The Art of Confidence

My first day of high school, I tripped on the steps walking in.  True stuff, tripped on the steps, literally as I was walking in with tons of people outside watching.  Oh boy...

In homeroom that day the teacher asked us each to introduce ourselves with a nickname that started with the letter of our first name and then our first name.  So if your name was Bill, you might have said “Bashful Bill”.  When it was my turn, sweating profusely I said, “Joking Jim”.  Dead silence in the room. I was dying. To this day I still cringe at the memory and it remains one of my most embarrassing moments. Joking Jim.  Wow.

And it gets even better, check out this podcast episode to hear more...

In the first part of that freshman year I was a nobody.  Although I was in honors classes, I didn’t know anyone.  I was from a different state and they were all either guido Italian Catholics or Irish Catholics.  Many of the kids had gone to middle school together.  So fitting in wasn’t easy in a class of 280 freshman. So for some strange reason I decided to run for student council.  Don’t know why but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I remember the day of the elections because we all had to get up in front of the whole class and give a speech in the auditorium.

I think five kids went before I did.  They all basically gave the same speech I was about to give about “trying hard” and “making changes”, blah, blah, blah.  I remember thinking, Holy f*ck, my speech is going to suck.  Panic coursed over me as I thought that I’m going to go through high-school as “Joking Jim, the guy who gives shitty speeches and trips on stairs”. I got to the podium and started giving a boring speech.  I think I could hear yawns in the background and I could definitely hear myself mumbling.

It was at exactly that moment that I learned my first great lesson in life.

It was at that exact moment when the little voice in my head said, “F* this.” At that moment, I crumpled up my speech, tossed it over the podium and spoke to my classmates unrehearsed.  Not really sure what I told them but the gist was that if they elected me I would try hard and do what I could so we’d have a fun year.  I spoke from my 14 year old heart and held my breath.

When I was done I got the loudest applause of all the candidates. I won the election easily. The rest of the week, kids would come up to me and say “You were the kid who tossed his speech right?  So cool”.  My notoriety had skyrocketed and I had something more valuable than a fake ID. I had serious, catholic school street cred.

From that moment on the other kids looked at me differently.  I went on to be elected every single semester in high-school for the next 4 years.  I somehow managed to skip the usual cliques that sprout in high-school.  I had my close friends but also hung out with the jocks, the preppies, the guidos and the nerds. It all started because I tossed my speech and went off-script.

Looking back on it almost 25 years later and it’s crazy to think how such a small amount of confidence in yourself can change your life.  Just a small amount of saying “f*ck it” and leaping into the fire can really go a long way.  That experience, and others like it, have taught me severallessons:

  • Other people are drawn to confidence.  Even a tiny bit of confidence displayed at the right moment can move mountains. People like other people who are fearless.  It makes them feel safe, protected and better about themselves. Muhammad Ali was a black Muslim pacifist in a time of war in white America.  That dude had confidence and people loved him for it.
  • Confidence begets confidence.  When you show a little balls and things don’t go horribly wrong, it makes you even more confident for the next time you try something.  Success begets success. You now have a track record.
  • Nothing is more dangerous in the world than a man with confidence and a track record.
  • Confidence is like a volcano,  either it’s dormant or it’s active. If it’s active, you know it because everything is going your way.  Everything is just freaking easier about life.  When it’s dormant, your dog won’t even look you in the eye.  This is a key point.  We don’t lose confidence any more than we lose our ability to breathe.  We may not have it activated but at least we still have it.  Knowing that is somewhat comforting to me.

In my life in moments when I need it, activating confidence happens faster under 2 direct influencers:

  1. First, I remind myself of all of the successes in my life, all of the times that I came through and won.  Every single good thing I’ve done. I’ve literally made a list.  Try that sometime.  Make a list of everything you’re proud of accomplishing, big or small.  You’ll be surprised how big the list is.
  2. Second, I give myself some easy wins and escalate the challenges.  Running is a great example.  When I started running again 7 months ago I couldn’t go 2 miles without being exhausted. So I went slow. Really slow.  After a while I bumped the 2 to 3 and then to 5.  Before I knew it I was running 20+ miles a week no problem. I put myself in position to activate my confidence because I was experiencing new wins (albeit small) on a regular basis. Try it out and see how easy it is to build momentum this way.

Confidence is a game we all play in our heads.  The sooner we master it and learn how to activate it, the more enjoyable our lives become.

