How to improve your self-confidence in 30 seconds

I talk to a lot of people who have issues with self-confidence. I have issues with self-confidence in some areas of my life – in fact I think that most of us do at some point.

The common misconception about confidence is that we either have it or we don’t. Like it’s some sort of material object that we can own and once we have it we have it for life. I can tell you now that it doesn’t work like that. Self-confidence is something that is constantly shifting, it’s dynamic, and because of this we can always manage how we feel about it.

Now let’s say we have a room of 100 people, all sitting down listening to me talk. You are one of those 100 people, sitting on your chair in that room. If I asked you all if you are a confident person, my guess is that most would either say or think that they are not a confident person. However if I asked you all if you are sitting on a chair or standing up, my guess is that all of you would be pretty confident in your answers.

So what am I getting at here? My point is that confidence isn’t a blanket state that covers everything we do. Most of us will be confident in some areas of our lives and less so in other areas. Once you start thinking about self-confidence in this way you can start to understand how to improve your confidence in your lower-state areas.

If for example you always feel nervous and less confident in public spaces, spend more time in public spaces until you gain more experience in those situations. Make mistakes and notice how little other people bother about what you are doing. The more you do this the more you will build up an experience bank of the things that can happen in these situations. You might trip up or knock something off a shelf and feel silly but you deal with it and see that nobody really bothered, or even noticed, what you did. The more you do this the more comfortable you will feel in public spaces.

So self-confidence is a bit like an experience bank of knowledge. How you have dealt with similar situations in the past will help you understand how you would deal with them again in the future.

Also, doing something that really stretches your comfort zone can help in other areas of your life. I used to be really afraid of heights – terrified. So I started rock climbing. Most people I talk to tell me that I’m crazy, if I’m afraid of heights then why do I climb? My answer is simple, because I don’t want this fear to limit my life. Stretching myself in this way has also given me more self-confidence in other situations.

Stretch yourself and do it often. Build up your experiences in different areas of your life and you will see your self-confidence grow.

So, how do you improve your confidence in 30 seconds? Remember that even when you think to yourself “I’m just not a confident person”, you are feeling pretty confident that you are right so that must mean that you actually have the ability to be confident. You are confident that you are not a confident person.

How to start your own business – part 1

In December 2013 I left my full-time job to start my own business. I jumped ship and swam out into the ocean without looking back. I always found myself trying to convince people that there were more efficient and cost effective ways of doing things but as these weren’t my businesses, I could only do so much. I learned a lot from this experience and I’m thankful for it all.

Working for myself was always going to happen at some point – it was something that I just knew had to happen but it was just a matter of when and how to go about it, I’m always chipping away at some sort of project or learning new skills and it’s the latter that has finally made it possible. It was the single hardest decision I’ve ever made but one that paid off in my first year of business when I more than tripled my old salary and massively improved the quality of my life. So here are my tips for quitting your job and starting your own business.

Go niche, keep it simple

Choose an area of your work that you particularly enjoy and focus on that. It helps you target your clients and explain what you do with passion.

I see a lot of very complicated business models out there and most of them fail. If your business idea is simple then it will work if you put the time and effort into it. People will ask you what you do and you need to be able to answer them in an easy to understand way. For example I’m a web designer and developer but when people ask me what I do I tell them that I build websites. It’s simple, easy to understand and most people know someone who needs a website. It’s good for business.

Don’t sell commodities

Selling commodities is a very difficult thing to do unless you have a very large stash of money available which will allow you to buy your stock at the lowest prices. Most of the time these businesses get priced out of the market by the larger players. Sell your skills and / or find something unique so that you can command a higher price. People will always try and knock down your prices but if you have the right skills or product then you can turn them down and keep your quality high.

Broaden your skills

Running your own business has a lot of requirements including winning new work, quoting, accounts, admin and sub-contracting (if you do that). Never stop learning and don’t focus too much on dead areas of the market. Don’t try to sell steak to vegetarians.

Network

Create contacts and make friends with other people in your industry, do not isolate yourself from others. Partnerships, mutually beneficial ones, are fantastic and people will always buy from people that they can get along with.

Build up a financial buffer

There will be quiet times ahead, months where you don’t sell anything. Account for these months and save up 3-, 6-, 9-months worth of salary for yourself so that you can pay your bills, whatever it is you need to feel a bit more secure. This will also stop you from getting desperate and lowering your prices too much just to make that next sale.

Always be selling

Never underestimate an opportunity to make a sale. Talk to friends, family, everyone about what you do and do it with a passion. If you enjoy what you do then this will come naturally to you. If you don’t then maybe try another career.

Focus on your customers’ needs

Your customers are your most important asset. Keep them happy, all of the time. Be honest with them – be a human – but their happiness is your primary goal. Your job is to help them improve their business or life in some way. You have to add value, which ties in with the above about broadening your skills and offering value.

