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.
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
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My co-founder, Brian Halligan and I are both big fans of Warren Buffet.
Brian wrote an article a while ago on the HubSpot blog "Quick Insights From Buffet and Gates". If you're a Buffet
fan, like me, I encourage you to check it out.
Recently, I had the opportunity to skim through the Berkshire Hathaway annual
report. There were some really amusing insights in there. It's refreshing to
see even a large, successful organization like Berkshire Hathaway maintaining
their personality and pragmatism in a document that for most companies is boring
and watered-down. My comments are in italics.
1. We are also happy to buy small portions of great businesses by way of
stock-market purchases. It's better to have a part interest in the Hope
Diamond than to own all of a rhinestone.
Venture Capitalists: Are you really sure you just absolutely MUST have
X% of that hot new startup? Instead of making the investment you want, why
compromise and do something else just because you can get 5-10% more?
2. You only learn who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out. [With
relationship to the recent housing bubble]
This made me think about pre-revenue startups. When the tide of funding goes out, and you have to start charging money, will your business model
3. For the entire 42 years, our compounded annual gain in per-share
investments was 27.1%.
Ok, this isn't really amusing, but it is impressive.
4. A truly great business must have an enduring "moat" that protects
excellent returns on invested capital. The dynamics of capitalism guarantee
that competitors will repeatedly assault any business "castle" that is earning
I like to think of this in terms of a wall rather than a moat. Build the
wall that protects your companies interest from those that would take your
profits away. My simple strategy for building a great wall: Step 1: Start
building wall. Step 2: Add at least one brick to the wall every day.
5. If a business requires a superstar to produce great results, the
business itself cannot be deemed great.
Though depressing for us startup entrepreneurs that think the entire
company revolves around us, it's true. A truly great business should likely be
able to run without the need for it's current founders or management team. Of
course, in the early days, this is rarely true.
6. The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires
significant capital to engender growth, and then earns little or no money.
This is very interesting. A lot of the big infrastructure plays end up
here. You have to continually invest more and more money to get lower and lower
7. If his I.Q. was any lower, you would have to water him twice a day.
I felt guilty when I smiled at this, but had to admit it was
8. From Bobby Bare's country song: "I've never gone to bed with an ugly
woman, but I've sure woke up with a few."
9. Mitt Romney's wife Ann, when asked: "When we were young, did you ever in
your wildest dreams think I might be president?". Response: "Honey, you weren't
in my wildest dreams."
10. Charlie and I are not big fans of resumes. Instead, we focus on brains,
passion and integrity.
If you had to solve for any three attributes when hiring, these are about
as good as any. Intelligence, Passion and Integrity.
11. I've reluctantly discarded the notion of my continuing to manage the
portfolio after my death -- abandoning my hope to give new meaning to the term
"thinking outside the box."
12. Queen from Alice in Wonderland: "Why, sometimes I've believed as many
as six impossible things before breakfast."
Hope you enjoyed these. If you have other great Warren Buffet related quotes
or insights, please leave a comment We're always looking for more.
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