How to build confidence and destroy fear

How to Destroy Fear and Build Confidence My mission at Get Rich Slowly is to help readers achieve personal and financial freedom. I want to help you master your money and your life.

Generally speaking, we focus almost exclusively on the financial side of the things. This week, I’m going to shift gears and share some of the things I’ve learned about overcoming fear, finding happiness, and achieving personal freedom. (Don’t worry. We’ll get back to the hard-core financial talk very soon.)

In December’s discussion of wealth habits, I talked about what T. Harv Eker calls “financial blueprints”. Actually, I talk about them all of the time. Understanding your money blueprint is a vital part of changing your relationship with money.

Our blueprints are created through lifelong exposure to money messages received from people around us, especially our family and friends, and from our country’s culture and mass media. Eker says the unfortunate truth is that most of us have faulty blueprints that prevent us from building wealth.

“When the subconscious mind must choose between deeply rooted emotions and logic, emotions will almost always win,” writes Eker.

He says that most of us are motivated by fear, especially when it comes to money. We don’t call it fear, though. We say we’re motivated by security. Eker notes — correctly — that fear and security are essentially two sides of the same coin. The tough truth is that money doesn’t dissolve fear.

Eker writes:

Fear is not just a problem, it’s a habit. Therefore, making more money will only change the kind of fear we have. When we were broke, we were most likely afraid we’d never make it or never have enough. Once we make it, however, our fear usually changes to “What if I lose what I’ve made?”

Like Eker, I’ve found that fear motivates a lot of people. Instead of making decisions based on goals and desired outcomes, most folks make fear-based decisions. As a result, they get less out of life than they’d hoped, less out of life then they might if they knew how to overcome their fears. (For more about this, see last week’s article about scarcity mindset versus abundance mindset.)

I’m not judging. I’ve been there. For years, I let fear rule my life. But over the past decade, I’ve learned how to quell many of my fears. Better still, I’ve learned how to act in spite of my fear. As a result, my life (financial and otherwise) has drastically improved.

Today, I want to teach you how to destroy fear and build confidence. To begin, let’s talk about death.

Note: Long-time readers have seen some of this material in other forms. This is my attempt to gather all of it into one place.

The Regrets of the Dying

Australian singer-songwriter Bronnie Ware worked in palliative care for many years, spending time with men and women near death. As she worked with her patients, she listened to them describe their fear, anger, and remorse. She noticed recurring themes.

In 2009, Ware wrote about her experience in a blog post that went viral. She turned that article into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. When people die, she says, they often express one or more of the following sentiments:

  • “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” People (especially men) often find themselves trapped on what economists call the hedonic treadmill. They work to achieve material wealth and status, which should bring happiness but doesn’t. Instead, they want more. So, they work harder to achieve even greater wealth and status, which should bring happiness but doesn’t. And so on, in an endless cycle. People trapped on the hedonic treadmill are never happy because their reality never meets their ever-increasing expectations.
  • “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” In order to keep the peace and avoid rejection, we sometimes bottle our emotions inside. But refusing to be open and honest leads to a life of quiet desperation. Sure, the barista at the coffeehouse might laugh if you ask her to dinner; but it’s also possible that dinner could lead to the love of a lifetime. On your deathbed, you’ll regret the things you didn’t say and do far more than the things you’ve done.
  • “I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.” In Aging Well, George Vaillant summarizes more than fifty years of Harvard research into adult development. “Successful aging [is] best achieved in relationship,” he writes. “It is not the bad things that happen to use that doom us; it is the good people who happen to us at any age that facilitate enjoyable old age.” In The Blue Zones, his book about populations of people that live longer than most, Dan Buettner writes that two secrets to a long and healthy life are making family a priority and finding the right “tribe”. At the end of their lives, people who failed to foster friendships regret it. (Here’s my summary of The Blue Zones.)

[Blue Zones commonalities]

  • “I wish I’d let myself be happier.” Happiness is a choice. Your well-being doesn’t depend on the approval or opinion of others. Happiness comes from one place and one place only: You. This idea, which is well-documented in happiness research, is the key to personal and financial success. (On Thursday, we’ll explore this notion at great length.)
  • “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, and not the life others expected of me.” Ware says this regret is most common of all. “When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it,” she writes, “it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled.” We spend too much time doing the things that others expect of us. (Or the things we think are expected of us.) But living for the approval of others is a trap. We can never hope to please everyone. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to please anyone – other than yourself.

These regrets share a common theme. In each case, the dying lament having spent too much time seeking outside approval instead of focusing on their own feelings, values, and relationships. This is true regardless of wealth and social status.

Ware isn’t a nurse and she’s not a scientist – her observations are based on experience, not empirical data – but from my reading over the past decade, her conclusions match the research into happiness and human development.

Money can’t buy happiness – at least not directly. Money is a powerful tool, it’s true. Abused, it brings sorrow and suffering. Used wisely, it opens doors, delivers dreams, and fosters joy. Although wealth is no guarantee of well-being, the more money you have, the easier it is to flourish.

But here’s the truth: You don’t want to be rich – you want to be happy.

On your deathbed, you want to have lived a life without regret. To do that, you need to face and defeat your fears. You need to find joy in day-to-day activities, and use that happiness as a platform to procure passion and purpose. You need to forge freedom, both personal and financial.

The Source of Fear

Our lives are filled with fear.

Some of our fears are physical. We’re afraid of spiders, snakes, and dogs. We’re afraid of heights, crowds, and enclosed spaces. We’re scared to jump out of airplanes (or even to fly in them), to go swimming, or to touch a drop of blood. We’re afraid we might be mugged.

Some of our fears are psychological. We’re afraid of failure, darkness, and being alone. We’re afraid of the future. We’re afraid of death. We’re frightened of being judged by others, and scared to ask someone for a date.

[J.D. under bear sign] Some fears are rational. I, for instance, am scared of bears. This is a healthy, rational fear. Bears will eat you. When you ignore your fear of bears, you can up like Timothy Treadwell, the man profiled in the film Grizzly Man. (Sorry if that’s a spoiler for anyone.)

If you’re walking alone at night and a thug demands your money while holding a gun to your head, you’ll feel afraid and rightly so. This is a natural, rational fear.

These healthy fears have a biological basis, and are the product of millions of years of evolution. A fear of snakes (or bears) has helped the human race to survive. A fear of heights keeps you from spending too much time in places where you might fall to your death.

But sometimes rational fears can become irrational or excessive. It’s one thing to be nervous while walking on the edge of a crumbling cliff high above a river; it’s another to suffer a panic attack on the seventeenth floor of a well-constructed, glass-enclosed office building. (Or to worry about a bear attack in Paris!)

Still other fears are mostly (or completely) irrational, yet they’re very common. An estimated 75% of all people experience some degree of anxiety when speaking in public. I’m one of them. I’m aware of no biological basis to be afraid of giving a speech in front of 500 strangers, yet doing so makes most of us sweat and stammer.

Healthy, rational fears keep you alert and alive. Irrational fears and anxieties prevent you from enjoying everything life has to offer.

If It Bleeds, It Leads

If our lives are filled with fear, that may be due in part to the prevalence of internet, television, and radio. Our fears are fueled by the modern mass media, which makes money highlighting extreme and unusual events.

Here, for instance, is the front page from the 18 January 2014 on-line edition of USA Today:

USA Today headlines

Human trafficking! Attacks on Americans! Identity thieves! Remains of dead boy! Elsewhere on the front page, there are stories about extreme weather, a new truck that burst into flames, the background of a high-school gunman, a gay teacher forced to resign, and so on. And this is a normal, uneventful day.

If you pay attention to the news, you might think terrorist attacks are common, bicycles unsafe, and that it’s dangerous to let children play unattended in the yard. Yet statistically, terrorist attacks are exceedingly rare, riding a bike increases your life expectancy, and your children are safer outdoors than you were when you roamed the streets twenty or thirty years ago.