Remember that it is in each one of us.  We can’t lose it any more than we can lose our ability to breathe.  And if we lose it then, it won’t really matter anyway…


Hey, this is Jim Simcoe. Welcome to Podcast Episode Number 2. Today, we're going to talk all about confidence. Today is, actually, March 22nd and it's a gorgeous Sunday day, here, in San Diego. Today is, actually, my birthday, so I am wanting to celebrate. One of the things I'm doing today is to do this podcast, then I'm going to go to the beach with the family and maybe go surfing, but I wanted to record this, first.

Today is all about confidence. I, really, think that having an epic life and being able to live an epic life comes down to a couple of things. One of them is being confident in yourself and being confident in your abilities, your talents and your strengths. I think, too often we look at other people and we think that they've got all of their shit together and that we're a complete mess when in fact, what we see with other people is we're, really, seeing their highlight real, right? We see them walking around and we see them at their best or we see them, they only show up on social media, on Facebook, on Twitter at their best. We don't see them when they're crying, freaked out, fearful or whatever. We're comparing other peoples' highlight real to our everyday life. When you do that, obviously, you're probably going to lose.

We'll talk a lot about confidence and the perception of confident people. You can tell when someone is a confident person. They walk in a room and they seem like they've got the whole freaking thing wired. You can look at someone and be like, "Dude, that dude is super confident. That dude knows what he's talking about." We tend to elevate people who appear to be confident in themselves. Now, whether they're confident in themselves rightfully so, doesn't matter. We see someone who appears to be confident and we think that they're the shit.

Confidence is something, I believe, that is not only a strength, but it's something that is a tool that you use in whatever environment that you're in. We're going to talk a little bit about how you develop your confidence, but I'll tell you, coming from my story, one of my biggest times where I was confident, a seminal moment in my life, which started way, way, way back at high school in Providence, Rhode Island. I went to a small, private Catholic high school. It's called La Salle Academy. I'm from a small town in Massachusetts, called Attleboro. Attleboro is about half an hour from Providence. Back then, in 1984 it might as well have been 300 miles away, because obviously we didn't have internet. We didn't have Twitter. We didn't have Facebook. We didn't have of that stuff, so we didn't know anybody from another town.

I remember my very first day, my parents were dropping me off. My parents were committed to making sure I got a good Catholic education, so they shipped me off to this school in Providence. On the very first day, I get out of the car, got my uniform on and I'm walking up the steps. Every kid in the school is walking up the steps about a thousand kids outside walking up the front steps and I, actually, tripped. I, actually, tripped, dropped all my stuff and fell down.

Granted, I'm not even in the freaking school yet, and I've all ready tripped and, basically, completely embarrassed myself and I'd been out of my parents' car for, literally, a minute. As I drop all my books all over the place I'm thinking, "Jesus, you've got to be freaking kidding me. Like what in the world?" Obviously, using the Lord's name in vain when you're stepping on to a private Catholic high school grounds, probably not the greatest thing in the world, but what did I know? I was only 14 at the time.

Anyway, I make it through that. I manage to walk up the rest of the steps all by myself. I didn't trip again. I didn't fall down. Everything went fine. I get in to home room, and so, now, if you can imagine our home room. We had about thirty kids in our home room. La Salle Academy, which is in Providence, is in the Italian section of Providence. There are a lot of Italian kids in our class. There are, also, a lot of Irish Catholic kids in our class. Being Filipino and Italian, and looking Filipino, I didn't fit in with either group.

The Irish kids looked super, super preppy and Italian kids, they looked like grown ups. I still remember Chuck [inaudible 00:04:47] sitting next to me, a big football player. He had a full beard freshman year in high school. He's a big dude and he sat right next to me and I was like, "Jeez, who the hell is this guy?" He's got a full beard I can't even ... I'm not even shaving yet and this guy's all ready got a full beard.

If you can imagine it, I'm already freaked out by tripping and falling up the steps. The teacher says, "Okay, we're going to do a little exercise, so that people can get to know each other." This is the first day and she says, "I want you to say your name and say an adjective that goes with your name. For example, if your name is Bill, you would be Bashful Bill or if your name was Henry you'd be Happy Henry."

