Last week someone asked me how I build enough confidence to be active in the networking environment. I honestly had no idea how to respond. Then this week happened and inspired my response. I hope this helps someone dealing with a confidence dilemma…
Athletes need to consume a lot more calories than most of us. Why? Because they spend those calories running marathons or getting hit by 250-pound linebackers. If you or I consumed as many calories as an athlete and then sat on the couch, we’d get fat, right? We don’t need that many calories, if we’re not converting them to physical energy. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly running hills everyday and the last time I was hit by a 250-pound linebacker was when security kicked me out of an Eagles game freshman year of college.
The same rule applies to confidence. People who are market-facing need to increase their intake of confidence if they hope to have enough stamina to be successful in the field. In our game, ego is the only thing that gets us through the bruises and cramps, and unless you’re constantly replenishing your supply, you’ll have a tough time making it to the fourth quarter. Similarly, if you’re constantly looking for ego boosts only to go home everyday and sit on the couch, your perception of self-worth will become inflated and well… fat.
If you don’t believe that being active in the market exhausts your confidence, give it try. Get off your metaphorical couch and run around the block a few times. See how quickly your doubled-over, cramped, and sore from “man, that person hated me for some reason… that guy is so much better than me… do I not belong here?… why did I say that one thing?… I guess I talked too much about my kids… that was awkward… I think I came-on a little too strong… that joke got zero laughs…” As with athletes, if you want to recover and get stronger and faster, you’re eventually going to need to focus on your diet. Are you still surrounding yourself with fast food? Are you still surrounding yourself with people who remind you of your flaws and laugh at your failures? Here’s the problem…
There’s no Whole Foods for confidence. It’s not something you can buy and consume. You unfortunately can’t make an ego protein shake after bombing at a networking event. Replenishing your confidence can only come in the form of gifts from others. You need to surround yourself with people who you know will always give you the energy to run that extra mile. I learned that lesson again this week.
It was a rough one. I was sick all week with whatever plague my daughter brought home from daycare to share with daddy. Of course, I’m a guy, so having a cold requires a Days of Our Lives level of dramatic selling – sauntering from room-to-room wincing and grabbing my throat in hopes my wife will let me take a break from life’s chores this week. My kids are adorable and I love them, but at ages 2 and 1 their largest imports are attention and finances while their largest exports are poop and tears. Work overall is going really well, but this week was filled with unforeseen deadlines that consumed my calendar, pushing my regular workload to the evening hours. Emails vibrated my phone all day… one after another like drops of water on my forehead, slowly driving me mad. (There are probably 5 people reading this right now thinking, “he has time to write an article but not enough time to email me back?”) And to top it off, LinkedIn was nice enough to remind me that people aren’t reading my blog this week. Thanks for the head’s-up LinkedIn! You’re a peach. Sprinkle in a few other personal matters, and the end result was an “I just want to hide under the covers” type of week. Sound familiar? We all have them.
Yet here I was, late in the week, about to head to a small gathering of people I’ve never met before. Show time! Need to be “on”. Need to get my message across – be warm and welcoming with a smile beaming with confidence. Confidence? Wait.. confidence? Oh no. I’m all out! I’ve burned my last drop of confidence trying to get through this game of the week, and now we’re in OT. So I did what I’ve been trained to do. I went to my Confidence Whole Foods. People.
Bryan Leib, Bob Vogel, Derrick Monte Carlo, Tyler Carnall, Brian Campagna, Tiffany Tavarez, Vince Ferrara, Erin Gale, and of course my wife and family. I’m listing their names on purpose. I want to stress how many people you’ll need at times when your confidence is low. I needed all of them this week, and they knew it. They knew it because I told them. In the market-facing arena, just as you have to push yourself to the limits, you also have to know when you’re on ‘E’ and fuel-up. All of these people fueled my confidence in one way or another and gave me the ability to get back out there and shake hands (after using hand sanitizer – you know, germs and all).
Being active on the networking field unlocks a vulnerability that you need to appreciate. Like that burn in your quads after the 20th mile of a marathon. But there’s a reason lines of spectators extend cups of water in your face. Keep converting that confidence into energy in the market. Push yourself, and you’ll see, there are crowds of people that want you to succeed and are happy to provide you the fuel to keep going. Appreciate those people, be that person for others, and you’ll develop a healthy level of confidence to challenge your biggest interpersonal and social limits.
(note: This post was inspired by a friend yesterday who spent 30 minutes refueling my confidence, and reminded me that the best thought leaders are the ones who write about their personal experiences. I said, “yeah but that’s only going to leave me more vulnerable to criticism in the comment section.” To which he replied, “well, dude, that’s a part of the game now. Bulk up.”)
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