The events in the news are newsworthy only because they’re the exception, not the rule. They’re statistical outliers. Yet because we’re fed these stories daily, we think these things happen all of the time. As a result, we’re afraid to live normal lives.

I have a friend who’s reluctant to leave her home. Because she’s been assaulted in the past — an unfortunate event, but a statistically unlikely one — she lives in fear of being assaulted in the future. It’s true that by appearing in public, my friend runs the risk of being assaulted again. It’s far more likely, however, that doing things outside the house would bring her pleasure and fulfillment.

To some degree, each of us is like my friend — but not as extreme. We are all filled with fears, and these fears hold us back.

To live a richer, more fulfilling life — a life without regret — you must first overcome your fears. You can start by exposing yourself to new experiences, by interacting with your environment and allowing it to change you.

It all begins with the power of “yes”.

The Power of Yes

[Impro cover] For a long time, I was afraid to try new things, to meet new people, to do anything that might lead to failure. These fears confined me to a narrow comfort zone. I spent most of my time at home, reading books or playing videogames. When opportunities came to try new things, I usually ignored them. I made excuses. I wasn’t happy, but I was complacent. I was safe.

Then I read a book called Impro by Keith Johnstone. It changed my life. (Fun trivia: Here’s where I learned about the book.)

Impro is a book about stage-acting, about improvisational theater, the kind of stuff you used to see on the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? I’m not an actor, nor do I want to become one, but several of the techniques described in the book were applicable to my everyday life.

In one section, for example, the author explains that in order for a scene to flow, an actor has to take whatever situation arises and work with it. She needs to accept and build upon the actions of her fellow actors.

Once you learn to accept offers, then accidents can no longer interrupt the action. […] This attitude makes for something really amazing in the theater. The actor who will accept anything that happens seems supernatural; it’s the most marvelous thing about improvisation: you are suddenly in contact with people who are unbounded, whose imagination seems to function without limit.

I thought about this passage for days. “What if I did this in real life?” I wondered. “What if I accepted offers and stopped blocking them?” I began to note the things I blocked and accepted. To my surprise, I blocked things constantly – I made excuses to not do things because I was afraid of what might happen if I accepted.

  • When online acquaintances asked to meet for lunch. I’d refuse. I was scared they might think I was fat or stupid. (Or that they might be an axe murderer!)
  • When a local television station asked me to appear on their morning show as a financial expert, I was afraid of looking like a fool, so I refused.
  • When a friend wanted me to join him to watch live music at a local pub, I declined. I’d never been in a bar (yes, I’d led a sheltered life) and was nervous about what might happen.
  • When another friend asked me to bike with him from Portland to the Oregon Coast, I said no. It was a long way. It seemed difficult and dangerous.

These are only a handful of examples. In reality, I blocked things every day. I refused to try new foods. I didn’t like to go new places. And I didn’t want to try new things. Or, more precisely, I wanted to do all of this, but was afraid to try. My default response was to find reasons something couldn’t be done instead of ways to make them happen. Because I focused more on possible negative outcomes than potential rewards, I avoided taking even tiny risks.

After reading Impro, I made a resolution. Instead of saying “no” to the things that scared me, I’d say “yes” instead.

Whenever somebody asked me to do something, I agreed (as long as it wasn’t illegal and didn’t violate my personal code of conduct). I put this new philosophy into practice in lots of ways, both big and small.

  • When people asked me to lunch, I said yes.
  • When people contacted me to make media appearances or do public speaking gigs, I said yes.
  • When friends asked me to go see their favorite bands or to spend the evening chatting at a bar, I said yes.

As a result of my campaign to “just say yes”, I’ve met hundreds of interesting people and done lots of amazing things. I’ve eaten guinea pig in Perú and grubs in Zimbabwe. I’ve climbed mountains in Bolivia and snorkeled in Ecuador. I’ve learned to love both coffee and beer, two beverages I thought I hated. I’ve learned to ride a motorcycle. I’ve shot a gun. I’ve gone skydiving and bungie-jumping. I published a book. I sold my website (and bought it back again!). I wrote a monthly column in a major magazine.

These things might seem minor to natural extroverts, but I’m not a natural extrovert. I’m an introvert. These were big steps for me. These experiences were new and scary, and I wouldn’t have had them if I hadn’t forced myself to say yes.

In recent years, I’ve come to look at saying “yes” like playing the lottery. Every time I do something new, there’s a chance I’ll win big. Let me explain.

The Lottery of Life

My work nowadays involves meeting and chatting with folks from all walks of life. They email me to say, “Want to have lunch?” and I say, “Of course!” We talk about podcasts or travel or bicycling or comic books. Whatever strikes our fancy. When we’ve finished our tea or Thai noodles, nothing seems to have happened — not on the outside, anyhow.

What’s happened, though, is that we’ve both received lottery tickets. By meeting and chatting and sharing ideas, we’ve been given tickets in the lottery of life.

I also get a ticket whenever I try something new. (Because I now try new things all of the time, I’m accumulating a lot of lottery tickets.)

I get tickets when I say “yes” to things that are scary or difficult too. When I spoke at World Domination Summit in 2012 — something that scared the hell out of me! — I got a lottery ticket. When I flew to Ecuador to talk with people about Financial Independence, I got a lottery ticket. When I introduce myself to strangers or “important people”, I get a lottery ticket.

But note that these tickets are rarely handed to me. To get them, I have to take risks. I have to move outside my comfort zone. As much as I enjoy sitting on the couch in the evening watching Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Kim, neither one of us receives a lottery ticket for doing so. To get tickets, we have to do things.

[Shaman cleaning

The prizes in life’s lottery are many and varied.

When I learned Spanish, for instance, I received a winning lottery ticket that has paid off in all sorts of ways. I made new friends (my tutor, my English student), traveled to new places (Perú, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador), read new authors, tried new food, watched new movies, and so much more.

When I was in Quito a couple of years ago, I rode the teleférico, the cable-car that carries visitors 4000 feet up the side of a nearby volcano. During the fifteen-minute ride, I chatted with two couples that spoke only Spanish. If I hadn’t learned Spanish, I couldn’t have understood them, much less conversed. But because I do speak Spanish, I enjoyed a pleasant chat about one couple’s life in Venezuela and the other couple’s life in Quito. Plus I garnered a restaurant recommendation for later that evening. Yet another small prize I won simply because I took the time to learn another language.

[The teleferico in Quito]

That’s an example of receiving a small payoff from the lottery of life. Sometimes, however, you hit the jackpot.

In 2008, I received an email from a blog reader. He’d be in Portland the following week and wanted to know if I had time to meet for lunch. “Sure,” I said. “Let’s do it.” I met the reader and his wife at a local Thai restaurant. We had a great conversation. I was impressed by his story and his drive. I gave him blogging tips. He told me stories about traveling the world. His wife showed me how to stretch my injured hamstring.

Over the next year, my new friend shared a couple of articles at Get Rich Slowly. He stayed at my house one night when he got stranded in Portland.

Eventually, this guy — whose name was Chris Guillebeau — moved to Portland. Our friendship grew. In 2010, I joined Chris for a train ride from Chicago to Portland. On that trip, he shared a crazy idea. “I want to create a conference and hold it in Portland. I want you to be on the planning team,” he said. For the next three years, I helped to organize the World Domination Summit, which grew into a grand party for 3000 people.

Saying “yes” to lunch with one stranger had a ripple effect that continues to spread throughout my entire life. Because of that one action, I’ve met hundreds of incredible people, some of whom have become close friends. I’ve traveled to Norway. I’ve spoken on stage before one thousand people. Chris and I collaborated to create the Get Rich Slowly course. (And the payoff continues: I’ll be presenting a three-hour workshop on Financial Freedom at this July’s edition of WDS.)

Not every meeting or experience pays off so handsomely, of course. In fact, some are disasters! But most provide some sort of reward, and sometimes those rewards are enormous. Prize-winning tickets are so common and fruitful, in fact, that I’ve almost become addicted to playing the lottery of life. I relish making new acquaintances, going new places, and trying new things.

