The Skill of Self Confidence by Dr. Ivan Joseph
In my past life as a soccer coach, once you won a national championship, everyone wants to come play for you.
Really not true. Once you paid them $25,000 a year in scholarships, everybody wants to come play for you. And parents would always come to me and they’d say: “Okay, my son or my daughter wants to come play at your university, what is it that we have to do? You know, what are you looking for?”
And being the Socratic professor that I am, I say, well, what does your son or daughter do? What do they do really well that we’d be interested in? And typically their answers are, well, they’ve got great vision. They’re really good. They can see the entire field. Or, my daughter is the fastest player, there’s nobody that can beat her. Or, my son’s got a great left-footer. Really great in the air and can hit every ball.
I’m like: “Yeah, not bad; but to be quite honest with you, those are the last things I’m looking for. The most important thing? Self-confidence.”
Without that skill, and I use the word skill intentionally, without that skill, we are useless as a soccer player. Because when you lose sight or belief in yourself, we’re done for.
I use the definition of self-confidence to be the ability or the belief to believe in yourself, to accomplish any task, no matter the odds, no matter the difficulty, no matter the adversity. The belief that you can accomplish it – self-confidence.
Some of you are saying, “Great, I don’t have it. I’m so shy. I’ll never do that, bla, bla, bla.”
And you start to drag all the way down here. But, I use the word skill because I believe it can be trained. And I’ll show you a couple of ways in which we do. Hopefully I won’t run out of time. I don’t use any slides because my speech always goes here, or here, or here. So we’ll see which way we get to.
The easiest way to build self-confidence: there’s no magic button. I can’t say: “Hey, this plane is going down, who can fly? Put your hand up.”
“I can, I’m confident!”
Repetition, repetition, repetition. Right?
What does Malcom Gladwell call it, the 10,000-hour rule? There’s no magic button.
I recruited a goalie from Colombia, South America one year. Big, tall 6’3″ man. You know, he had hands like stone. I thought he was like Flipper. Every time I threw him the ball, down, onto the ground. I was like, oh my god, we’re in trouble.
Simple solution: get to the wall, kick a ball against the wall and catch it. Kick the ball against the wall and catch it.
His goal was 350 a day for eight months. He came back, his hands were calloused, the moisture on his hands were literally gone, he is now playing in Europe. Magic? No.
Repetition, repetition, repetition.
The problem is, we expect to be self-confident but we can’t be unless the skill, or the task we’re doing, is not novel, is not new to us. We want to be in a situation where we have so much pressure in that and what I mean, because pressure builds diamonds, we want to be in a situation where “Hey, I’ve done this a thousand times”.
I did my speech, and I practiced in front of a mirror: bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla. Hey I’m sounding good. And then I went in front of my kids, and my wife. I said, oh gosh, I got a little nervous.
Then I’d get in front of Glenn Gould, Oh my goodness, I am a little more nervous!
By the time I get to the ACG, where 2,500 people, can’t say anymore, right? Twenty-five hundred people, where twenty-five hundred people are there, I won’t have a single ounce of nervousness because of my ability to practice. Right?
Over, and over, and over, again.
The problem with repetition is: how many of us bail after the first bit of failure? How many of us bail after the first bit of adversity? Edison was on that video, and it depends who you ask, there’s anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 tries to build that light bulb. 1,000 to 10,000.
J.K Rowling should be on that video. Do you know how many publishers she took her Harry Potter book to? I believe the number was 12 or 13…I am pretty confident but after two or three no’s I’d be like: “damn it!”.
After six or seven, I’m like: “maybe not!” Definitely after nine or ten, I’d be looking to be a soccer coach or something else besides an author. Right?
I mean, twelve times somebody said no. But, practice, practice, practice, and do not accept failure.
Maybe it shouldn’t be repetition, maybe the answer should be persistence. Because we all repeat something but very few of us really will persist. So that’s one way to build self-confidence.
Get out there. Do what you want to do and do not accept no.
The other one is self-talk. We all have a self-talk tape that plays in our head. Anybody go shopping and put on a pair of pants this week? If you’re a woman, the first thing that always comes: “Damn I look fat in these pants!.”
And if you’re a man, it’s the opposite: “Oh god, I got no muscle, I’m so flabby!” Right? We all have this tape that plays in our head.
As a student, if they asked me the question, it was like: “Oh, gee please professor don’t pick me, I don’t know the answer.” I’d look down. Right?
If you’re in the b…when I, let me tell you something, and the VP of business admin is here, I shouldn’t repeat this, but when they hired me as an athletics director, I sat in an architect’s meeting, and I am as dumb as a post when it comes to anything to do with numbers and angles.
And they are like: the fundibulator valve of the architectural, uh, what do you think doctor Joseph? Uh, let me look into that for you and get back to you. Right?
I was in a, oh god god, please don’t ask me, please don’t ask me. We all have this negative self-talk that goes in our head.
Guess what? There’s enough people that are telling us we can’t do it. That we’re not good enough. Why do we want to tell ourselves that? We know for a fact that thoughts influence actions. We saw it there with the video Sheldon, Dr. Levy showed.
We know that our thoughts influence actions, why do we want to say that negative self-talk to ourselves? We need to get our own self-affirmations. Muhammad Ali, what was his self-affirmation? I am the greatest! Who else is going to tell you?
