Friday, June 26, 2009

The Ride :: The Diary of a Young Entrepreneur #5

June 23, 2009
Fake n' Make

Back in my volleyball days, we often used the term, "Fake it 'til you make it". Now this is exactly what is says on the tin. If you are down, sideways or anything other than up, you need to fake to the world that you are up. Not just up, but confident, successful and leave no one with any doubt that you are going to do anything other than win. You literally need to fake that you are the best, you are winning, you are untouchable, you are amazing, before anyone else forms a different opinion and thus takes advantage of your chips being down.

I have found that confidence and momentum play a huge part, not only in sports, but in life. A recent example of this is the Champions League final this year between Manchester United and Barcelona. This is soccer for all the American readers. Over here this is like the NBA finals between the Lakers and the Celtics, just to give it some perspective. Anyway, Man U came out all confident, taking shots on goal from the first minute, and it appeared that no only were they going to win, but going to kill Barcelona. They dominated the entire field for the first 5 or 10 minutes with Barcelona not even having 1 single shot on goal. Then, Barcelona, given their first opportunity to score, did just that. And with that one single shot, took all the confidence and momentum away, and Manchester were never able to get it back or recover. Once your confidence is shaken, no matter what the playing field, you are at a distint disadvantage. The only way around this at times, is to fake it 'til you make it.

I still sit in awe when I see what being confident can bring you. It is just as amazing to see someone who loses confidence and how quickly the demise of their situation can come about. In my experience, confidence is king. Now, I am not talking about hip swaggering arrogance, but real confidence. The kind of confidence that only comes when you have been knocked down a few times and have had to get up. The kind that comes from suffering through 20 rejections to get 1 yes. Confidence that comes from putting yourself out there and having to face tough decisions and tough situations that shape you and make you. This is the kind of confidence it takes. The read kind. The kind that, because you are tried and test, you will come through even when the chips are down.

I have, in the past 12 months, gone through varying stages of confidence. In the early days, confidence is high. I had just started a new company and was finally my own boss and riding high on the coattails of that for at least the first 3 months. My parents and family were telling me how proud they were, friends complimented me and supported me on taking this step, and my peers sat in two categories. Some thought it was a natural decision for me and I was born to be a leader, while others were happy to get rid of me and I doubt would have minded if I crashed and burned in the first year. Then boom, Lehman Brothers, Northern Rock, RBS, crash burn crash burn. We were not immediately affected by it all, but the world changed. The next 6 months were decidely different. No one was riding high on the confidence wave. In fact, the people who had always faked it 'til they made it, now came across as either naive or not in touch with reality. The rules were changing, right along with pretty much everything else. During this time, my confidence was still in denial. I still thought I was pretty great, but seeing numerous greats either getting knocked down a few pegs, or some falling of the pedestal altogether, started making me question myself. Was I next? Was my market next? Would I be spared the back hand of discontent? No. I couldn't, and I wouldn't.

Which leads me to the last 3 months. Part of which are now chronicled here, and the confidence barometer reads like the Barclays share price. Up and down, but largely trending upwards and onwards. I have realised that there is no time for self doubt or self pity. There will always be knocks and if I let them show, I am losing. I always tell my guys, this whole thing called work, is all one big game. There are winners and losers and if you can simplify it to that level, and cut through all the crap, then you can start playing the game to win. Each day is like a point in tennis. There are no ties, no draws, someone wins and someone else loses. Just like a point in tennis (seems natural to use this analogy with Wimbledon on this week) the winning and losing is all in the mind. It's all in the confidence. If one player sees the other falter, even in the slightest, they will go in for the kill. Then they'll spend the rest of the game pushing their opponent further and further into self doubt, until they finish them off.

So while my confidence is trending upwards, I can look back at the confidence I had when I started this business or when I was playing volleyball and I can chuckle a bit to myself. Not because it wasn't real, but because it feels the confidence that comes with experience is so much more satisfying than the fake it 'til you make it kind, however necessary that is sometimes. I imagine it's how our parents look at us when we are teenagers adn I can hand on heart swear that I genuinely thought I knew everything. Confidence doesn't come with age, but with experience. And I am confident that the experiences that have come with starting a new business in one of the toughest economic climates ever, will allow me to keep playing this game long after a number of my opponents.

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