I used to think I was unlucky. Good things happened to other people, never to me. Everyone else had more fun than I did. Now, eight years since learning to say “yes” to life, I know the truth. Success breeds success. When you do something well, you open doors to new opportunities. When you fail to act, doors remain closed.

Wishing won’t make you happy or wealthy, and good things don’t just happen. Luck is no accident. Luck isn’t magic and it’s not a gift from the gods. You make your own luck.

Luck Is No Accident

What we think of as “luck” has almost nothing to with randomness and almost everything to do with attitude. According to psychologist Richard Wiseman, only about ten percent of life is truly random; the remaining ninety percent is defined by the way we think. Wiseman says we have more control over our lives — and our luck — than we realize.

John Krumboltz and Al Levin, the authors of Luck is No Accident, agree. In that book, they write:

You have control over your own actions and how you think about the events that impact your life. None of us can control the outcomes, but your actions can increase the probability that desired outcomes will occur. There are no guarantees in life. The only guarantee is that doing nothing will get you nowhere.

This has certainly been true in my own life. When I sat at home, afraid to do things and meet people, I was “unlucky”. Once I took action, my fortunes changed.

Wiseman says that “lucky” people share four attributes:

    • Lucky people make the most of opportunity. This is more than just being in the right place at the right time. Lucky people must be aware when an opportunity presents itself, and they must have the courage to seize it.
    • Lucky people listen to their hunches. They heed their gut instincts.
    • Lucky people expect good fortune. They’re optimistic. They think win-win. They make positive choices that benefit themselves and others. They tend to assume the best.
  • Lucky people turn bad luck into good. They fail forward, learning from their mistakes and finding the silver lining in every cloud. There’s a Spanish saying, “No hay mal que por bien no venga,” which can be roughly translated as, “There is no bad from which good could not come.” Lucky people believe this.

In Impro, Keith Johnstone writes:

People with dull lives often think their lives are dull by chance. In reality, everyone chooses more or less what kind of events happen to them by their conscious patterns of blocking or yielding.

This, my friends, is truth — perhaps the fundamental truth.

Our attitudes produce our luck. Choice is the backbone of life and meaning. This theme will appear repeatedly at Money Boss, and not just when discussing luck and fear.

At the heart of happiness is choice. We make meaning in our lives through our choices. At its core, freedom is about the ability to choose. And our financial states — for good or ill — are largely defined by choice.

Everyone chooses more or less what kind of events happen to them. Learn this quote. Learn to love it. Because you already live it, whether you know it or not.

Allow me to pause for a moment to acknowledge that yes, some people enjoy better circumstances than others. Systemic poverty is a genuine problem. It’s a barrier that some people have to overcome in order to achieve success. And yes, shit happens. You could get hit by a truck tomorrow. To me, these things are obvious and should go without saying. Yet, if I don’t explicitly mention them, I’ll get nasty comments and email.

Action Cures Fear

Saying “yes” is the first step to fighting fear and living a life without regret. But saying “yes” isn’t enough by itself. To cure fear, you must also take action.

Cody is a personal trainer in Portland, Oregon. He coaches athletes to lift more and run farther than they believe they’re able. Cody says one key to achieving peak performance is acting in spite of fear.

When lifting weights, for instance, many athletes — especially novices — become intimidated. They may be physically capable of living a given weight (and may have even lifted that very weight in the past), but they’re afraid to do so; they think about what might happen if they drop the bar. Others might imagine the pain and suffering that comes from running a marathon, the long hours of work ahead, and allow those thoughts to stop them from attempting the race.

Cody says that successful athletes overcome their fear by turning off their brains and taking action. Instead of waiting for the moment when fear subsides — a moment that might never come if she keeps thinking about it — the veteran forces herself not to think about what she’s doing. She simply does it. She lifts the weight or scales the wall or dives into the pool. She keeps running and doesn’t think about the distance that remains.

DSC_4567 DSC_4289

At the start of the classic science-fiction novel Dune, our young hero is put to a painful test. To calm himself and focus his mind, he recites this litany against fear:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

If fear is the mind-killer, then action is the fear-killer. To overcome fear, you must reach a point where you’re no longer thinking — only acting. Thought creates fear; action cures it.

Cody’s insight isn’t new. Motivational speaker Brian Tracy has said, “If you want to develop courage, then simply act courageously when it’s called for. If you do something over and over again, you develop a habit. Some people develop the habit of courage. Some people develop the habit of non-courage.” (Tracy’s famous advice for doing what you fear? Eat that frog!)

In The Magic of Thinking Big, David J. Schwartz writes, “Action cures fear. Indecision, postponement, on the other hand, fertilize fear…When we face tough problems, we stay mired in the mud until we take action. Hope is a start. But hope needs action to win victories.”

Schwartz advocates a two-step plan to build confidence and destroy fear:

  1. Isolate your fear. Determine exactly what it is that scares you.
  2. Take action. Figure out what action will counter your fear, and then do it.

“Hesitation only enlarges, magnifies the fear,” Shwartz writes. “Take action promptly. Be decisive.”

Often what we’re actually afraid of is the unknown. We like certainty, and choosing to do something with an uncertain outcome makes us nervous. That initial step into the unknown can be scary. But after the first, each subsequent step becomes easier and easier. When you act, you remove the mystery.

For years, I was frightened to speak in front of crowds. I avoided it. And when I agreed to speak, I put off preparation until the last possible moment. But when I began to say “yes” to offers and opportunities, I had to learn to speak in front of crowds. At first, I didn’t like it. But over time a funny thing happened. The more talks I gave, the better I got — and the more I enjoyed it. I’m still not great at it, but my fear fades a little more each time I step on stage. Action is curing my fear.

Action Creates Motivation

At home, Kim wakes at five o’clock to get ready for work. Most days, I just lie there. “I don’t need to get up,” I think. “I’ve nowhere to go.”

But I’ve learned that if I don’t get up, I regret it. If I stay in bed, I don’t make it to the gym. I miss work deadlines. I have less time to do the fun stuff, like hiking, and reading, and riding my motorcycle.

So, I get out of bed. I get dressed. As unappealing as it sounds, I go outside for a walk or a run — even when it’s raining (as is frequently the case back in Portland). The first few minutes suck. I’m tempted to turn around and return to my cozy bedroom. Before long, however, I find I’m actually enjoying myself. I return home invigorated, eager to get things done.

If I were to wait for motivation, I’d sleep all day. Action creates motivation. By forcing myself to take action, I find the motivation that was missing before.

Feeling Good is a popular self-help manual by David Burns. The book helped a younger me through an extended bout of depression. Part of the solution was to overcome my chronic procrastination, procrastination brought about by fear. In Feeling Good, Burns describes the problem.

Individuals who procrastinate frequently confuse motivation and action. You foolishly wait until you feel in the mood to do something. Since you don’t feel like doing it, you automatically put it off. Your error is your belief that motivation comes first, and then leads to action and success. But it is usually the other way around; action must come first, and the motivation comes later.

You see, action primes the pump. It creates momentum. It instills confidence.

Another way to boost confidence is careful preparation. Anxiety is largely self-doubt and insecurity — an underlying belief that you cannot handle whatever is before you. Anxiety often causes fear and procrastination. Because of this, preparation plays a key role in mitigating fear.

When you prepare — to speak to a crowd, to hike through a bear-infested forest — you decrease your doubt. You can’t eliminate the possibility of failure, but you can drastically reduce the odds. You rehearse possible situations. You practice the required actions. You allow your imagination to explore (and cope with) worst-case scenarios. Preparation helps you to do your best.

And that’s the important thing: If you always do your best and you do what’s right, then you needn’t fear the results. Sure, bad things will happen sometimes. But if you’ve done well and done what’s right, the negative outcome isn’t your fault — it’s just how things are. If you’re unprepared, however, you must own the negative results.

