Friday, January 15, 2010

"Show Time:" A Fast Way to Gain Confidence

By nature, I'm an introverted, mildly sad person. Of course, if I were to behave that way at work, I'd be less helpful to my career coaching clients and to listeners to my radio shows.

So before starting work, I literally say to myself, "Show Time:" I pretend I'm my most energetic, upbeat self. Forcing myself into that mode actually makes me feel more upbeat. Yes, fake it 'til you make it. It really is like that old song, "Whistle a Happy Tune:" When I fool the people...I fool myself as well." All that song's lyrics are instructive, so here's a link to them. At that site, you also can make that song a ringtone on your cell phone.

Also helping to keep me upbeat is my recognizing that even world-class experts are often wrong. CEOs lose millions of shareholder dollars, graduates of top medical schools kill patients, Al Gore predicted rapid, devastating global warming, after which there has been a decade of flat or declining average global temperatures with many experts predicting no increase for another 10 to 15 years. Indeed Nicholas Kristof in a New York Times article summarized research that finds that expert predictions are little better than a chimpanzee's. So while I do my best to be smart and I acknowledge my extent of ambiguity on an issue, my awareness of humans' great fallibility, enables me to sally forth without undue hesitation.

I'm also made more confident by maintaining a sense of perspective. My advice is unlikely to make that much difference: The recipients may not follow it or they may follow it and it won't improve their life much. Too, I remember that I'm but one of seven billion people on the planet, in a tiny slice of the infinity of time. Yes, I try, absolutely, to give the best counsel I can, and I spend much reading, studying, learning so that my advice is the best possible. But I don't overinflate my advice's import.

Other techniques that may help you be your most confident self when it's Show Time:
  • For some people, clothes indeed make the man (or woman.) Dress in the way that makes you feel most confident. Chris, the client, who I just finished a videoskype session with, said that wearing his father's watch makes him act more confidently.
  • Join Toastmasters. It's a supportive way to gain poise and public speaking skills. It's also a terrific networking opportunity.


Cornhusker said...


I am also introverted and somewhat sad. (The latter is due to nature and nurture.) After decades of talk therapy (including cognitive) and 10 different anti-depressants, nothing has changed. I still feel the same. What has been your experience? Has therapy or medication worked for you?

Marty Nemko said...

I've never taken antidepressaants and don't want to.

Therapy made me WORSE--more self-absorbed and introspective. That's the opposite of what I needed.

Best for me is to be busy.

Jason Ribeiro said...

Marty, great post, this is good advice.

We all need to put on our work personality just like another article of clothing in the morning.

We all have experiences at work (and personal life) with conflict and difficult people. Some of the best advice I ever received was from a priest who said when someone criticizes you immediately tell yourself "that's information, data" so as to neutralize your impulse to react. It can be hard to train oneself to do this but it's a great attribute of a good work personality.

Dave said...

I was on the radio for 20 years myself, and felt it was a magical job. My finger would tap the mic's green "on" button, and for a few hours anyway it would BE a good day. I envisioned individuals--many of whom I met over the years--sitting by their radios, and I was so flattered and grateful that my spirits would naturally be lifted. It was always a two-way communication, even though I was the one doing the talking.

Later I learned, through Dale Carnegie and other readings, to "act the way I wish to feel," and that's been a vital lesson which I've road tested through a rotten divorce, downsizing, etc. In a perfect world, happiness wouldn't be a self-con job, but this philosophy really does help. Just because it's deliberate doesn't mean it's insincere. Happy feels better than sad, so that's the choice I try to make.

BTW, Gretchen Rubin's blog on "The Happiness Project" has lots of good ideas on the topic her book has just been published.

Another great post, Marty! I read and refer to your stuff often (especially with my 20-year-old son).

Marty Nemko said...

Thank you, kindred spirit, Dave. Yes, every time the light comes on, I feel grateful to share what I know, believe, and/or feel with thousands of people. What a privilege! I feel the same about this blog. It now gets 6,000 page views a week or 300,000 a year. Wow.


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