Iron-Clad Confidence

“He just oozed confidence.”

That’s the way a long-time friend described Aristotle Onassis when he was just a teenager. Some people are late bloomers. They don’t gain much real self assurance till they are well into adulthood.

But there are also early bloomers — Onassis was one — and the stories describing his early years don’t all agree on details. The do all agree, however, on one point: young Ari had charisma, and lots of it. They all describe a young man with brains and drive and overflowing with confidence.

During Ari’s teen years, parts of Greece were involved in a local war with Turkish forces, and at one point, so the story goes, his father was placed in a prison camp by the invaders. Young Aristotle, then just sixteen, was apparently sent to a different camp, from which he managed to escape. He then approached the commandant at his father’s prison and negotiated a payment (more accurately a bribe) for the release of his father.

The elder Onasis, once free, criticized his son for paying far too much money. And soon after that young Ari left home. But he didn’t just run across town to hide out in a friend’s house. Oh no.

He travelled all the way from Greece to South America … and made good.

So good, in fact, that he eventually became one of the richest, most powerful men on earth.

Now, we all know that money isn’t everything. Life is a complex mix; it takes many different qualities to make up a human being.

But as we know from our studies, we can have far more say about what goes into our own personal mix than most of us ever realize. For most of us, adding another dash or two of confidence wouldn’t hurt at all.

So let’s take a closer look at how confidence works… with an eye to getting more of it.

FIRST — confidence usually ony comes from experience

Some few people seem to be born with it — some folks assume it’s the same as street smarts — but whatever other names it may have, most of our self assurance comes little by little, one spoonful at a time. If we’re very clever, we might watch other people and learn from their blunders. But in most cases, we insist on enjoying our own mistakes … multiple times, usually.

Before learning how to drive, most of us are not very confident we’ll be able to do it well. But consider: millions of people all over the world drive, with thousands getting their licenses every day. So how hard can it be, right? And yet, we ignore logic and indulge in self-doubt: “Oh wow, that looks hard! I’m not sure I can do that.”

Once we have some experience with driving, however, we find that, well, it’s not so bad. And after a couple of years of driving we can’t even remember why it ever seemed so difficult.

We treat ourselves this way when we first face most new things in life. If you’re married, how nervous were you during the week leading up to your wedding? Most people get a serious case of the jitters.

If you’re a professional, you were probably pretty nervous before your certification exams or board interviews. But now, you handle most client or patient problems calmly and confidently. Why? because you’ve been through it all before and you proved to yourself that you could survive it.

Like I said, experience.

There are, however, a few, like young Aristotle Onassis, who seem to know how to handle things even before they have any experience.

Perhaps such people have learned to tap into a higher awareness, even if they don’t consciously realize that’s what they’re doing. But however they do it, they KNOW that they can handle anything that comes their way.

They’ve found a substitute for experience. This is a concept you might want to spend some quiet time thinking about later.

SECOND — confidence is not bravado.

A facade of fearlessness is often mistaken for confidence, and this kind of strutting peacock may think he (or she) is fooling everybody. Sometimes they are.

But when bluff and bravado run out, when it’s time to put up or shut up, many of these peacocks shed their impressive display and stand revealed as nothing more than pretentious chickens.

Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.”

So real courage, and the confidence that it breeds is the ability to admit to yourself you’re sometimes afraid, but then to go forward anyway.

Here’s a suggestion for building your own deep supply of confidence. Spend some time each day reminding yourself of successes you’ve already had. They don’t even need to be big ones, but they should be meaningful to you.

Review your successes regularly. This is the direct opposite of what most of us spend our days thinking about. We often berate ourselves for all the ways we’ve fallen short. We may replay — over and over — the criticisms we hear from others as well as those we heap upon ourselves.

No wonder most of us have so little confidence. Most of the time we’re playing for the wrong team.

So be willing to admit when you’re nervous or unsure of yourself (or even terrified). But learn to be your own best cheering section. Replay your successes and revel in them. Enjoy them over and over again. If YOU can’t enjoy them, who can?

THIRD — real confidence isn’t flashy or loud.

Closely allied to point two is the fact that real confidence is usually quiet. Not everybody “oozes” confidence like young Onassis did.

Two of the most reassuring, calming people I’ve ever known were quiet and unshakeable. They never tried to MAKE others believe in them. But they believed in themselves so profoundly, without fanfare, that others just KNEW they were capable, solid people.

Think back. The last time you tried to impress somebody, did you go all out, trying harder, expanding your gestures, talking faster, making your voice louder, more piercing?

Ever try just the opposite?

Wendell, a young man I knew, completely dominated the meditation group he attended. He always sat at the back, spoke so softly you had to strain to hear him, and he never pushed his opinions on anybody. Never argued or expounded, and avoided getting up in front.