When we’re prepared, we feel competent. When we feel competent, we feel confident. When we’re confident, our fear fades into the background.

Action Is Character

A decade ago, I was full of hot air. And I was lazy. And depressed. This wasn’t a good combination for getting things done. I talked a lot about the things I wanted to do, but I never did them. I found reasons not to. I even had trouble keeping up my end of the household chores, which frustrated my wife.

I was a Talker.

Maybe you know somebody who’s like this. A Talker seems to know the solution to everything, has great plans for how she’s going to make money or get a new job. She can tell you what others are doing wrong and how she could do it better. But the funny thing is, a Talker never acts on her solutions and her great plans. She never gets that new job. She’s out of work or stuck in a job she hates.

To everyone else, it’s clear that the Talker is full of hot air, but he believes he’s bluffing everyone along — or worse (as was my case) isn’t even aware that he never follows through on his boasts and promises. Sometimes a Talker conflates talking with doing. When confronted, a Talker has excuses for not getting things done: He doesn’t have time, he doesn’t have the skills, the odds are stacked against him. When a Talker does do something, he often takes a shortcut.

That, my friends, is the man I used to be.

Something changed in the autumn of 2005. I began to read a lot of books. Not just personal finance books, but self-help books and success manuals of all sorts. As I read the books, I discussed them with my cousin, Nick. During our conversations, I’d sometimes lament that X was a priority in my life — where X might be exercise or getting out of debt or reading more books — but that I never had time for it. Instead, I “had to do” a bunch of other stuff instead.

“Well, then X isn’t actually a priority,” Nick would say, which made me angry. I’d argue, but Nick would point out that the things we actually do are the priorities in our life. What we say doesn’t matter; it’s what we do that counts.

It took me a long time to learn this lesson, but eventually I began to align my life with my stated priorities. Instead of just talking about doing things, I did them. I stopped looking for shortcuts and started doing the work required to get things done. Unsurprisingly, this worked. When I did things instead of talking about them, I got better results.

Today, I am a Doer.

In his notes on The Last Tycoon, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “Action is character.” Fitzgerald meant that what a fictional character defines who that character is. Superman is a superhero because he does heroic things, not because he talks about doing them.

The same is true in real life: You are defined by the things you do — not by the things you think or say. If you never did anything, you wouldn’t be anybody.

Action is Character

We Are What We Repeatedly Do

We are what we repeatedly do — not what we once did, and not what we did only once.

One mistake does not define you, nor does a single act of kindness. These events may provide glimpses of a potential you, but who you really are is revealed by what you do on a daily basis.

  • You can say that health is important to you, but if you don’t eat and act healthfully, it’s just not so.
  • Thinking about writing doesn’t make you a writer; writing makes you a writer. If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer.
  • You can say your life’s too busy and you want to slow down, but so long as you keep scheduling things, you’re showing that you value your busy-ness more than the downtime.

I’ve self-identified as fit for almost seven years. For most of that time, I have been fit. I’ve eaten well and exercised often. But during the past couple of years, my attention has been focused elsewhere. My priorities have shifted. During my RV trip across the U.S., I allowed my diet and exercise regimen to slip until today they’re average at best. I can see it in my body and feel it in my mind.

Talking about fitness and having been fit in the past won’t make me fit today. To be fit, I have to do the work to become (and remain) fit. Fitness will return when I choose to eat right and exercise once again. Not just once, but every day.

If you don’t like who you are, choose to be somebody new.

We are what we repeatedly do.

Note: This quote — “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit” — is frequently attributed to the philosopher Aristotle. However, Aristotle never wrote this. Instead, the quote is Will Durant’s summary of Aristotle’s philosophy.

Summing Up

Whew! That’s a lot of information. Let’s summarize what we’ve learned today.

  • On their deathbeds, people generally regret the things they did not do rather than the things they did. They also regret having spent so much time seeking outside approval instead of focusing on their own feelings, values, and relationships. In short, dying people regret having been afraid.
  • Some fears are physical. Others are psychological. Some fears are rational. Many are not. Healthy, rational fears keep you alert and alive. Irrational fears and anxieties prevent you from enjoying everything life has to offer. In part, our irrational fears are fueled by the mass media. We’re bombarded by news of the exceptional and the unusual, so that we come to believe life is more dangerous than it actually is.
  • A mighty weapon in the war against fear is the power of yes. By teaching yourself to accept opportunities in life, you can gradually overcome your irrational fears. You can teach yourself to become bold, to try new things, to meet new people, and to enjoy a more rewarding existence.
  • This is one of the secrets of lucky people. What we think of as “luck” has almost nothing to do with randomness and everything to do with attitude. Everyone chooses more or less what kind of events happen to them. You make your own luck.
  • It can help to imagine that life is like a lottery. Any time you do something — especially something new — there’s a chance that your life will be vastly improved in the long run. When you say yes, you’re given a lottery ticket. Often that ticket won’t pay off. But sometimes you’ll hit the jackpot.
  • Saying yes isn’t enough by itself. To cure fear, you must take action. Action boosts confidence. So does preparation. When we’re prepared, we feel competent. When we feel competent, we feel confident. When we’re confident, fear fades into the background.
  • If you always do your best and you do what’s right, then you needn’t fear the results. Sure, bad things will sometimes happen. But if you’ve done well and done what’s right, the negative outcome isn’t your fault — it’s just how things are. If you’re unprepared, however, you must own the negative consequences.
  • The bottom line? Action is character. You are defined by the things you do — not by the things you think or say. You are what you repeatedly do. If you don’t like who you are, you must choose to be somebody new.

What have action and fear to do with personal and financial independence? Everything!

The first step toward freedom of any sort is facing and fighting your fears. “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face,” Eleanor Roosevelt once said. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

From these humble beginnings, you can progress to greater things.

Next, we’ll explore personal well-being. We’ll talk about what happiness is, how it’s achieved, and what you can do to maximize happiness in your life. Because happiness too is an important part of achieving personal and financial freedom.

More about...Psychology

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There are 144 comments to "How to build confidence and destroy fear".

  1. Writer's Coin says 17 February 2009 at 05:10

    Awesome post JD! As I was reading through it, one thing kept popping into my head: athletes. When young baseball players are rushed through the minor leagues, they don’t have time to develop their confidence.

    Like you said, lots of people think confidence is simply “there,” but it needs to be nurtured just like everything else.

    Many a sports careers were ruined because players weren’t allowed to develop confidence and when tough times came, they fell apart. This despite having all the ability in the world to do well.

    I’m an optimist so a lot of this stuff rings true to me, but I think most people would benefit from simply laying off the bad stuff so much and focusing a little bit more on the good things.

  2. Beth says 17 February 2009 at 05:10

    Congratulations on going ahead with your financial planners meeting in spite of your fear. I was really moved by your post today. I’ve always been self-conscious about my writing (though I’ve always enjoyed doing it) and because of that it took me forever to actually start the blog I’d been wanting to start. I am learning to do my best and let go. The best part is that I’m having a great time writing posts for the blog and wish I’d had the confidence to start it sooner.

    I still struggle with confidence, though. It sounds like The Magic of Thinking Big is a book I could really use. Thanks.

  3. Neal Frankle says 17 February 2009 at 05:14

    Ditto on the congratulations. I am a big believer in “acting as if” and this idea has helped overcome fears as well.

    And you selected a wonderful book as a resource. If I were on an island and I could only have 2 books, one of them would be “How To Stop Worrying and Start Living” – its a life changer.

  4. HollyP says 17 February 2009 at 06:06

    Thanks. I’ve been struggling with this lately, though outwardly I’m self-confident quite successful in all areas of my life.

    One thing that was a eye-opener to me was a discussion that I had with a coworker many years ago. He told me about dreaming of making a winning goal in hockey game. He always dreamed about positive things, which was a shock to me. I’d never dreamt about anything but angst.

