I am nervous all the time. Going to a party, I always try to back out at last minute. Even a party I threw last year, I tried to not go and three people had to call me and convince me to come.
Business deal – I am scared right before every meeting and will probably skip.
I’ve even left in the middle of the meetings because I was too afraid to speak.
New friend for coffee? I will cancel at last minute. Agree to give a talk? I will back out. Going to a networking dinner? I won’t speak the entire time.
When I was in a summer camp as a kid, I never spoke. They thought something was mentally wrong with me. So I got to just hang out in the one room with a pool table all day and just shoot pool until the buses came.
My parents would say, “What is wrong with you?” But I didn’t have an answer. I’d lie in bed at night and be afraid of morning. I just wanted to sit. I just wanted to read. Or watch TV. Or watch a movie. Or play chess with my dad.
“These are not the droids you’re looking for.” I just wanted to be Obi-Wan. A hermit. Alone.
This is what I do now to “trick” myself into confidence. I hate “hacks” and “tricks”. But I need to survive also and feed people and make myself function.
So four things below are hacks and one is legit. They work for me but maybe won’t work for anyone else. I don’t care.
1) MIRROR NEURONS
Before a date, I watch stand-up comedy. Before a talk, I watch stand-up comedy. Sometimes I watch a Humphrey Bogart movie.
He’s confident in the way I want to be confident. He has what I call “ugly charisma.”
Nobody will deny Humphrey Bogart is charismatic. But he is ugly and can easily have fallen into fear rather than confidence.
I don’t consciously study what they do. Just like if I watch someone climb a ladder I won’t think, “OK, he put one foot up, then the other one, then he climbed.”
The brain has “mirror neurons.” You watch something, and you learn. That’s how humans adapt.
If I watch a YouTube clip of someone displaying amazing confidence in a difficult situation then it’s like a shot of crack cocaine. For the next 2 to 10 hours I’ll mimic that confidence, whether I realize it or not.
Selective YouTube = Crack Cocaine. That’s my code.
Try it. It works.
When I go on TV to comment on some BS thing, they put you in this dark room. A camera is facing you. There’s a thing in your ear. They whisper, “move to the left a little.”
They say “45 seconds.”
Then you sit there and within two minutes, a few hundred thousand people might be looking at you. And I’m ugly. I don’t want them to look at me. So I start to get scared.
Will I forget what I wanted to say? Do I even know what I am talking about? (Answer almost always: “no”).
This is what I do: I surrender.
I say to myself: I have no agenda, I just want to help people. Please let me do or say whatever will help the most people.
Who I am asking this to? I have no idea. I’m not pretending to talk to anyone. I just say it.
It’s like I surrender. Whatever is going to happen will happen. But I trust that some other part of me will make sure the best thing happens.
Right before I kiss you, I surrender.
3) BEGINNER’S MIND
I ask questions.
Whenever I am on someone else’s podcast, I ask questions. If I learn one thing, then it’s a win for me.
Whenever I am meeting someone for the first time, I ask questions.
I am more confident asking questions and learning than I am answering them.
Because of the math: there are more questions than answers in the world. I think Godel proved that. I think someone did. A math person.
So it’s easier to come up with questions.
It’s easier to say, “I know nothing. I am confident knowing nothing. The world is mine to explore. So let’s begin now.”
And I am like Lawrence in the desert. It’s hot, it’s vast, it looks the same in every direction. I can take one step at a time, and move forward and eventually get to the other side.
I’m confident I can do that.
Plus…people want to talk to the person who wants to listen.
This is not a hack like the rest. But I’ve started 20 businesses and been involved in another 100, give or take. I’ve written 18 books.
I’ve given 100+ talks. I’ve been married twice. I have two children.
None of this means anything. But it gives me a lot of things to say.
If anyone wants to talk about these things, I draw upon my experience. I find the deepest pain or the deepest joy in any of these things and I start from that point.
I have confidence if I can say, “The worst part of X was Y, and then I did Z.” This is truth.
It might not help anyone. But I’m confident that was my deepest pain or deepest joy.
5) NO CONFIDENCE IS CONFIDENCE
Being simple. Confidence is often a flimsy ladder that we climb on but can easily break and we fall.
Better to have no confidence and just be honest and admit it.
Why have to figure out the world and carry knowledge of the world that is probably wrong, at the same time.
It’s too hard!
Try it and you will see you are bursting with confidence.
6) THE ALIEN TRICK
I wake up, I open my eyes. Who am I?
I pretend I am an alien from another dimension, another universe, another time. I ask: Who is this body? What am I supposed to do with it? What is my mission?
If this sounds stupid, you are right. I am stupid. But this works for me. I am a messenger from outer space and I have forgotten what I am supposed to deliver.
So I look for clues everywhere. And this gives me confidence. I’m the ambassador from my dimension. And nothing will get in my way. And I have only one day to accomplish my mission.
I am the most unconfident person in the world. I’ve hit bottom on money, marriage, misery. Triple M. Trifecta!
Through trial and error I do the above six. They work.
I’m writing a new book now. It’s about how I try to learn from everyone I meet.
With everyone I meet I try to find one takeaway. To learn one new thing that I can take into other areas of my life.
This is confidence also.
But ultimately I ask myself, why do I even need confidence? I’m here on this planet for a split second. And most of that time I am sleeping, excreting waste, eating, falling in and out love, and crying.
What more am I supposed to do?
James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Artem Podrez.