And yet, everybody gravitated to him. They asked for his opinions and listened carefully to his advice. It was obvious that Wendell had everyone’s deepest respect.

He radiated the kind of quiet confidence that cannot be counterfeited. This made him a natural people-magnet.

FOURTH — confidence doesn’t fade under pressure.

Confidence — real confidence — stays with you when the going gets tough.

It knows what it is capable of. And what it is capable of is this: It keeps your eyes open and observing when others are hiding their faces in their hands. It keeps you thinking, analyzing and planning when others are getting ready to wave the white flag of surrender. It keeps you calm because it knows there are deep resources within you that you can draw from, if you’ll only try.

Confidence is easy when things are going smoothly. Anybody can do that.

But when things start getting a bit scratchy, when our first impulse is to start making excuses, shifting blame, or looking for exit doors, confidence reminds us that we’ve handled tough situations before. It keeps us calm so that we can think clearly and act directly, without holding anything back.

FIFTH — confidence is available to you, too.

Everyone, even you and I, can have a full measure of confidence, if we’ll do the little things it takes to gradually install it into our habitual thinking.

Because, after all, confidence is just a skill, like playing a piano or driving a car.

When you hire a piano teacher or attend a driving school, it’s fairly easy to tell whether you’re acquiring the skills. If, for example, you haven’t practiced the finger exercises, the teacher knows instantly.

There are also thousands of teachers, coaches and consultants available to help us with our spiritual growth. And people flock to those trainers. They also buy books and tapes and courses by the millions. But few ever get around to the “finger exercises.”

Sadly, out of every hundred books sold, fewer than 20 are ever read all the way to the end. And if there are exercises involved, that figure drops to less than 3-5 percent.

Some time back, I had a customer write that he had bought one of my books but that he wanted a refund. That’s fine — I offer an unconditional, no-questions-asked refund on everything I sell, so I had no problem returning his money.

Interestingly, even though I never ask for a reason, he offered one anyway. “The information in your book,” he wrote, “is very similar to other books I’ve already read elsewhere.”

Now, it’s possible that he was a professional refunder — somebody who asks for refunds on every book he buys online. This type of person will never know just how impoverished he is.

You can’t take and also receive. They’re not the same, and you don’t get both in the same package. Everything balances in this universe, and when you take, you end up losing something. It’s only as you give that you can receive. It’s like priming a pump.

But that’s another subject, and we’ll talk about that another day.

My real concern for this customer is that he may be a “technique collector.” This type of student knows all ABOUT spiritual things. He can sit and talk for hours about the things he understands. He can quote this author and that lecturer. He can do a great comparison of techniques as taught by the various “gurus.”

But somehow, he never quite gets around to the actual doing. His meditations and other inner work are sporadic (at best).

The real secret? It’s not in the techniques. It’s in the internalizing of the techniques till you don’t need them anymore. Till everything becomes so natural that techniques become only the basic exercises you do to keep yourself focused and sharp.

Every great concert musician, every professional singer, every world class athlete will tell you that if they skip practice for a single day, they can see a decline in their level of performance.

Consider this: in all this world, there is only one of you. If that isn’t world class, I don’t know what is. And you owe it to yourself to do the things that will build the skills you need for real confidence.

One reason we often find it hard to build up any confidence in ourselves is the people around us.

If you have somebody causing problems in your life, there IS something you can do. Whether they’re criticizing, nagging, or meddling, whether they’re overbearing, temperamental or indifferent, whatever they seem to be doing that causes you problems, recognize this one thing: you don’t need to change them — it’s you that you need to change.

And when you do change yourself it’s amazingly effective.

DO THIS:

In your meditations or affirmation work, start seeing the “problem person” differently. Tune in to a different aspect of them, and that new aspect will gradually become more real in the relationship between the two of you.

To yourself say something like:

“I recognize the God-Power (or higher power) within (name), as I also salute the vast power within myself. This power is one. It is harmony. We are harmony. I lift my arms and rejoice in this enormous flow of power.

“Every day I see deeper mutual respect between us, as the strengths and wisdom we have in common are increasingly clear.”

This will awaken new awarenesses that had been sleeping within both of you.

What if this doesn’t work, you ask? It always works. ALWAYS.

Usually, your problem-person will begin to see a new, more likeable side of you — they may even comment on how much your attitude has improved.

However, in very, very rare instances, the other person may be unwilling to let the higher forces flow through them. In that case, they’ll simply and effortlessly slip out of your life to make way for someone who IS like the person you’re describing.

And you will have learned to exercise the power to face difficulty without wavering or cringing in fear.

Imagine having your own unshakeable, dependable-as-the-dawn, self assurance.

And imagine what your life will be like when you’re equipped with this kind of iron-clad confidence.

Just imagine.

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