    That was when I realized I could change my own mindset. I used some of the techniques outlined here, with some success. I do need to feed myself mentally though, and to exercise my positive mindset regularly. (Which I’ve been slipping at.)

    Thanks for the reminder to get back on that wagon.

  5. Bajan Queen says 17 February 2009 at 06:15

    This was great. Now while I am not an “expert” public speaker, I do engage in a great deal of speaking opportunities (I conduct training, policy communication, etc). The one thing that was missing from this great list is you should remember that you are the expert and they are there to hear what you have to say. If you mess up or forget to say something that you really wanted to emphasize, who will know but you? Remembering that goes a long way in building confidence in speaking.

    • Jess says 12 July 2012 at 16:19

      I’m super late to the comment game on this one, but this reminded me of something one of my ballet teachers said once – I forget the words exactly, but the basic premise was that even if you do the wrong step, keep your arms and your head up and no one will know. It was mostly meant for stage performances, because the average non-dancer audience member only watches the upper body (us dancers watch the feet!) – but I think it’s the same principal. Only you’ll know you screwed up, unless you let everyone know.

  6. Erik says 17 February 2009 at 06:18

    A couple of years ago I read a book called Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. It is a Christian book about how men can embrace their manliness.

    A key point in the book is that when something scares you, then that is a sign that you should do it. Fear keeps us from becoming the best we can be and typically that fear is irrational.

    Since I read that, I’ve been trying to embrace my fear. If there is an opportunity that scares me, I take that fear as a sign I should do it.

    It takes a shift in mental thinking to do, but once you do, the experiences that you have multiply.

  7. Kevin M says 17 February 2009 at 06:33

    I’m like you – I hate being in large groups and trying to impress them. Public speaking is a big fear of mine too. Mainly because I lack self-confidence and constantly doubt myself.

    But to my surprise recently, while writing our “25 things about ourselves”, my wife had one that surprised me. She said she wished she could be as confident and self-assure as I was. That really shocked me, knowing how I feel on the inside most times. I guess I can at least “fake it” pretty well.

  8. The Personal Finance Playbook says 17 February 2009 at 06:36

    Great post. Very inspiring. Pat your perfectionist self on the back. I’m going to see if my library has The Magic of Thinking Big. Thanks.

  9. Jay Schryer says 17 February 2009 at 06:43

    This is a great post! I see fear as the root of all evil in the world. Fear is the opposite of Love, and it prevents us from living our best lives. With every fear that we face, and conquer, we become that much stronger, that much better…that much closer to our true selves. Congratulations on becoming a better you!

  10. SavvyChristine says 17 February 2009 at 06:48

    A quick heads-up, J.D.: The book is by David Schwartz, but twice in the post you say it’s written by Barry Schwartz (who wrote The Paradox of Choice, which I just read and it’s the only reason why I caught it). Thanks for the great post!

  11. J.D. says 17 February 2009 at 06:53

    Yikes. Thanks, SavvyChristine. I’ve fixed the errors.

  12. Tony Dobson says 17 February 2009 at 07:09

    Great article, JD. For so many reasons I’m glad I read this today. Fear can be paralysing, and remembering that it is a problem numerous people (including ones we admire) have to overcome helps enormously.

  13. Sky says 17 February 2009 at 07:35

    I just graduated for WOU. I read multiple blogs, but I always make sure to catch yours. It’s great to hear that you are speaking there.

    I recently overcame a personal fear. I had to move away from everything I knew so that I could find work. After graduating, I tried desperately to find work in Oregon, but there were no opportunities, even though I graduated with a degree in Computer Science. Luckily, I received an offer for a job in Virginia, but I was afraid to move away from every support system I had. It seems to have worked out for now, but it was very difficult for me to overcome the fear of leaving everything I had ever known.

  14. Kristen @TheFrugalGirl says 17 February 2009 at 07:43

    Good timing for this post. I’ve recently been asked to speak about frugality at a women’s conference. Like you, I feel confident in my ability to write, but not so confident in my ability to speak. I really hate being up in front of people.

    I think I’m probably still going to say no, but I’ll maybe consider in in the future. It helps to know that other more established bloggers like your self also tremble at the thought of speaking in front of an audience!

  15. Su Prieta says 17 February 2009 at 07:53

    Self-confidence is a cancer. Once it implants, it grows very rapidly. I have learned to overcome the “cut-and-run” initial impulse. Most of us have experienced it. Once you stay through that initial impulse, you are forced to take an action. It may not be the right action exactly, but we have a tendancy to modify and improve our technique over time.
    Good for you for staying through your “cut-and-run” impulses.

  16. Maria Killam says 17 February 2009 at 08:07

    I have recently subscribed to your blog and I just loved your post today. It’s so true that confidence simply comes from doing. And that first piece of advice ‘Don’t dwell on failures’ actually gave me some freedom on one of them that I’ve been dwelling on but didn’t realize that until I read this post. Thank you, keep up the great writing!

  17. Ben says 17 February 2009 at 08:19

    J.D., “when I read the other financial blogs I feel like giving up” Let me tell you something. As someone who reads about 10-15 financial blogs every day, I can say with complete honesty that yours ranks in the top 2. Your subject matter is relevant and your writing is informative and engaging. I myself struggle with confidence issues and I am always suprised (and a little relieved) when someone with so much success feels the same things. Keep up the good work.

  18. [email protected] says 17 February 2009 at 08:34

    Great post! You are absolutely right that fear can squash your dreams. Even if we don’t realize that it is our fear of doing something, we may make other excuses for why we can’t, don’t or won’t do something, but it really does boil down to fear. Fear of making a change, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of the unknown, fear of stepping outside of our comfort zone.

    It isn’t until we can overcome these fears that we live to our full potential and begin to live our life how we desire it to be in our hearts.

    Thanks for a great post and congratulations on overcoming some of your fears. You have my respect, I’d have a very hard time getting in front of a large group of people. I’m sure you’re being hard on yourself, we always are our worst critic!

  19. Greenman2001 says 17 February 2009 at 08:40

    I’m a little surprised, JD, that you haven’t included the most important tool for overcoming fears: practice doing the thing you’re afraid of. Speaking well in public isn’t a gift, any more than your writing ability is a gift: it’s a skill honed through practice. Skilled public speakers practice their speech — even if it’s improvised and not from a script — first in private, then in front of a trusted audience. Presidents hold mock press conferences before the real thing, to practice their delivery and answer questions that are similar to the ones that will be fired at them during the real thing. Familiarity is relaxing and confidence-building.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the imporance of learning from your critics. I think you still have a ways to go on that one over at GFS, but, speaking as one of your affectionate critics, I’m pleased with the progress that you’re making.

  20. Janice says 17 February 2009 at 09:25

    J.D., fabulous post and so well written! I love that you sometimes address the bigger picture than just finances. Yours is the only financial blog I subscribe to and these are some of the reasons why! Thank you for sharing your journey and the lessons learned along the way.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to post a link to this article on my facebook! 🙂

  21. Matt SF says 17 February 2009 at 09:47

    I kept reading and waiting for the SciFi fan in you break out Dune’s most famous quote. Nicely done.

  22. Kris B. says 17 February 2009 at 09:50

    Super. Inspiring. Thank you.

  23. stefanie says 17 February 2009 at 10:30

    this is a great post – i love how detailed you are in describing how many small things we can do to help ourselves gain confidence. two things i’ve learned about this in grad school, especially as it pertains to public speaking: 1 – never apologize for your work before you’ve said anything. no one needs to know this is your first (or 100th) time up there, and no one comes in with the expectation that they’re gonna dislike you. 2 (and my favorite) – you are always the expert in the room on your subject. no one else has spent the time and work on doing what you do in the way you do it, so go up there and own it. this helps especially when you might be talking with people more established in your field, or older, or farther along in some way or another. even if this is the case, you still own your own knowledge and work.

