Confidence is a funny thing. Too little of it and you can't get anywhere in life. Too much of it and you become a prideful jerk with little basis for the confidence you have.
Unfortunately, the world responds to the overconfident man or woman. The world looks up to these paragons of pride as if they actually knew something.
William Bonner and Lila Rajiva say this in Mobs, Messiahs & Markets...
Studies show that people are more likely to accept the opinion of a confident con man than the cautious view of someone who actually knows what he is talking about. And professionals who form overconfident opinions on the basis of incorrect readings of the facts are more likely to succeed than their more competent peers who display greater doubt. (p. 45)
This is a shame, but it's true.
Just yesterday I was on the phone with a prospect. He wanted to know if I could help him. I told him I suspected I could, but I made no promises. His response: "Well, I want someone who's confident they can get better results."
I didn't address the statement directly. I've forgotten what I said. Regardless, I cannot promise any prospect I can get better results. There are too many variables in play to accurately predict the outcome. That's a fact, no matter what con men may tell you.
When I got started as a freelance copywriter, I had less experience, but was far more confident than I am today. Why? Because two years of writing sales letters and one year of conducting split-tests has taught me that I don't know everything.
After all, is not "beginner's luck" simply blind confidence? At first, you think you know what you are doing and experience some success. Then you discover your success had little bearing on what you did... and that your first efforts were based largely on false notions.
Aha! That is beginner's luck. Too bad it doesn't last.
Over this last year, I've done a lot of split-testing. The results from these split-tests have often been shocking; the winning copy was not always what I expected. So I no longer have as much confidence in my intuition as I used to, although the results of each new split-test informs future copy and tests.
Still, I can never return to that state of blind, unmerited confidence. As they say in the movies, I've "seen too much."
Does this mean I'll lose out on some clients? Probably. But it doesn't matter. They can have their pick of the overconfident fools. Personally, I'd rather be cautious with the expectations I set and be able to deliver the goods. If that means landing fewer clients, so be it.
How about you? What role do you think confidence plays in success? Can you have too much of it? Too little? Leave a comment with your thoughts.