9 Reassuring Qualities Of The Truly Confident

By Dharmesh Shah on July 3, 2013

Do you sometimes lack confidence?  Good.  Because truly confident people sometimes feel insecure.  They sometimes feel uncertain.  Show me someone who claims they are confident all the time and I'll show you someone who's not truly confident.

First things first: Confidence is not bravado, or swagger, or an overt pretense of bravery. Confidence is not some bold or brash air of self-belief directed at others.

Confidence is quiet: It’s a natural expression of ability, expertise, and self-regard.

I’m fortunate to know a number of truly confident people. Many work with me at HubSpot, others are fellow founders of their own startups some of whom I've met through my angel investment activity. But the majority are people I’ve met through my career and who work in a variety of industries and professions.describe the image

It comes as no surprise they all share a number of qualities:

1. They take a stand not because they think they are always right… but because they are not afraid to be wrong.

Cocky and conceited people tend to take a position and then proclaim, bluster, and totally disregard differing opinions or points of view. They know they’re right – and they want (actually they need) you to know it too.

Their behavior isn’t a sign of confidence, though; it’s the hallmark of an intellectual bully.

Truly confident people don’t mind being proven wrong. They feel finding out what is right is a lot more important than being right. And when they’re wrong, they’re secure enough to back down graciously.

Truly confident people often admit they’re wrong or don’t have all the answers; intellectual bullies never do.

2. They listen ten times more than they speak.

Bragging is a mask for insecurity. Truly confident people are quiet and unassuming. They already know what they think; they want to know what you think.

So they ask open-ended questions that give other people the freedom to be thoughtful and introspective: They ask what you do, how you do it, what you like about it, what you learned from it… and what they should do if they find themselves in a similar situation.

Truly confident people realize they know a lot, but they wish they knew more… and they know the only way to learn more is to listen more.

3. They duck the spotlight so it shines on others.

Perhaps it’s true they did the bulk of the work. Perhaps they really did overcome the major obstacles. Perhaps it’s true they turned a collection of disparate individuals into an incredibly high performance team.

Truly confident people don’t care – at least they don’t show it. (Inside they’re proud, as well they should be.) Truly confident people don’t need the glory; they know what they’ve achieved.

They don’t need the validation of others, because true validation comes from within.

So they stand back and celebrate their accomplishments through others. They stand back and let others shine – a confidence boost that helps those people become truly confident, too.

4. They freely ask for help.

Many people feel asking for help is a sign of weakness; implicit in the request is a lack of knowledge, skill, or experience.

Confident people are secure enough to admit a weakness. So they often ask others for help, not only because they are secure enough to admit they need help but also because they know that when they seek help they pay the person they ask a huge compliment.

Saying, “Can you help me?” shows tremendous respect for that individual’s expertise and judgment. Otherwise you wouldn't ask.

5. They think, “Why not me?”

Many people feel they have to wait: To be promoted, to be hired, to be selected, to be chosen... like the old Hollywood cliché, to somehow be discovered.

Truly confident people know that access is almost universal. They can connect with almost anyone through social media. (Everyone you know knows someone you should know.) They know they can attract their own funding, create their own products, build their own relationships and networks, choose their own path – they can choose to follow whatever course they wish.

And very quietly, without calling attention to themselves, they go out and do it.

6. They don't put down other people.

Generally speaking, the people who like to gossip, who like to speak badly of others, do so because they hope by comparison to make themselves look better.

The only comparison a truly confident person makes is to the person she was yesterday – and to the person she hopes to someday become.

7. They aren’t afraid to look silly…

Running around in your underwear is certainly taking it to extremes… but when you’re truly confident, you don’t mind occasionally being in a situation where you aren't at your best.

(And oddly enough, people tend to respect you more when you do – not less.)

8. … And they own their mistakes.

Insecurity tends to breed artificiality; confidence breeds sincerity and honesty.

That’s why truly confident people admit their mistakes. They dine out on their screw-ups. They don’t mind serving as a cautionary tale. They don’t mind being a source of laughter – for others and for themselves.