  24. Tyler Karaszewski says 17 February 2009 at 10:47

    I especially like the part where you say that lists on the internet aren’t going to magically get you anything. This is something I think too few people realize, or they realize, but aren’t willing to put in the effort to overcome. It’s easy to read tips or books, and know *about* all the good things you could be doing to improve your life, but not really know *how* to get them done.

    It’s like watching cooking shows on TV and thinking about how good the food looks. If you actually want to *taste* the food though, you’re going to have to get off the couch and go in the kitchen and make it. It probably wont come out as well as it did for the TV chef the first time you make it. You’ll have to practice, and make it a few more times, and adjust the recipe slightly to your kitchen and your tastes, and then eventually you’ll have your own delicious meal.

    You could sit around watching more TV shows, where they tell you how to cook dozens of different things, and not acting on any of them, but you’ll have a better meal if you just pick one, practice, and when you get good, pick a second, and practice that, until you’re good at that, too.

    It works the same with everything else, from personal finance to learning a language.

  25. flying... says 17 February 2009 at 10:49

    The way to get over fear is to do something terrifying.

    Because I thought that skydiving was one of the most terrifying things to do, I went and did it.

    Helped a lot!

  26. Linear Girl says 17 February 2009 at 11:01

    Confidence comes from experience, experience comes from doing, doing happens when you allow yourself to focus on the action rather than the results. So: just do it.

    The best advice I’ve ever seen on this subject was “anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” We get so caught up in perfectionism (I certainly do) that we put off doing things just because we won’t be great at it. Everything has a learning curve and as soon as we allow ourselves to learn we start to do, as we do we gain experience, and with experience comes confidence. Just do it.

    • rajat says 04 March 2012 at 09:26

      i totally agree with you. doing things and learning from them is best experience through which we can gain self confidence.

  27. Barb1954 says 17 February 2009 at 11:04

    What a great post today with such helpful resources. The timing couldn’t be better. For those of us who have been out of work for awhile, not receiving responses to a resume that’s been submitted or after an interview (especially for those jobs we’d be perfect at), can really do a number on one’s self confidence. As more people are joining the ranks of the unemployed every day, any advice on having confidence in yourself and your skills and knowledge is of great value. Thanks!

    I just wanted to add that courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I’ve found that to be true in my own life. In fact, when I’m afraid of doing something I know I’m about to have an experience that will help me grow. And isn’t that what life is all about?

  28. Nienke says 17 February 2009 at 11:07

    Thank you for this great, great post! I cannot underline enough how important it is not to think, but to act, when you fear a situation. I myself am a huge perfectionist and because of this I have developed a big procastination problem in my studies (I even had therapy!).

  29. EscapeVelocity says 17 February 2009 at 11:18

    This was a good post to read after being up at four in the morning worrying about the fact that my roof needs to be replaced, which of course does nothing at all for the roof.

    Teach a course sometime if you have the opportunity. That really helped me with public speaking. I didn’t sleep on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights for about the first three weeks, but eventually I got past it. I still get butterflies, but I know I can do it now.

  30. steph davis says 17 February 2009 at 11:36

    What a great post, and so relevant to everything. Thanks! 🙂 Steph

  31. Jocelyn Baun says 17 February 2009 at 11:48

    Great post! I relatively confident and successful on the outside, but totally afraid on the inside. It was a sign to read this post this morning as I’m now struggling with moving forward in my career (transitioning from a photo assistant to a photographer), which is a bit hard. I’m a perfectionist and totally fear failure, so a lot of times I unconsciously shoot myself in the foot – don’t try, don’t have to worry about not succeeding. So this post was quite inspiring for me and I hope others! Oh and a book I read is Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, PhD which helped me a lot.

  32. Peter Owen says 17 February 2009 at 11:53

    You’re exactly right. I think it’s a great idea to put yourself in an uncomfortable position (like you did) at least every once in a while. It’s hard to make yourself do, but you learn so much from it. Also, I find that once I’ve gotten comfortable doing something like a job that it’s time for me to get more responsibility, change responsibilities, or just move on.

  33. Chris says 17 February 2009 at 13:03

    “The meek will inherit the earth”.. I’m going to bank on that.. 🙂

    It just annoys me the person who actually knows less, should not speak, and has every reason NOT to be confident, tends to be the confident, gregarious, self-assured type.

    I will work on the whole thinking positive thing.. I like the idea of practice and DOING creating confidence. Can’t argue with that!

  34. indio says 17 February 2009 at 13:34

    I do a lot of public peaking for work with audiences that can sometimes be up to 600 people in person. I did a webinar once that attracted about 1200 people. When I first started his job 15 years ago, I really disliked the public speaking part. Now, though I am nervous from time to time, I realize that I am a subject matter expert, just as you are. Sure there is always the chance that someone might ask questions that I don’t know the answer to, but that is my opportunity to go out an research it and learn something that I didn’t know before I gave that presentation. I’ve also found that when I give the presentation a second time, my thoughts and the talk track are becoming finalized in my head and I deliver it much better.

  35. [email protected] says 17 February 2009 at 14:05

    I was definately led to your posts this week…I read last week that you spoke at a conference and I thought “He is ALSO a talented speaker in addition to an excellent financial writer and blog creator?”, and like you, I felt intimidated, also being the creator of a financial website. (I cannot imagine that you are intimidated by other financial writers, I find you writing so impressive!) The next step for me is public speaking, and I have thus declined when asked due to my insecurities about it. I, too, am a perfectionist, but had never realized that is part of my problem until now. I did join Toastmasters and have been practicing there for several months. After reading your article and the other posts, however, now I am inspired, and I will stop procrastinating! The Magic of Thinking Big is one of my favorites. Thank you!

  36. Serena says 17 February 2009 at 14:18

    Thank you for posting this. I think that the building confidence is such an important concept for me to remember. The quote from Dune was up on my bedroom wall where I saw it every day in high school. It’s been a big part of pushing through at many different pivotal points in my life, and I’m glad to see somebody else use it!

  37. Shara says 17 February 2009 at 14:39

    Bravery isn’t the absence of fear but overcoming it.

    Fear is natural and shouldn’t be ignored. But if, upon analysis, the fear is irrational then it should be overcome. One poster said that he/she went skydiving because that was the scariest thing he/she could think of. I wouldn’t do that. I have a fear of skydiving because of the danger involved. I consider that a rational fear.

    *”Let the fear of danger be a spur to prevent it; he that fears not, gives advantage to the danger.” -Francis Quarles*

    Fear needs to be balanced. I agree that fear can lead to irrational behavior, but lack of fear can lead to harm as well. If you don’t fear a rabid dog (and therefore take proper precautions) he may bite you.

    Ultimately I ask myself if the reason I don’t want to do something is due to fearful or rational. If it’s fear then I try to push through it. If it’s reason or simple taste (I don’t fear public speaking, but I don’t enjoy it) then I don’t do it.

  38. Dana says 17 February 2009 at 14:48

    Nice use of one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books (Dune)!

    Faking confidence in a situation where I was not at all confident got the attention of my current boyfriend… almost 4 years ago now o.O!

    I am a big fan of just faking the confidence! With practice, it doesn’t even become that difficult anymore ^__~

  39. Jimmy says 17 February 2009 at 15:17

    I would suggest Toastmasters as well. I am the exact opposite — a terrible writer but a really good speaker. I can BS on my toes and convince people I know what I am talking about. One of my employees recently made a speech that was good — but not great. She has been going and she has improved tremendously.

  40. Glen Allsopp says 17 February 2009 at 15:42

    Excellent post JD, I’ll definitely go and share this on twitter. The reason I keep coming back to your blog is because you are YOU – you know your own limitations.

    Congratulations on the TV appearance. Personally, I’ve signed up for toastmasters and my first speech is tomorrow, I’m nervous but I can handle it 🙂


  41. gfe--gluten free easily says 17 February 2009 at 16:00

    Great post, J.D.! It’s timely for me as I prepare for several speaking engagements the next several weeks on living gluten free easily. One thing that really helps me is to have excellent handouts prepared in advance. These handouts are not anything I read or even skim, but I reference them and having prepared them/revised them gives me that info “in my head” and demonstrates my “expert status”/credibility.


