The Myth of Confidence
Episode #1, Firmsconsulting TV
I understand the challenges you face. At age 25 I was an immigrant with poor English, no degree and earning $500/month as a receptionist: as described in my biography. Via Firmsconsulting TV I hope others can learn from my experience of overcoming a challenging background to become a rapidly promoted management consultant, a banking director and FC partner.
Live the life you deserve. If I could do it, you can do it.
SHORTENED TRANSCRIPT OF THIS EPISODE:
Today let’s talk about the myth of confidence.
I will start with a personal story that illustrates the myth of confidence. At the beginning of my career I was working in the research back office of a major international consulting firm. At that time, I had recently transferred from my previous job where I was serving as a receptionist and an office manager at a small defense company. Yes, I was a front desk receptionist at some point in my career.
My day job in the back office was to do research to support consultants on projects. Yet, I joined the back office with a goal of becoming a management consultant.
Shortly after I was hired I volunteered in my free time to help on a strategy project, where a team of consultants were helping a financial services client enter the Eastern European market. At that time, while we were doing many things, one particular event demonstrates very well the myth of confidence.
When for an important decision, one consultant on the project insisted we should do x and I insisted we should do y. Obviously the consultants were far more highly qualified. They had amazing degrees from great schools, with much more experience than I had. I was not even a consultant.
From an outsider’s perspective, I had no leg on which to stand. Yet, I still insisted that we do y. Eventually, after much debate, everyone agreed with me and we went with my suggestion.
If you look at this situation you will probably think to yourself, “Wow, Kris was so confident!” But the reality is that I was not that confident.
I would say that even when I was invited to join the strategy practice full time a few weeks after this event, which meant I reached my goal of becoming a management consultant, and even when I was promoted a few months later, my confidence did not go up that much.
When I was promoted again 5 months later, I did not slay all my confidence issues.
Later on when I did my MBA, went into banking and got promoted within six months, I still had some confidence problems.
And now, even though I am partner at Firmsconsulting, I am not 100% confident. But I get the job done and this is what counts. This is why the team went with my suggestion.
We’re trained to believe that you need to be confident to succeed. We are taught to fix our confidence problems first before trying anything. This is what we learn from the media, our peers, MBA programs, training we attend in the corporate world, online courses and books. And I don’t believe this is true.
It is not true based on my own experience and based on what I have seen working with executives when I was a management consultant and a banker, and now at Firmsconsulting working with executive clients.
You can be supremely confident but be very unproductive, lack crucial skills, have inadequate work ethic and as a result be unsuccessful. On the other hand, you can be very productive, do big important things and be very successful, but also lack confidence.
So we need to avoid getting caught in this enormous arms race where we focus on getting degrees from amazing schools and work experience at prestigious organizations before we feel we will be ready to even start thinking about doing our life’s work. Because this results in losing years upon years of our life, and a lot of money, trying to get ready to go after our goals and dreams. And if we wait until we are ready, it may be too late.
I went to a great MBA program but I did not wait for my MBA before I went out to pursue my professional dreams.
I made the transition to management consulting when I was working at a defense company as a front desk receptionist and an office manager. People around me did not believe my goals were realistic. I went into a research role and worked my way into becoming a management consultant. So I didn’t get caught up in the arms race. I focused on doing the best work I could in every role.
We need to trust in our abilities and get on with doing things. So focus on getting things done right now. Play the cards you were given without waiting to pile up enough accomplishments so you can feel you are READY to conquer the world.
When I was working as a receptionist, it was a pretty horrible job if you think about it. I was carrying heavy bags from the postal office, by foot, under the blazing tropical sun, in a little bit of high heels, not stilettos but high heels so I would look professional. And this was not a role that a 25-year-old young woman should be doing. But I did it.
My philosophy then as my philosophy now is that when you take any role, you must do it to the very best of your abilities. You cannot say, “Well, this is beneath me and I should not be doing this”. You do any role as well as you can. And you transform the role into something important.
You learn skills that are required for your current role and then you transition into another, more important, role. I learned that from Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of HP, who also started her career as a receptionist.
In fact, at some point in her career she was a temporary secretary at HP. How many people go all the way from temporary secretary to CEO of a huge corporation? She is one of a kind!
If you develop that kind of mentality, you develop a reputation for getting things done. And if you develop a reputation for getting things done, people will want to hire you.
Every single minute you focus on building your confidence, you wasting a minute not focusing on getting the job done. And we are all busy. We are all tired. We are all making sacrifices every single day. You want to focus on getting the job done. Because you don’t have time to waste.
And the reality is that while you may never be 100% confident, it’s more important to get things done than to focus on being confident. Because you can end up being confident without achieving anything worthwhile.
I want you to remember that it does not matter where you begin. It matters how you approach what you have been given. You cannot just accept your lot in life and say, “Well, the lottery of life means I am 25. I have no degree. I am working as a front desk receptionist and this is my life”. No, you cannot accept that.
You have to take the responsibility by saying, “Look, all other things being equal I should not be successful but I am not willing to accept that. I’m not going to allow a lack of confidence to hold me back. I am not going to allow a lack of opportunity to hold me back. I will take the opportunities given. Do the best possible job I can. And put myself into position so when the right opportunity comes up I can seize it and move forward”.
I believe that it doesn’t matter where you come from. It doesn’t matter the circumstances you had. You can have the professional and personal life you want, and deserve, and are entitled to.
Play the cards you have been given right now. Don’t wait until you pile up enough credentials. Take action towards your dreams today. Even if you don’t feel ready.
Remember that confidence is not an achievement. It is a feeling. So forget for a moment about how you are feeling. Just do it.
You owe it to yourself and to the world to realize your potential, to do the work you were born to do and live the life you were meant to live. Believe you are entitled to have a career and life you deserve, no matter what.
If I could do it, you can do it!
CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: Now lets make sure this episode of FirmsconsultingTV will help you. For the next week I challenge you to do one thing that you feel you are not confident enough or ready enough to do. Just do one thing to get you closer to the career and life you want. And if you have any thoughts or insights on this topic, please share in the comments.
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