When you’re truly confident, you don’t mind occasionally “looking bad.” You realize that that when you’re genuine and unpretentious, people don’t laugh at you.

They laugh with you.

9. They only seek approval from the people who really matter.

You say you have 10k Twitter followers? Swell. 20k Facebook friends? Cool. A professional and social network of hundreds or even thousands? That’s great.

But that also pales in comparison to earning the trust and respect of the few people in your life that truly matter.

When we earn their trust and respect, no matter where we go or what we try, we do it with true confidence – because we know the people who truly matter the most are truly behind us.

So, what do you think?  Are there qualities of truly confident people that I've missed?  Would love to read your thoughts in the comments.

Note: The original version of this article was published as part of my participation in theLinkedIn Influencers program.  The article was very well received. It got 1.1 million views and has generated 4,000 comments.  This is v2 of the article with some minor edits. -Dharmesh

Topics: leadership
Continue Reading

The Long Shadow Of The Valley Reaches Berlin

By Dharmesh Shah on June 26, 2013

This following is a guest post by Jonathan Gebauer.  Jonathan is the founder/CEO at exploreB2B, based in Berlin, Germany.  

There is a lot of talk about startup hubs world wide – the places where the next Facebook will originate from, the next Instagram, the next Pinterest. I am from one of these places, Berlin, the capital of Germany. There is no lack of technology startups in this city.

But to be a place where new technologies and innovations thrive – well, there are a lot of things missing.

I was born in Berlin, I live here and we founded exploreB2B here. I breathe the air of this city and feel at home. But when we started, the air tasted different – I thought I could feel a vibe in the air that consisted of innovation in the startup scene. Today I know: this taste was more hype than vibe.shadow megaphone

A story that got me thinking

Let me start with something that has recently happened to us, and which inspired me to write this article. I received an email from a US based VC which read: “Hey, we love what you are building at exploreB2B, let us know if you would like to talk to us.”

(I am sure Silicon Valley startups receive these every week.)

So far so good – naturally I wrote back. When they found out that we are located in Germany everything turned stone cold. They replied how sorry they were but since we are located in Germany, they would need to inform their European team and they would get in touch.

Their European team never got in touch. So far, not so global.

This is no big deal – it just got me thinking. Why is it that the European arm of a Venture Capital firm seems to think and act so differently from their U.S. counterparts?

This also was not the first time something like this happened to us. The story of our PR failures has already been published. We Berliners often make ourselves believe that Berlin will become the “next Silicon Valley” – but being second does not matter. Silicon Valley is not going away – so: who cares about Berlin?

The exceptions: Berlin startups that reached international fame

There are, of course, exceptions to the general rule. Innovative tech companies that reach international fame and success. Let me list the few that come to my mind: Soundcloud, ResearchGate, Aupeo, Wooga.

The same timespan in the US has brought us: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Dropbox, Zynga, Box, Yammer, Foursquare, Twitter, Quora, Groupon, LinkedIn… The list goes on.

There are a lot of things missing here. And the successful cloning of successful US startups (which happened with Facebook, LinkedIn, Groupon, and many more here in Germany) is not the same as innovation.

Tech is not global – why no startup hub can really prosper without Silicon Valley’s support

 

At first glance, Berlin seems to have it all. There are startup competitions every other day, meetups, hackathons, conferences, … There is a network of business angels and investors, the city has had a couple of exits recently. A couple of tech blogs write about the city’s tech companies (both in German and English). With Ashton Kutcher’s not-so-recent investments in Amen and Gidsy a slice of Hollywood glamour was introduced. The area in the city center where most startups reside likes to be called “Silicon Allee” now – noting a resemblance to Silicon Valley.

There also is a lot of talent in the city – talent, which startups can hire. Three universities and multiple “Fachhochschulen” offer a supply of well educated developers and marketing minds while the city’s historic background shows a tradition for risk-taking – including the risk to start your own company.

But technology and innovation needs more than just founders and employees.

It needs a community and this community needs to include established tech people and companies as well as access to the traditional economy. Not just people who are new to the industry but also professionals from companies of any size and stage. It needs access to the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google. You need to be able to see the shining light of Bill Gates talking on stage. You need investors who have a crap-load of money to invest on nothing but a crazy idea and feeling in their gut. You need access to marketing experts that can give advice, to tech companies that provide exit perspectives.