  42. Felipe says 17 February 2009 at 16:32

    In line with Greenman2001 (#19): PRACTICE.

    In November we finished the development of an industrial area and we had an inaguration with some politician.

    I prepared something about the history of the area (it was a coal mine in the 19th century, a soccer field in the 70s and held a rock festival in the 90s). I didn’t want to practice the speech to try to look natural.

    But when I arrived I saw several TV cameras (I expected some press, but not TV). The mayor introduced the act and I found myself with those people and no idea what to talk about. So I began to talk fast, low, incoherent and looking at the floor.

    My reflection about that day: it’s better to look straight than natural.

  43. liz says 17 February 2009 at 17:05

    I love this post, with one exception – I think it is a good practice to move ahead if your gut tells you it is a good move.. but to be really in tune with your gut is also very very valuable..

    I’d say sometimes procrastination also maybe our bodies telling our brains that something isn’t quite right… I don’t know, I am still not 100% behind “not procrastinating”…

    Some others apparently agree.. albeit this is in a very work-related way..

  44. jeffeb3 says 17 February 2009 at 17:31

    Perfect. I need to have more confidence when I play hockey. This is exactly what I needed.

  45. Nate @ Money Young says 17 February 2009 at 19:11


    MOTB is one of my favorite books of all time. I haven’t seen Dr. Schwartz mentioned before in a blog. YAY!


  46. Michelle says 18 February 2009 at 04:24

    I really enjoyed this post and in general have been enjoying your blog very much. I like how you weave material into a blog that I thought would only talk about money. I am beginning to learn that handling money is about a lot more than just how much is in your pocket. Thanks….

  47. DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad says 18 February 2009 at 04:55

    Great post!

    Facing and overcoming fear definitely makes you stronger . . .

  48. Dayflyer says 18 February 2009 at 05:55

    JD, The fact that you are such a confident writer can make people assume you’re confident in all things, so it’s always interesting to read about areas where people are less comfortable.

    I used to have to speak in front of audiences of up to 300 people, parents and/or school students, on curriculum choices, with headteacher and other teachers also present and hanging on every word in case I said anything they didn’t want me to.

    I had 2 positive thoughts to take with me:

    I’ve been asked because people value my input

    Even though I may not have all the answers, I do know my subject better than most of my audience, and I can hold my own

    I too have been guilty of striving for perfectionism. It’s another name for procrastination to me. Who’s to say my definition of perfect is the same as someone else’s anyway. My ‘pretty good’ may easily be their ‘perfect’.

  49. pistolette says 18 February 2009 at 07:06

    Awesome post. I think it is great that you wrote this exactly as I’m re-reading Krishnamurti’s ‘On Fear’. I highly recommend if you haven’t read it. I struggle regularly with a lot of the things you mentioned above which is why I’m always reinforcing the teachings in my head.

  50. April Dykman says 18 February 2009 at 07:06

    Thank you! I like the other topics you’ve been covering lately. This part really made me think:

    “He recommends five specific behaviors: sit in front, make eye contact, walk faster, speak up (offer your opinion), smile.”

    The only thing I do regularly from that list is make eye contact!! How awful.

    My issue is that I’m a good writer who lacks the confidence to submit work to bigger publications, start a blog, and write a novel. I’ve just won an award for an article I wrote. I have had several articles published for which I’ve been paid decently, and my feature writing professor really believed in me. So why do I have this self-imposed glass ceiling? Thanks so much for this post…lots of food for thought.

  51. ElizabethG says 18 February 2009 at 09:21

    JD, great to hear of your success. A former boss once said, success comes from 3 things: you gotta write well, speak well, and not be afraid of numbers. Sounds like you’re doing great on all fronts. Just keep in mind, if you did not get a bit nervous when you have a big speaking engagement and the adrenaline didn’t kick in, you would probably be flat and unenthusiastic. Well known entertainers and stage actors say they still get butterflies before opening. Just keeps them on their toes.

  52. Asha Dornfest {Parent Hacks} says 18 February 2009 at 12:27

    You always inspire, JD! Thanks for this, as always.

  53. Angela says 18 February 2009 at 13:28

    Awesome post, J.D.! I just have to say thank you for all of the wonderful information that you provide to so many people! This is information that not only changes people’s finances, but their lives as well. I’ve been reading your blog for over a year now and I need to tell you how much you have inspired me and changed the way I view money and therefore, life. Thank YOU!!

  54. Isa says 18 February 2009 at 14:59

    I loved the post!!!

    I’m actually forwarding it to a couple of my friends.



  55. Jerry Kolber says 18 February 2009 at 17:31

    JD – Great post. You raise an interesting point when you mention how much 10 minutes can do for your confidence. Most people build these mountains in their head – for instance, I could never write a novel, it’s 60,000 words at least. But even a slow writer can write 200 words in 10 minutes, including checking email for a minute or two. 200 words in 30 days is 6,000 words, and in less than a year – a novel. And each time you spend those 10 minutes doing something that matters, whether it’s writing, or practicing guitar, or talking to someone who really matters to you, your confidence gets stronger, so that next time you go to do your “ten minutes” it’s a little bit easier.

  56. slockett says 19 February 2009 at 05:10

    I have a soft spot for the book “The Magic of Thinking Big” as it was the first self-help book I ever read. Everyone has heard the adage that 5 years from now your life will have changed because of the people you met and the books you read. Well I read this book when I was tweleve, let me say that again “I read this book when I was TWELVE”. Being a child I just assumed everything in the book was true (which it is), now at the ripe old age of 29 I look back and my list of successes include having played on 2 different national teams (I am a dual citizen), having a hugely successful collegiate athletic career, competed in a world championship, travelled to over 15 different countries, literally moved to the other side of the world when I was 19, have my bachelors and Masters, in an amazing relationship, and still continuing to chase my dreams and take advantage of opportunities that “pop up”! Can’t wait to see where I am 18 years from now!

  57. Tom says 19 February 2009 at 20:33

    Hey J.D., great stuff here and your post reminded me of the simple formula we revisit from time to time in our classes. It is Clarity – Confidence – Action; enter anywhere, the formula works in either direction. We’ve come to understand the higher one’s clarity of any subject, the greater their confidence in it and the easier it is to take action. If someone takes action first, the immediate result is increased clarity through feedback (what worked or didn’t…) and confidence is thereby increased, often exponentially. It’s interesting to note how some people want to build confidence through clarity before they leap (the extreme being paralysis by analysis) and others will leap with no clarity just to see the outcome. As people we tend to want everything to come out ‘right’ in any endeavor and we tend to get hung up on the outcome. Over the years we’ve discovered it’s better to let go of the outcome and simply start; we will arrive at the destination only when we determine we’ve arrived. And only then can we look back in our wake and see how we got there. Clarity and Confidence are so much greater and Action becomes second nature. There is no right or wrong in any action, only the systematic narrowing of focus…

  58. Golfing Girl says 20 February 2009 at 07:32

    You are so right about dressing and looking confident. When I play golf I notice that when I’m wearing the perfect outfit and have my hair and makeup done, I exude confidence, unlike when I just “throw something on” and hit the course.

  59. Sonia Coleman says 20 February 2009 at 13:40

    In my last job I worked with CEOs and helped them write and present their speeches to a formidable crowd of hundreds of their peers. I was surprised to find that most of these people — even though they regularly spoke to hundreds of employees — were afraid to speak in front of other CEOs. I always saw their potential and envisioned them doing a great job… and then I told them that they were doing great. And I believed what I said: they were doing great for their own ability.

    Bottomline: these CEOs always rose to the challenge and delivered their speeches as well as I knew they could. They called me their cheerleader… now I have be my own cheerleader as I have agreed to several speaking opportunities to college students. But after seeing so many transformations, I know I can speak well with enough practice.

