Because You Can

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.

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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.

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What is confidence…for a middle school student?

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.

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Unpacking confidence with Gateway Middle School

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.

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Michael Karnjanaprakorn

Confidence is
“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.

Dawn Hancock

Confidence is
“taking risk and trying things. The more you do it, the more confidence you gain.”

Dawn is the founder and Founder + Managing Director of Firebelly Design, a studio committed to cultivating connections between human beings and ideas, inspiring conscious thought and action. Dawn is awesome and you should know more about her and her team. Follow Dawn on Twitter.


What’s the worst that can happen?

Right now, I’m working on a package. There’s a portfolio, and some swag, and a personal note, and I’m sending it out to someone who is arguably A Big Deal. It’s a bit of a splashy thing, that should it blow up in my face later, I don’t really have the option to wave off and pretend that I didn’t really care. It’s easier not to care, to toss something out there with a “whatever” and a shrug, because if it fails, it’s not like you really even tried. But all-in is the only way I really know how to do anything, so sending out this package is an intimidating thing for me.

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Jennifer Maples

Confidence is
“finding a community that supports, shares, and nurtures you and your ideas.”

Jennifer is user researcher and creative strategist, focused on a human centered approach and how her insights inform effective solutions. What does that look like? It might be brand, marketing, communication, content, product, or systems strategy. Ultimately, Jennifer’s focused on designing delightful and understandable experiences for people. She’s worked with Galileo, IDEO.org, AIGA SF, Makeshift Society, and The Volunteer Center, among other folks. A lot of people know her for creating Strategy TNT, a monthly conversation on all things strategy. Follow Jennifer on Twitter.