By 1983, I had gone through a seemingly endless ownership of cars that at best could be classified as jalopies and at worst, environmental hazards. Whether it was a cloud of grey and blue noxious plumes following behind as I sputtered down the street, unfortunate passengers sitting in rain soaked back seats courtesy of a broken window I couldn’t afford to fix, or a cracked gas tank that created a nauseating interior fragrance with a scent that you couldn’t buy for 99 cents at the car wash, I had suffered the best of “drive around the block to avoid valet embarrassment” cars.
Shockingly, in September of that year, a car dealer deep in the San Fernando Valley decided to take a risk on a young advertising media planner and handed over the keys to a brand spanking new car…along with a 48 month loan with payments half the size of my monthly take home pay.
It was a beauty. A maroon, T-Top Pontiac Firebird with leather seats and a radio that actually worked.
Within moments of getting those keys in my hand, I was blazing up Highway 1, hair whipping in the wind, and an 8 track cassette of the Rocky anthem “Eye of the Tiger” blasting so loud it was creating reverb inside my sleek new ride.
As I started to sing at the top of my lungs and fist pump through the open T-Top every time the verse “Rising Up to the Challenge of Our Glory” played, I felt powerful.
The power from just shifting a car with that much horsepower was part of it, but it was more. I knew in that moment that a lot of years of working hard had paid off, not only because I was finally able to purchase a new car but also because I was starting a career that I never thought I would have.
I had accomplished something that I didn’t think I could and someone had recognized that accomplishment and entrusted me to keep achieving, at least for 48 more months.
Suddenly, I was exuberantly in search of a valet.
As a leader, recognizing that it’s those small turning points that give us, and our teams, confidence is what allows us to pull from those moments when we feel less sure of ourselves.
It’s what moves us from tentative, fearful, and stuck to courageous, bold, and successful.
It’s no wonder, then, that so many senior executives and business owners who I have worked with list as their number #1 area to work on as “building unshakable confidence.”
You can learn all of the business strategies and techniques in the world but if you don’t have confidence, particularly when the chips are down, to accomplish what you need to, none of it matters.
Here are some strategies for sharpening your mental edge and that of your team:
- Notice the small moments- we have a tendency to spend far more time lamenting our failures rather than celebrating our successes. If you can’t remember how specific achievements have moved you forward, it’s hard to draw on them to give you confidence in new or difficult situations. When you do well pause for a moment, recognize the feeling, say out loud that “you crushed it” even if you’re only saying it to yourself in the shower, and give yourself a little grin of satisfaction. You have to spend enough intentional time with the “feeling” in order to pull from it when you need that edge.
- Have an anthem- It may sound touchy feely but having a soundtrack of heart pumping, confidence inspiring songs in your head that you can pull from when you need a boost really does amp up your mental edge. There’s a reason movies use music to set a mood. To this day, “Eye of the Tiger” is the song that is in my head when I need an instantaneous shot of confidence.
- Visualize what success looks like- A big reason my 1983 ride up Highway 1 felt so good was that it drew on multiple sensations at once so both the picture and the feeling of that moment is vivid in my mind. That day, I felt the power of the car and the wind in my hair, I smelled the leather of the new car seats, and I verbalized the words to the song. When you’re feeling a little shaky in a new or challenging situation, the ability to visualize what success will look like in vivid detail, pulling on as many emotions as possible to create that picture, will drive stronger confidence and mental edge.
- Trust, even if it’s a stretch- The ability to put trust in yourself or in your team is easy when things are smooth. It takes confidence to take that leap of faith when success means stretching beyond past accomplishments. 48 months of payments half the size of my take home pay was a stretch but someone put faith in me that I could handle it. And I trusted myself that I could also, even though I had never done it before. Sometimes you just have to enjoy the ride.
- Feel good about yourself-Having a jalopy shouldn’t have caused me to “hide out” around the block from valet, but it did. The confidence to put yourself out there where you can be seen means that you have to have strong self-image. If you feel like a jalopy, you’re going to hide. Be honest about whether there is something about your present self-image that is holding you back…and then make any necessary changes. People with a strong mental edge never hesitate to park in valet.