I'm like four students back. She starts going around the room and I'm like, "Oh my God, what the hell am I going to say? I have no idea what I'm going to say." She gets to me and she goes, "Okay, what's you name?" I say, "My name is Jim." She says, "What's your name?" and I said, "I'm Joking Jim." Literally, as I say it, even as I say it now, my stomach cringes even by the thought of saying that. I wish you could see me right now in my office. I'm, actually, cringing my stomach.

It's still, to this day, one of the most embarrassing moments I've ever had. Saying, "Joking Jim" in that class, nobody said a word, nobody laughed, nobody looked at me. Hindsight being 20/20, I know nowadays the they are all probably just freaked out as I was and as scared as I was, but it was so, so, so embarrassing to say, "Joking Jim" after I just tripped going up the stairs.

That's how my high school career started. That's how my first day started and, obviously, it was not the greatest start to the day, but a few weeks in to it, I made the bright decision to run for Student Council. I was like, "Okay. I don't know anybody. I haven't met anybody, really. I don't know anybody in my classes. I'll run for Student Council. Maybe, that will help me meet more people." I was all about meeting more people.

I run for Student Council and we have to give a speech n a big auditorium and there's like 300 kids. I think, I had 300 kids in my class. 280 or something like that and we all have to give a speech. If you can imagine, 280 kids in an auditorium and about ten kids with speeches in their hands. Their hands just clenched in fear, sweating their asses off in suits and ties, ready to give their speeches. I'm in the line to give a speech. Everyone else goes before me and they give kind of the same speech like, "Yeah, I commit to doing a good job. I'm going to do this and I'm going to make sure that we have this da da da da." Literally, every speech was the exact same. There is not difference at all.

It gets to be my turn. I stand up, I don't fall down. I don't trip, which I thought was a minor miracle, good thing overall. I get to the lectern, the thing you put your speech on with the microphones. I'm adjusting the microphone and you could hear a pin drop in the crowd. Obviously, nobody in the crowd is interested in hearing anybody speak. They're all going to go for their friends and since I don't have any friends, I'm not going to get any votes.

I'm sitting there and I start looking at my speech and, in my head, I'm thinking, "Jesus, I'm about to give the same stupid, boring speech that everyone else just gave, and it's stuff that I just made up. I don't, really, mean any of it. I'm not, necessarily, committed to have this stuff I put on a piece of paper. I'm just going to say it because I think it's the right thing to say." So I just said, in my head, somehow, something in my soul said, "You know, fuck this."

I, actually, took my speech, crumpled it up and I threw it out. As I'm doing that, everyone in the audience starts looking at me like, "What the hell is wrong with this guy? Wait a minute, this is not your typical boring speech. It looks like something is, actually, going to happen here." Then, I started talking off the cuff. I said, "Look man, I don't know what's going to happen, but if you vote for me, I'll do the best I can. I'll always be honest with you and I'll always try to represent you." I go along in those veins were all totally unscripted. My speech is laying in a crumpled ball in the floor between me and the people that are watching me.

When it's all said and done, I finish my speech and everyone in the auditorium goes freaking bonkers. People are applauding. People are standing up. People are like, "Way to go!" I'm sure someone's looking at me saying, "Hey, isn't that the dude who tripped walking up the steps?" Someone else is probably saying, "Isn't that Joking Jim from my home room?" Everyone goes nuts, everyone goes nuts. The long and short of it is ... Or the results of that is that they tie up the votes. I win in a freaking landslide. I get the majority of the votes and I, also, now have insane private Catholic school street cred, which is something that every students covets in high school.

I walk down the hall ways and people are like, "Hey man, that was a great speech. I love what you said. Really cool that you did that. Way to be ballsy. Way to take a chance." Everyone in the world wants to be my friend. Everyone in the world wants to talk to me or at least, at the time, that's how exactly I felt. What ended up happening the next four years is interesting. The fall back from that speech, I go back to that time in my life of that time and the fall back from that speech is every single year I ran for Student Council. Every single year I won in a landslide. People would look forward to my speeches. I looked forward to giving them. It was great. I became a pretty big part of that high school community. I served on a number of clubs et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, and I was always seen as a leader and someone who was confident.

I can tell you, just like you in high school, I wasn't any more confident than anybody else was in high school. The fact is that I took a chance and I was able to say, "Screw it. I'm going to take a chance and see what happens," which I think is half of what confidence is. That one speech, that one moment, not only did it change my high school career, but it changed my life. I've gained so much confidence and had so many other situations happen to me in my life where I was able to lean on that experience and say, "Look, I was successful doing this, this one time even back in high school. I could be successful now."