There need to be quiet moments in your bedroom, quiet moments when you’re brushing your teeth. That we need to reaffirm: “I am the captain of my ship and the master of my fate!” That is my affirmation.
I came from a school of one thousand people, I lived in a town of one thousand people for fifteen years; there’s no reason that I should be in charge of an Athletics department, building maple leaf gardens. But I am the captain of my ship and the master of my fate.
If I don’t say it, if I don’t believe it, no one else will.
How do you build self-confidence? Get away from the people who will tear you down. There’s enough of that.
Muhammad Ali, I am the greatest! There is no one better than me. There’s a difference between hubris, and ego, and false pride. It’s just reminding yourself in quiet silent moments, I put it down on a list, it’s right beside my mirror, right? about all the things that make me who I am.
Because I make enough mistakes, and the newspapers will recognize it, and people around me will recognize it; and they’ll tear me down, and pretty soon I’ll begin to believe it.
There was a time when my confidence was really low. There was a time when I took this job when I came from Iowa, I don’t know if I could do it. I had to bring out my self-confidence letter. A letter I wrote to myself when I was feeling good. Ivan, congratulations on getting your PhD before 40. Congra…I am 40, under. Congratulations on winning a national championship. Good job on raising three good kids and marrying the right woman.
I wrote a letter to myself, it was my own brag sheet. My own letter about the things I was proud of. Because there are moments, and we’ll all experience them in our career, in our lives, in our job hunting, in our relationships; when we are not feeling good about who, and what, and where we are.
And I had to bring out that letter and read it time and time again, for a period of about two weeks, to weather me through that storm. It was important.
Stop the negative self-talk. If you watch you’ll see some athletes that have a little bandage, or a little brand around them.
Lance Armstrong is a perfect one. What’s his self-affirmation? Livestrong isn’t a brand, it was to remind him of who he was. Live strong. Then it became a brand. He would move that from one arm to the next arm, when doubt and fear came into his mind. Live strong, put it on there, let’s go. We’ll all have it, we place it.
Two ways to build self-confidence.
I’m worried about my time, I’m going to tell you of one way you can build self-confidence in others. We are coaches and educators, we are teachers, we are people who will create value in the world; and in doing that, we are critical by the nature of what we do.
I am a coach, I want you to score a goal. The ball went over high. “Dang it!” The ball went high! “Thank you coach, I know that. Feedback tells me that.”
So what do we do? I need you to put your elbow here, I need you to put your knee over the ball, I need you to follow through. Boom. Land. Great.
Notice, I never made it as a professional. What can we do? We fix mistakes. When I’m fixing that mistake: “Johnny, this is terrible, you need to bend your knee, you need to do this, this.”
What have I done to Johnny’s self-confidence? Bend your knee, then do this, then do this. Next thing you know, Johnny’s crushed. Ignore what Johnny does wrong and find Bob or Sally or Freda over here. Great goal Freda, I love how you kept your knee low, you followed through, and you landed like this. Great job!
Johnny: “Oh?” Great! Johnny’s not demoralized. His confidence isn’t shot, and what I’ve done is, I’ve built up Freda’s. Imagine how we could change the way we parented kids. Instead of: “get that glass off the counter, what’s wrong with you?”
If we catch the mother, good. Great job! Great job. Thank you Alice for taking your glass to the counter. It sounds simple but we forget about it. Or as educators, or as somebody as a team, if we manage to praise the positive behavior that we wanted to reinforce. We forget it. It sounds so simple.
Catch them when they’re good. We forget it. It’s simple.
Here’s what they did.
There was a study in Kansas that did this. They did video, and we all do video. And we show the video of them doing the run of the play: “Um, this goal happened because the basket wasn’t protected, we didn’t rotate here, right? We needed to do this and then cover the slot.”
And, if that’s the baseline, improvement of the Kansas State team went like this. Then, they said they ignored all of that and they just showed them the times they did it right. The times they did it perfect. That presented no goals, spoke to the same points, improvement went like that.
It changed and revolutionized the way we as coaches interact with our student athletes. We can apply that to the business world, we can apply that to our student group works, we can apply that to our management teams.
Easily: catch them when they are good.
Last and certainly not least. My son is really good at this. Self-confident people interpret feedback the way they choose to. I ask my son who is by the far a terrible, terrible athlete, gets it from his dad.
The game’s…How’s the game? Oh great! I scored three goals, I got two assists. I’m like: “I did not see him touch the puck!” But he has his own perception of how he did! I love it!
Right? I’m the…I’m that guy! I’m like: “I remember when I was taking when I met my wife, it was in the commons. “Paulie, would you like to go to the movies? Ladies? Tingly, tingly, tingle.”
And she goes: “Ah, no.” I asked her again. Because I think that she just hasn’t seen me in the right light.
Maybe, that’s not the wrong shirt on. Right? Because I’m interpreting that the way I want to interpret it.
Finally I asked her out again. She gave me this one comment, right? Or, she sent it to her friend. Because that’s the way you did it back then. “She wouldn’t date you unless there was the last person on Earth, hell was freezing over, there was a small chance we had to save the planet Earth. Some people, it’s like, there’s no chance.
I’m like: “You’re saying there’s a chance.” Right? Because that’s how I’m going to interpret it. If I could give you one thing to take from this, it is: no one will believe in you unless you do.
Listen to the words of that video, here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. We’re supposed to be different, folks. And when people look at us, believe in yourself.