I’m writing this on May 31, the day after Memorial Day weekend. That weekend is more than a US holiday and the unofficial start of summer for me. It’s always the middle weekend of the French Open—one of the four tennis majors. While Wimbledon is already over as you read this, one of the matches at this year’s French Open was a great illustration of the importance of self-confidence and success.
Kim Clijsters, the second seed, lost in the second round to Arantxa Rus, the 114th ranked player in the world. Ms. Clijsters had won the two previous tennis majors—the 2011 Australian Open and 2010 US Open. If I were a betting man, I would have bet heavily on her to beat Arantxa Rus.
However, Ms. Clijsters lost two match points and 11 of the last 12 games to Ms. Rus. After the match, she said, “I starting doubting a little bit. When you start doubting yourself on any surface—but for me definitely on clay —it’s the wrong attitude to have.” Ms. Clijsters was eliminated from this year’s French Open because she lost her confidence.
Confidence is important in sports. It’s also important in product management and to your life and career success.
I have come up with five keys to building your self-confidence:
First, become an optimist. Optimism is the key to self confidence. If you aren’t optimistic about your chances of creating your career success, you will never do it. Optimism is a choice. Optimistic people believe that today will be better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better yet. Choose optimism and you’ll be on your way to being more self-confident.
Second, face your fears and act. We’re all afraid sometime. If you want a career success, you have to overcome your fear of failure and move forward. Procrastination is the physical manifestation of fear. The next time you find yourself procrastinating, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of here?” Once you identify your fear, do something. The worst that can happen is that you’ll learn what not do in similar situations in the future.
Third, surround yourself with positive people. Positive people will help you become more self-confident. Avoid negative people. As Tweet 50 in my career advice book, Success Tweets, says, “Jettison the negative people in your life. They are energy black holes. They will suck you dry; but only if you let them.” Cynics are negative. They may seem to be good company at first because they are witty. In the long run, you’ll find that their humor usually comes at the expense of others. They can drag you down if you spend too much time with them.
THE MENTOR IMPERATIVE
Fourth, find a mentor. Mentors are positive people by definition. They are willing to give of themselves to help others create their career success. You can learn a lot from your mentors. But I think the best thing you can learn is how to deal with setbacks and keep moving forward confidently.
Fifth, become a mentor. It’s never too early. There is always somebody who needs to learn what you already know. You never learn something as thoroughly as when you teach it to others. Becoming a mentor will help you learn the career success lessons in your experiences. This will help you build your self-confidence. Also, as you watch the people you help grow and move toward their career success, your self-esteem—and self-confidence— will grow.
The common sense point here is simple. If you want to succeed, you need to be self-confident. Remember the five keys: 1) choose optimism; 2) face your fears and act; 3) surround yourself with positive people; 4) work with a mentor; and 5) mentor others. And, follow the career advice in Tweet 52 in Success Tweets. “Identify the self-confident people you know. Pay attention to how they act and carry themselves. Watch what they do. Act like them.”