He looked like any other stranger as he walked by, but then he came back. I was perched on the cold linoleum floor of the restroom at a rest stop somewhere along the highway in Arizona. “Merry Christmas,” he said as he handed me a small ziploc bag filled with kettle corn. It was Christmas Day so gift was appropriate, yet his kindness was surprisingly unexpected.
The other night, I did something new.
I’ve sucked at the guitar for 20+ years now. Besides some drunken karaoke, I’m not exactly an accomplished vocalist. Even though I’ve always been a little musically inclined, and I’ve always enjoyed the idea of playing in front of people, I tend toward being an introvert and have always held my crappy guitar playing and modest vocals pretty close. My brothers, some select friends, and some unfortunate exes have been my audience for my entire musical career. A few of these folks might even vouch for me belting out a decent tune now and again.
How do you define confidence? Where do you find it? How do you keep it?
I’ve been asking these questions for the last few years now. It all started when I lost it from a failed project back in 2012. Because of this, I suffered from what I called a “confidence rut” that lasted 5 months.
Eventually, I climbed out of this rut. I learned a lot during this time but also realized that I still had a lot to learn. I thought about how I could share my story and that my story wasn’t unique.
As a designer and a lover of side projects, I decided to create Confidence to share these lessons and insights with others.
People often ask me how I accomplish things “at such a young age.” Is it because I’m foolish enough to try everything and have the energy to do so? Is it because I’m a millennial who grew up being told I can do anything I set my mind to? Perhaps. I think anyone can achieve their goals if they work hard and believe in themselves.
Learning confidence has allowed me to enjoy the last few years more than any other time in my life. I’ve found success by meeting amazing people and doing nearly impossible things, such as planning a conference. Three years ago, I had the confidence to ask for an internship at a major startup between my junior and senior year in undergrad. Confidence moved me from Tennessee to San Francisco, where I had never been and didn’t know anyone. I stayed on as a contract designer while I finished my degree in Tennessee. Then I moved to San Francisco permanently two years ago. Today I’m grateful to be part of a network of smart, positive designers who help each other along the way.
What to do if a glacier in Iceland throws a rock at your neck which automatically leads you to doubt your talents and question your confidence.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure and honor to present at the first ever Hike conference in San Francisco, CA. If you browse the Hike website, you can see the caliber of amazing speakers giving their time to share practical advice and honest answers to new designers in the audience.
I showed up at the start of the conference to sit and take in some insights from fellow professionals in the design field.
When I met Marc at a Confidence workshop in San Francisco, I immediately began to think about how the ideas he presented could be applied to my 7th grade classroom. See, for four years, I had experienced the challenges middle schoolers face in stepping up as leaders and owning their education, and Marc’s ideas around confidence seemed particularly in line with what I hoped to teach my students.
My friend, Michael Bell, invited me to his Gateway Middle School for a three-day classroom visit with his 8th grade students to talk about confidence in their everyday lives. What an amazing opportunity.
It’s been great interviewing professionals about this topic, but to get a 13–14 year old perspective is a something else.
“finding the momentum to help execute ideas and to keep that momentum going to help with the next step in the process.”
Michael is the CEO/Co-Founder of Skillshare, a community marketplace for classes. Previously, Michael led the product team at Hot Potato, which was acquired by Facebook, and developed products and services that organized the creative world at Behance. Michael is also a Venture Advisor for Collaborative Fund, a 2012 TED Fellow, and was listed as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2012 by Fast Company. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and VCU Brandcenter. Follow Michael on Twitter.