are ivy league scholars who "should be" running high level companies and leading the world one day, yet they can't even form an email to a supposed "higher up."

Another interesting point of the test is that Tim knew that they wouldn't. He actually set the stipulations of the test as anyone who attempted to get a response from someone on their list would win the challenge and get the reward he set forth. When he came back the next day he reiterated the test and urged them all on again.

“I believe that success can be measured in the number of uncomfortable conversations you’re willing to have. I felt that if I could help students overcome the fear of rejection with cold-calling and cold e-mail, it would serve them forever” he said.

And as expected, after a little more urging on, this was the outcome. 

“It’s easy to sell yourself short, but when you see classmates getting responses from people like [former president] George Bush, the CEOs of Disney, Comcast, Google, and HP, and dozens of other impossible-to-reach people, it forces you to reconsider your self-set limitations.”

Each one of these situations would break down so many perceived barriers in your mind of what you are capable of that your confidence will undoubtably grow by leaps and bounds.

‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ You won’t believe what you can accomplish by attempting the impossible with the courage to repeatedly fail better.” - Samuel Beckett

NLP practitioners such as Tony Robbins and Paul McKenna always enforce the idea of "what would you do if you knew you couldn't fail" to their students to make them really see what they truly want and how in their heart of hearts they would currently go about doing it. Letting yourself think in the realm of "if I couldn't fail" lets you tear down the thought boundaries that keep you from elaborating more deeply on how you would carry out what you truly want to do. Once you are free to think about what you truly want to do, the answers for how you would go about doing them come very clearly. 

Next on the list comes rationalizing the true "worst case scenario" of what you want to do. Typically what you want to do won't have dire circumstance. In which case, you already know how you want to proceed from previous steps, so it can really make you think "eh, what the fuck, let's go for it." If the worst case scenario doesn't leave you absolutely crippled with no chance of revival or a large percent chance of death, it's probably worth doing. If someone can rationalize jumping out of a plane with no parachute, you can rationalize sending an email to Bill Gates.

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Michael Scott.. but really.

Inaction is as poisonous as defeat.

"By being a racing driver you are under risk all the time. Being a racing driver means you are racing with other people. And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, we are competing to win. And the main motivation to all of us is to compete for victory, it's not to come 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th. I race to win as long as I feel it's possible. Sometimes you get it wrong? Sure, it's impossible to get it right all the time. But I race designed to win, as long as I feel I'm doing it right." - Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna was a man beyond limits, he lived as a prodigy of the track. In formula one he is regarded to this day as one of the greatest drivers to ever live. Michael Schumacher who won 4 more world championships than Senna even praises him as the greatest driver to ever grace the track. When you live beyond the limit, sometimes you are brought back to them. As Senna was killed in a crash on the Imola race circuit in Italy on May, 1st 1994. He was the last formula one fatality. 

This is the harsh reality of living beyond your limits. Though Ayrton knew the "worst case scenario" every time he stepped foot inside his 1,000 horsepower turbo-charged formula one car. He had the blind confidence, and faith in his purpose to push forward, through odds, through what was thought to be possible, through rain and rough weather to envelop his competition in absolute astonishment as he leapt into the record books and into history as the greatest formula one driver to ever live.  

I could say do not doubt yourself because you are capable of more than you could ever comprehend, but it would be folly. You will doubt yourself, you will bash yourself, you will think you can't succeed or shouldn't. Right up until the moment you do.

What matters is that you take that step, you take that leap of faith and stretch beyond that limit of comfort to grasp the victory that waits for you on the other side.

Ride with confidence, build your belief in yourself, and even when your belief isn't enough take that leap and realize your strength is greater than you perceive.