So another thing about confidence: it won’t make your life easier.
In fact, it’ll probably make things a whole lot harder. Not that this is a bad thing. There’s a difference between easy and ease. Easy is skipping your workout, eating the stale doughnut, wearing sweatpants. Letting people walk over you at work. Lying instead of telling the hard truth. “Easy” sells out what could be a grand adventure for “meh, I don’t feel like it.”
Ease is something else entirely. It’s deceptive. Ease looks “easy,” but it’s built on time, energy, and devotion. It’s fluid, and powerful, and enchanting, and it doesn’t come cheap. It’s the strength that comes with working out every week. It’s the delectable care of making homemade doughnuts with your kids. It’s the self-respect to say “no” to the commitment you can’t keep.
This is “easy”:
This is “ease”:
What’s easy and comfortable now, today, this moment, is quite different from what builds you up into someone who finds ease in the flow of your life. You can’t build muscles without resistance. You can’t build bone mass without impact. You can’t build confidence without stretching yourself out of your comfort zone.
So if we want to be confident and powerful, we have to accept this idea: there’s hard work ahead.
In Jim Collins’ modern classic Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t, Collins talks about what he terms “the Stockdale paradox,” named after American military officer Jim Stockdale, who was held for eight years as a POW in Vietnam.
I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.
So far, simple enough; sounds like any number of positive-thinking mantras, right? But Stockdale observed a critical difference between his unshakable faith and “easy” optimism:
[The optimists] were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.
Let that sink in. Stockdale never despaired — and ultimately survived and thrived — precisely because he recognized how difficult the road would be. Hence the “paradox”:
You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
And this is our starting point: Looking. Calling a spade a spade. Because you can’t win at poker if you keep pretending that eights are Aces.