Finally; do it!

It will not be easy. It will probably be one of the hardest decisions that you will ever have to make but you have to do it if you don’t want to be a slave to others for the rest of your life.

Part 2 will help you choose the right product or service to sell. Sign up below to get part 2 delivered right to your inbox.



Distraction

I’ve been working quite a lot lately, around 70 hours last week. When you are a full time freelancer work load is often in peaks and troughs, so you have quiet times and mega-busy times. I wouldn’t change it and I’m certainly not complaining.

I find it incredibly hard to shut off from work, it’s my own business after all, and even when I’m out on the bike or walking Bailey I often find myself mulling over programming problems. This can work really well because it takes me away from the computer and helps me find solutions efficiently and then I can just crack on with implementing them when I get back home but it also means that my brain never really gets any respite during these busy periods and sometimes you really need to distract your thoughts to solve deeper or more complex problems.

So on Saturday evening I went bouldering with a good friend of mine. Climbing hard slabs, for me, means total absorption in what I’m doing. I can’t think about anything else and that’s exactly what I needed. That’s why I love climbing.

Image from Awesome Walls Climbing Centre.

Variety is the spice of life

I’ve recently won my first mountain bike cross country race, the Summer Classic. It’s one of my favourite races of the year. I turned up for practice and the course was quite muddy and slippery which aren’t my favourite conditions but I got myself to the start line with the goal of just finishing without crashing. To cut a long story short, I ended up winning the race and couldn’t quite believe it! I’ve rarely won anything in my life as I tend to gravitate towards being competitive with myself rather than other people so trophies (or a drinks bottle and a pair of socks in this case) aren’t really a thing in my life.

Driving home I got quite emotional and had an overwhelming sense of happiness, it was ace and I really felt full of achievement. After a few days though this wore off and I was soon back on the bike training for the next race. Winning that race felt amazing. Training for it, however, is mundane and boring. Riding my mountain bike on the road and hitting power / heart rate numbers for hours and hours each week is dull and it saps the life out of me.

Yesterday I went for a trip down memory lane and took my MTB back to my old local trails and rode through nettles, around a quarry, found some new trails which I had to walk down because I didn’t have the skill to ride them, found what I thought was an old favourite descent but ended up on a different part of the hill due to forest work and picked my way down over branches, got wet and most importantly – I smiled, a lot! This is what riding a bike is about for me and I’ve missed it. Training by numbers for a quick-fix-win is leaving me empty and I’m missing the fun.

Today I’m dreaming about distant high altitude mountaineering peaks, lists of mountain bike trails that I promised I’d ride someday, sea kayaking trips, routes that I want to be able to climb and other joyful and inspiring things. I know the adventure word is a bit of a buzz word at the moment but it’s what I’m craving right now and as they say, variety is the spice of life.

A State of No Mind

Mushin (無心; Japanese mushin; English translation “no mind”) is a mental state into which very highly trained martial artists are said to enter during combat.[1] They also practice this mental state during everyday activities. The term is shortened from mushin no shin (無心の心), a Zen expression meaning the mind without mind and is also referred to as the state of “no-mindness”. That is, a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything.

Mushin is achieved when a person’s mind is free from thoughts of anger, fear, or ego during combat or everyday life. There is an absence of discursive thought and judgment, so the person is totally free to act and react towards an opponent without hesitation and without disturbance from such thoughts. At this point, a person relies not on what they think should be the next move, but what is their trained natural reaction or what is felt intuitively. It is not a state of relaxed, near-sleepfulness, however. The mind could be said to be working at a very high speed, but with no intention, plan or direction.

Some masters believe that mushin is the state where a person finally understands the uselessness of techniques and becomes truly free to move. In fact, those people will no longer even consider themselves as “fighters” but merely living beings moving through space.

The legendary Zen master Takuan Sōhō said:[2]

The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing,’ for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man’s subconscious that strikes.

However, mushin is not just a state of mind that can be achieved during combat. Many martial artists train to achieve this state of mind during kata so that a flawless execution of moves is accomplished — that they may be achieved during combat or at any other time. Once mushin is attained through the practice or study of martial arts (although it can be accomplished through other arts or practices that refine the mind and body), the objective is to then attain this same level of complete awareness in other aspects of the practitioner’s life.

Source: Wikipedia

Aldo Kane, Former Royal Marines Commando, on fear

Aldo Kane is a Former Royal Marines Commando and his company Vertical Planet provides safety services for the TV and Film industry in some of the worlds most hostile and extreme environments.

You wouldn’t wait at home for all the green lights to come on before you drove to the gym, so why do it with the most precious of all commodities, your life?

Read his full interview on Sidetracked where he talks about how he manages fear.