The speech fall out really, really has changed my life as I look back on it. A few things about that is that some of the things that I've learned from that speech and at other times of my life where I've exhibited confidence, I've seen other people exhibit confidence, is that people gravitate and people are drawn on to people who are confident. If you look at examples, like Micheal Jordan, Mohamed Ali, Oprah, Richard Branson, whoever. People are drawn to people who are confident. It's safe being in an environment with someone who's confident because you know that if they're confident about something, maybe there's a chance that that is going to rub off on you. Not only people are drawn to that, but those people are seen as leaders and as people that other people want to follow, other people want to work with. There's an innate likability with somebody who appears to be confident and I've seen that throughout my life.

One of the great things about confidence is that, I believe, confidence can be coached. Confidence is something that is internal, that I'll talk about in a second here, but it's something that can be coached. It's not like ... Hey, if you're 5'9" like me, you're just probably not playing in the NBA. You cannot coach height. You cannot coach somebody to be 6'3" or 6'8", but confidence you can coach. Confidence you can reveal it in yourself. Confidence is like an inner strength and it's something that is within you that needs to be cultivated. It's something that you can always draw on. It's something that's always there. It's a well spring for you when you need it.

I, also, really believe confidence begets confidence and that confidence is momentum and it's energy. The more confident you are, then the more successes you'll have. The more successes you'll have, the more confident you become. It's a nice self-fulfilling prophesy and it's got a great energy about it. In a lot of ways, it's like a volcano. I really believe that confidence is, either erupting and you're exuding confidence throughout every area of your life and making your life epic at every turn or you're not. Or it's laying dormant inside you and everything is hopping along meekly.

Believe me, I had it both ways in my life. I've had times where I was super confident and everything was easy and rolling. I was like, "Pimp city, this is freaking fantastic." Then, I've had other times when I wasn't confident at all. I didn't think I could do anything and life was just a total bitch. I think it all ties back to confidence and how do you always make sure that it's always there and, like a volcano, it's always going.

Like a volcano, if for whatever reason your confidence is dormant, right now, it doesn't mean that you've lost confidence. I don't think you could lose confidence. I think, confidence is something like breath. You don't lose the ability to be confident any more than you lose the ability to breath. If you lose the ability to breath, then you're dead and it doesn't matter anyway. Who cares?

Confidence is something [inaudible 00:15:39] dormant and it's about activating it and getting it rolling in your life. I think, that's one of the key things to think about. No matter what's going on with you, you are confident, and you have confidence in you. It's jus a matter or releasing it and getting it activated and getting it activated any way that you possibly can.

I could tell you from my own personal experience, maybe two things I would tell you that to improve your confidence and improve your ability to be seen as a person who is confident. The very first thing I recommend is to do what I call, "Success Flashbacks". Last week, we talked about getting a journal. Hopefully, you got a journal. Hopefully, you have a journal, but this is the first thing that I'd tell you to do is to do a Success Flashback.

What a Success Flashback is, think about every past time in your life where you've done something and have been successful at it. Come up with a list of 100 of them. I'm not joking. Two things that I don't count, I don't count having kids and I don't count getting married because, to me, those are easy ones to count like, "Oh, I was successful, because I had a kid." Unless you had some major medical thing that you had to fight through to have a kid, I don't necessarily think you'd need to count that. Same thing with marriage. I want you to work for these and think about all the different things that you've done in your life and make a list.

In the beginning, if you do a list of 100, the first twenty or thirty are going to be easy. When I did mine, I was like, "Okay, I made the high school lacrosse team. I was able to walk six months after my back surgery when they said I might not be able to walk. I was able to make the college lacrosse team. I started my own business. Landed my first client. Coached my first person. Gave X dollars to this non-profit. Served on this board." You get to about twenty or thirty and you stop and you're like, "Okay, what else have I done?"

It makes you think back on your life and think of things that you were successful at that maybe you'd forgotten about. I know that when I did it, one of the things that I remembered was that when I was really, really, really young, I used to dump my grandmother's garbage and she would pay me a quarter. One of my successes in life is that, "Hey, when I was ten years old, I had a job. A paying job." It may not seem like a lot, but it's just, yet, another time where I was successful.

When you start making a list of things that you've been successful at, one of the cool things is you look back and you start realizing, both, consciously and sub-consciously that you have a history of success. I have a history of success in my life. I guarantee you, when you make a list of 100 things you've been successful at, you, too, will see that you have a history of being successful.

