Confidence doesn’t lead to success—success leads to confidence

Takeaway: Success leads to confidence for two reasons: as you become a subject expert your work provides you with more validation, and amassing knowledge and skills along the way makes you more confident in what you’re doing.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minutes, 39s.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a curious byproduct of the bit of success I’ve had in my work: I’ve started to feel more confident. When I speak in front of a group of people, I feel greater confidence in what I’m saying, and as a result, speak more effectively than I did before. I no longer perform 10 editing passes of new blog posts—instead, I just hit post when I have something to say. I am more confident to speak up when I feel the urge to, and fight harder for the ideas I believe in.

I think this newfound confidence comes from two places:

  1. That my work provides me with more validation than it did before.
  2. That over time, I’ve amassed more knowledge, which has made me more confident in what I’m doing, saying and thinking.

It’s easy to consider the difference the first point makes. As you grow into your career and achieve more success (by traditional measures), your work provides more validation. This can become a dangerous, ego-feeding idea if you’re not careful—but when you have the right motivations, you won’t become full of yourself. Instead of inflating your ego, success will give you a decent-sized confidence boost.

The second point—collecting knowledge—is more nuanced and important. Confidence is a trait consistent among most successful people I’ve met—more so than in those who haven’t achieved the same amount. As these people have gained skills and experience, they’ve also collected more reasons to become confident in what they do, say, and think.

It’s easy to look at people who are successful and think that their confidence is what led to success. But in my experience, the equation works the other way around. The more of an expert you become in your area, the more validation you receive through your work, and the more confident you are that you know what you’re doing.

Sometimes you have to do the work first, and trust that the confidence will follow.

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