Learned Confidence

Learned Confidence

Confidence can be developed through practice. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. You’re either born with it or you’re not, right?


 Confidence is actually a quality that can be developed by practicing various effective thinking drills, deliberately at first, with the idea that these drills eventually become unconscious and natural. In the same way you practiced your jump shot as a kid, you can practice various mental drills to develop a consistent mental response to challenges from job interviews to public speaking, professional setbacks to that CrossFit competition you signed up for. 

Dr. Nate Zinsser’s book, The Confident Mind: A Battle-Tested Guide to Unshakable Performance, explains the what, why, and how of developing confidence incredibly clearly. Zinsser is the Director of the Performance Psychology Program at West Point and has mentored numerous Olympians and professional athletes. The guy knows what he’s talking about. 

What is real confidence?

Confidence is not arrogance, bravado, bravery, assertiveness, or anything else celebrated by contemporary media.

“Real confidence is a quiet sense of certainty about oneself and one’s abilities, a sense of certainty that allows you to simply do what you are capable of doing without “thinking” about how you do it.” 

Can I really develop confidence?

Yes, but you have to work at it.

You need to “work” on your confidence the same way you work on all other important skills—putting deliberate time and energy into building confidence just as you put time and energy into building your physical fitness or professional skillsets.

These are relatively small investments with potentially massive dividends.

According to Zinsser, here are the top three tips for getting started:

Construct a top ten list

Start by going back into your memory and construct a list of the Top Ten most memorable and fulfilling moments you’ve had as you’ve pursued your career—the projects you’ve completed, the clients you’ve served well, the contributions you’ve made to your organization’s success. Put this list somewhere visible, so you get in the habit of reminding yourself about how far you’ve come.

Engage in a 3-part reflection

Conduct a simple 3-part reflection at the end of each day:

    •   Where did you put in some quality EFFORT? 
    •   What small SUCCESS did you achieve?
    •   Where do you seem to be making PROGRESS? 

Record your daily E-S-P reflection in a journal—it’s the “bank book’ of your confidence.

Decide on a job skill that you’d like to develop or improve 

Construct a statement about that skill that reads as if you already have it: “I easily resolve big problems whenever they pop up.” Write that statement out at least five times a day, so that you create a functional, self-fulfilling prophecy for yourself.


These tactical exercises are just the tip of the iceberg – Dr. Zinsser’s concepts around building out your confidence “bank account” have been incredibly helpful for me and represent a simple framework you can carry with you in your daily life.

If building confidence is a goal of yours (and chances are it should be) pick up The Confident Mind – This book will change your life and how you interface with the world around you. Cannot recommend enough.