While you may sit around right now and say, "Oh, God. I hate my job" or "I don't really feel like I'm living an epic life" or "What the hell is Jim talking about? I'm not like that. I'm not a successful person" or "I've got all kinds of faults and all kinds of problems." Yeah, look man, so do I. I've all kinds of faults. Again, like I said in the last episode, I'm not shooting for perfection here. I'm going for success. Part of being confident is having a whole bunch of successes in your life. Make your list of 100 successes, send them to me. I'd love to see them. I'd love to applaud you on whatever those successes are, but make your list of 100 successes.

The other thing I always suggest to people is to set yourself up for some easy wins. Here's what I mean by this. The more you're successful, the more you're winning at something, the more confident you feel, and again, like we talked about before, the more confidence begets confidence. Let's take working out as an example. As an example, if you looked at me, I don't even know, 3 years ago, I probably couldn't have ran more than a mile. Even though I'd done marathons before, I could not have run a mile without wheezing. I thought about it, and I talked to my friend Jack and we're both like, "All right, let's go run L.A. Marathon."

I hadn't ran in forever, so we started training. The first time I ran, I ran 2 miles and I was completely out of breath. I thought I was going to die. Next time I ran, I ran 3 miles, same thing. It was a little bit less worse. I'm not one of those people who thinks that running is fun, so the last thing I'm ever going to tell you is that running is a fun, fun, fun, fun thing for me. It's not, but I love how I feel afterwards. I'm not someone who glides across the pavement. If you watched me run, you'd probably say, "Wow, that guy looks like he just had surgery, two weeks ago."

The key is, I set my self up for easy wins. It would have been very, very, very easy that first day out, the first training day and said, "Okay, I'm going to go run five miles." It would have sucked and I probably would have failed, so I didn't do it. I set myself up for easy wins. In the same way when I first started doing Crossfit. When I started doing Crossfit, the guy who was training me, a good friend of mine, Nick, he made me do everything with PVC pipe instead of regular bar bells because he wanted to make sure I got it done correctly. He set me up for easy wins and I got to be better and better and better at it. By the time I started using barbells it became a thousand times easier and I was very successful at it.

That's the key. Set yourself up for a couple of easy wins. Get the pattern moving. Get the momentum going. Get your energy going toward wins. Because, at the end of the day, if you want to improve your confidence, there's two easy ways that you can do it is have success flashbacks and set yourself up for easy wins. On a tangent for success flashbacks, I give a lot of speeches. I've given speeches all around the country. I give them at the university level. I've given them to associations. I've given them to everything from middle schooners to PhDs to industries, whatever.

Although I would say I'm a pretty decent speaker in public, I will tell you there is always a moment right before I get on stage where I think, "Oh, shit! What if I completely fuck this up?" I'm just like, "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit." This is, literally, what goes through my head. It's going through my head as they're calling my name and they're saying, "Jim Simcoe, would you like to say a word .... Welcome to the stage Jim Simcoe blah, blah, blah, blah, blah," and in my head I'm going, "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit" and I have a big smile on my face. During those times when that's happening, I think of times I run those success flashbacks through my head. I think like, "Okay, I finished the L.A. Marathon I can go give a speech. I played college lacrosse, I can go give a speech. I helped this person, I can go give a speech." I have those. I use success flashbacks anytime I'm anxious, anytime I'm down on myself, anytime I feel like I need it, I use those flashbacks. Those are a tool for me.

That would be one of the biggest tools I would tell you to improve your confidence because, again, when you are confident, life is just freaking easier dude. It's just easier. The more I can help you become more confident, the easier it will be for you to live an epic life. One of the ways to do that is to use your success flashbacks and the other way is to record some easy wins and get that momentum going.

We'll talk more about this in the future, but I just wanted to record this quick podcast to talk about confidence. II wish you all the confidence in the world and I wish that you are able to unleash your confidence volcano and let that lead you to live an epic life and be everything that you want to be. I know that that sounds cheesy, but like I said before, and I'll say it again and I'll probably say it again in the future, I'm a child of the 80s, so being cheesy just is completely immune to me. If I could I'd wear neon tank tops all day long. That's it for now. We'll talk again soon, but remember stay confident and let that momentum of confidence go through you, really embrace it and you'll see a huge difference in the rest of your life.