I am nervous all the time. Going to a party, I always try to back out at last minute. Business deal—I am scared right before meeting and will probably skip.
New friend for coffee? I will cancel at last minute. Agree to give a talk? I will back out. Going to a networking dinner? I won’t speak the entire time.
When I was in a summer camp as a kid, I never spoke. They thought something was mentally wrong with me. So I got to just hang out in the one room with a pool table all day and just shoot pool until the busses came.
My parents would say, “What is wrong with you?” But I didn’t have an answer. I’d lie in bed at night and be afraid of morning. I just wanted to sit. I just wanted to read. Or watch TV. Or watch a movie.
“These are not the droids you’re looking for.” I just wanted to be Obi-Wan. A hermit. Alone.
This is what I do now to “trick” myself into confidence. And the “trick” sometimes turns into reality. It works. This has worked for me.
1) MIRROR NEURONS
Before a date, I watch standup comedy. Before a talk, I watch standup comedy. Sometimes I watch a Humphrey Bogart movie.
He’s confident in the way I want to be confident. He has what I call “ugly charisma.” Nobody will deny he is charismatic. But he is ugly and can easily have fallen into fear rather than confidence.
I don’t consciously study what they do. Just like if I watch someone climb a ladder I won’t think, “O.K., he put one foot up, then the other one, then he climbed.”
The brain has “mirror neurons”. You watch something, and you learn. That’s how we adapt.
If I watch a youtube clip of someone displaying amazing confidence in a difficult situation then it’s like a shot of crack cocaine. For the next 2 to 10 hours I’ll mimic that confidence, whether I realize it or not.
Try it. It works.
When I go on TV to comment on some BS thing, they put you in this dark room. A camera is facing you. There’s a thing in your ear. They whisper, “move to the left a little”.
Then you sit there and within two minutes, a few hundred thousand people might be looking at you. And I’m ugly. I don’t want them to look at me. So I start to get scared.
Will I forget what I wanted to say? Do I even know what I am talking about? (Answer almost always: “no”).
This is what I do: I surrender.
I say to myself: I have no agenda, I just want to help people. Please let me do or say whatever will help the most people.
Who I am asking this to? I have no idea. Maybe just myself. The part of me that is confident.
When I surrender, it’s not the insecure me that takes over. It’s the confident me. He knows what to do.
I don’t know how, but he does. Before I wrote this post, I surrendered. All day long I surrender.
Right before I kiss you, I surrender.
3) BEGINNER’S MIND
I ask questions.
Whenever I am on someone else’s podcast, I ask questions. If I learn one thing, then it’s a win for me.
Whenever I am meeting someone for the first time, I ask questions.
I am more confident asking questions and learning than I am answering them.
Because of the math: there are more questions than answers in the world. I think Godel proved that. I think someone did. A math person.
So it’s easier to come up with questions.
It’s easier to say, “I know nothing. I am confident knowing nothing. The world is mine to explore. So let’s begin now.”
And I am like Lawrence in the desert. It’s hot, it’s vast, it looks the same in every direction. I can take one step at a time, and move forward and eventually get to the other side.
I’m confident I can do that.
Plus…people want to talk to the person who wants to listen.
This is not a hack like the rest. But I’ve started 20 businesses and been involved in another 100, give or take. I’ve written 18 books.
I’ve given 100+ talks. I’ve been married twice. I have two children.
If anyone wants to talk about these things, I draw upon my experience. I find the deepest pain or the deepest joy in any of these things and I start from that point.
I have confidence if I can say, “The worst part of X was Y, and then I did Z.” This is truth.
5) NO CONFIDENCE IS CONFIDENCE
Being simple. Confidence is often a flimsy ladder that we climb on but can easily break and we fall.
Better to have no confidence and just be honest and admit it.
Why have to figure out the world AND carry knowledge of the world that is probably wrong, at the same time.
It’s too hard!
Try it and you will see you are bursting with confidence.
6) THE ALIEN TRICK
I wake up, I open my eyes. Who am I?
I pretend I am an alien from another dimension, another universe, another time. I ask: who is this body? What am I supposed to do with it? What is my mission?
I remind myself of this throughout the day. I am only here for one day. I must do the best I can for this body for this one day.
Believe it or not, this works.
I am the most unconfident person in the world. I’ve hit bottom on money, marriage, misery. Triple M.
But I find my way back. It’s a maze where everyone wants to lure you down their path. Confidence brings you to the other sold. To solve the maze. It’s important.
Through trial and error I do the above six. They work.
I’m writing a new book now. It’s about what I’ve learned from mentors. With everyone I meet I try to find one takeaway. To learn one new thing that I can take into other areas of my life.
This is confidence also.
But ultimately I ask myself, why do I even need confidence? I’m here on this planet for a split second. Just relax and enjoy this tiny vacation that the universe gave me.
James Altucher is a hedge fund manager, entrepreneur and best-selling author. He has founded or co-founded more than 20 companies, including Reset Inc. He’s also a Quora contributor. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.