Berlin does not have those things.

Silicon Valley can provide this to other so called startup and tech hubs. It does so in some cases. But other tech hubs currently only exist by way of Silicon Valley’s support. They get as big and as successful as Silicon Valley allows them to be.

We Berliners might not admit that this is a fact, but we do know it in our hearts. A common first prize in our startup competitions is a trip to the valley. Or office space in the valley. Or a trip to attend a tech conference Or… You get the picture.

The consequences for young companies

 

This situation forces companies in other startup hubs to adjust. In Germany, the Samwer brothers face a lot of criticism for their cloning operations of international and US startups. It is true: they have been involved in cloning Groupon, Facebook, Zappos, Pinterest, Fab, Amazon, and many more. What is also true, is: This is a way to deal with our situation. Cloning companies also means you have access to information on how marketing strategies will perform and how you can achieve growth. When expertise and support is lacking, this is a valid way to replace it.

Another strategy is to prepare for an early exit. Selling your company early for comparatively small sums seems to be quite common in Germany – creating concepts for a global approach is not. The latest example for this is the formerly hyped startup Gidsy (which got famous by the Ashton Kutcher investment) – which just sold out to a competitor in a not so glamorous way.

There is no tech community in Berlin – just a startup community. This makes it hard for companies to break out of the startup hemisphere. Gidsy was criticized for its lack of professionalization, but you have to ask the question: How can a group of crazy founders get professional if there is no community to help with the process?

The few exceptions to these rules are companies and founders that usually readjust their geographic locations sooner rather than later. Soundcloud has offices nearly everywhere, others are moving their operations to San Francisco.

How to bend the rules: A way out for those that still want to think big

 

I do not like rules that cannot be bent – and I do not like to go small when others hit it big. I like to compete and I do not like failure. I did not invent exploreB2B for a small audience and I do not want to think small. In a world where creative minds are thinking up solutions, there are always options to become more competitive.

Those of us being unlucky enough to have founded our companies in places like Berlin, London, Paris or Sao Paolo still have a lot of options – the whole tech industry was created by people who bent the rules but refused to be bent by them.

In the beginning I told you about a VC not noticing where we are located – well, this sort of thing happens to me all the time. I receive emails, tweets, Facebook messages asking me whether I will be able to come to a meetup in San Francisco, or New York, or London… I always answer: “Hey, I am in Berlin.”

Most of the time the next message is: “Ok, give me a call when you are back.”

The way out for us is to stop worrying about Silicon Valley. In today’s world it is like any other place in the world: a place on the map.

I get emails from London, have Skype calls with bloggers in France, worked with a PR agency in the US (that didn’t go so well…), had articles published on an Australian blog (Big thank you to Jeff Bullas).

The community we need is there – you do not have to see people face to face to be able to get their advice. When you are creating a company on a global scale stop thinking narrow. Never limit yourself to the things you can do in your city.

By doing that we will force Silicon Valley to do the same. The big investments might not yet have reached our startup hubs, but they will come.

We need to stop picturing ourselves in direct competition with Silicon Valley – Berlin will never become “the next Silicon Valley”. But it does have its own strengths. As does London, as does any other city in the world. Each one of those places should play on its own strength – instead of highlighting its shortcomings in comparison to the Bay Area.

For Berlin, I can think of a lot of strengths: the talent supplied from universities, its geographic position and its history of being a place where eastern and western Europe unite, its history of being a place where people take risks.

We need to play our local strengths – and remove our weaknesses by acting globally.

Think less local.

We are entrepreneurs, we are founders, we are innovators. We were born to break the rules

What's your take?  What should entrepreneurs do to make tech innovation truly global?

Continue Reading

Community

Let's Connect

And, you can find me on Google+, Twitter, and Linkedin.

Recent Posts

Chat with GrowthBot

It's a bot to help you with your marketing and grow. You can research your competitors, improve your SEO and a lot more. http:/GrowthBot.org