  60. whereaminow says 20 February 2009 at 19:03

    finding this quote and memorizing it, then repeating it to myself was very helpful:

    I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.

    from Dune by Frank Herbert

  61. Nicholas Barry says 23 February 2009 at 22:53

    Hey, JD, I have a question for you. I’m starting a community currency in Davis, CA as a personal project, unrelated to work. I’ve gotten some friends and acquaintances interested in helping me out, but I don’t have much management experience – you could say it’s a bit of a fear of mine. I am good at inspiring people, but I’m having a bit of trouble keeping people going on the project, and getting people to commit to particular tasks (and getting them to follow through!). I’m aware of the difference between inspiration and motivation – perhaps I’m inspiring but failing to motivate? Anyway, do you have any advice for me, and/or any particular book I should read on how to manage people in a small, informal project setting like this?

  62. Frankie Stockman says 25 February 2009 at 06:25

    I just wanted to comment on your “dont seek perfection” portion of the blog. I think that the more we try to find our courage and actually do find it we tent to become a perfectionist.

    You said you are always wanting to look back at the positive outcomes of your situations instead of the negative. So we “must” create more positive situations in order to have more right? I believe this is where you can find yourself becoming more of a perfectionist.

    I think this is something we have to be aware of. Perfectionism can hold us back as does fear. So when you think you are taking one step foward, you tend to take another one back.

    I understand this problem because wether it makes sense or not I experience this in painting. I am good. I no longer fear that because I have had enough situations where I feel confidant. However now I am a perfectionist and will not do anything unless I know its perfect. Holds me back from doing what I need to do. Because as you said, I am looking back at my the good things I have done. The steps I took, the way I sat etc.

    But now I fear I won’t make enough of those good things to sustain me.

    Where do you go from there?

    So I guess I am also asking is: could perfectionism also be a form of fear? Or insecurity?

  63. Wakboth says 03 March 2009 at 04:09

    I’m late on commenting, but I wanted to point out how important an insight this is:

    “Do not procrastinate. Procrastination promotes fear. When you’re afraid, thinking is your enemy. Act. Do what you think is best, and do it quickly. The longer you take to act, the more time you have to talk yourself out of it, the longer you have to imagine the things that might go wrong. It’s not enough to hope. Take action.”

    Back in the military, I was taught that even a bad decision is better than indecision. Everyone makes mistakes; the most important thing is that you *do* something to achieve your goals.

  64. James says 30 March 2009 at 23:17

    how to build your confident ? The simple way is talk to the one you most feared and prepared the worst results . You will find that every thing are in your control .Try it ,and you will get even what you haven’t expected .

  65. Omar says 25 May 2009 at 06:46

    I don’t know what to say about this post. Brilliant man. I felt so good reading it. Very enlightening and inspiring. I took notes and I will check out the books. This made my day. Thanks again. Happy Memorial Day!

  66. Ron says 01 July 2009 at 08:54

    Great post! I really needed this and will probably re-read this entire post daily for the rest of this month and purchase the books you recommended… I will begin to practice at least 2 of your suggesstions for building confidence daily starting now.

  67. TexasBoy says 12 July 2009 at 12:40

    This is my first time to find this site and i read every word beginning to end and found many useful techniques. I am stuck inbetween a rock and a hard place and it hard to keep up my self confidence because im i should be in school but I’m not and cant make myself go back but after reading these blogs and not having taking any action YET I am looking forward to enrole again in the fall. The biggest problem i have is procrastination and after reading this page i am motivated to go back and try my hardest.

  68. Blake Erickson says 18 July 2009 at 12:06

    @TexasBoy It was interesting to see your comment of wanting to go back to school. I’m currently in school and have a few more years to go, but I was just thinking that maybe I should drop out so that I would have more time to do other things (possibly more profitable). Thanks for making me realize that I would regret not getting my degree and that I should just stick it out to the end no matter how poor I am now because of it.

  69. mark harrison says 21 July 2009 at 12:59

    I’ve branched out on my own after being laid off earlier this year. I was doing ok with a new business and then the bad vibes kicked in after a few weeks when things didn’t go according to plan.
    My 15 year old daughter saw that I was a bit down and I told her that I’m doubting myself and had a few setbacks.

    She looked at me and said, “Dad, if you do half as well at your business as you do as being my dad, then you are going to be 100% successful”

    Corny I know but she has never, ever uttered anything like that and it just blew me away and gave me the boost I needed.

  70. Errorman says 29 July 2009 at 14:59

    How to build confidence and destroy fear
    Without self-confidence, we have a tendency to make poor decisions. We make choices based on fear instead of what is best for us. If you lack confidence, you might fill your life with self-destructive behavior. You’re might work at a job you hate.

    You’re might work at a job you hate? You are might work at a job you hate?

    You might work at a job you hate. That sounds correct, to me.

  71. Kaitlin M says 27 August 2009 at 19:18

    It’s strange, we hear the same things over and over. Fake it til you make it, you have to think big to make it big, but a lot of the time it’s not until the fifth, sixth, millionth reading that it really sinks in.
    I think it has finally sunk in, thanks.

  72. Dave says 01 September 2009 at 07:47

    Yr point on “Don’t compare yourself to others” struck a chord.
    I felt the same way as U do abt feeling inadequate, J.D.

    May I share my 2-cent’s worth though: I see it’s O.K. to compare ourselves to others.

    We do that all the time. Comparison can enable us to improve & better. As individuals, societies, countries.

    The key lies in this: Don’t compete with others.

    So my empowerment is: Compare yourself to others. Compete with yourself. 🙂

  73. rachi says 11 October 2009 at 17:37

    Kudos J.D,

    Well the article has put me in situation of giving a serious comeback of former personlaity which I lost due to fear and stepping back on every occassion. I appreciate your efforts of effectively putting this article an eye-opener for all those who feel estranged and emotionally underpinned by fear.

    Keep going & thanks for boosting my confidence !! It helped drastically to rebuild myself

  74. Kap says 18 October 2009 at 21:40

    This post and the comments raises an interesting idea. I wonder whether ‘savers’ and ‘saving’ tend to be driven predominantly driven by fear as opposed to foresight and good judgement. JD I’d would love to hear your comments on that theory, perhaps a survey on the blog would shed some light.

  75. Oleg Mokhov says 22 October 2009 at 14:58

    Hey JD,

    Confidence isn’t the absence of fear, but facing fear and still going for it.

    Picturing yourself doing what you dream of, saying yes to the opportunity, then acting confident will do wonders to steamroll through fear and build confidence.

    Avoiding fear means not trying anything new. Since you’ve never done it, you don’t know how it is, and human nature means you fear the unknown. By accepting fear, you learn to actually utilize it. When fear appears, you know it’s something new to try, so you specifically go for it, building confidence all the while.

    Great list on building confidence (especially for public speaking), and I totally agree with your point on how no amount of lists and reading will make you confident – go out and do it,

  76. J. Melgar says 11 November 2009 at 18:42

    Excellent article. I too lacked self confidence to buy rental property. I was scared, but could not turn back after I had renters ready to move in. Three years, 5 houses later, I look back and am glad that I overcame this fear… though not fully over it. For years I have lacked self-esteem and confidence, but working at it slowly and getting great tips, such as from this article, really motivates me to keep improving. Thank you very much for being so honest with your fears, as it has helped me.

  77. Sarah says 10 December 2009 at 21:47

    I just wanted to thank you for your post. I suffer a lot from low self-confidence and have been working to build it, but man it can be hard. I have found that you do have to take on what you’re afraid of. Like you, I’m also afraid of public speaking, to the point that I’ve fainted two times (in elementary school and college) and nearly fainted another two times (elementary school and high school). I’m also an attorney and at my last job as an attorney, (most of my work has been in the non-profit field as a non-attorney), I had to go to court ALL the time. To be honest, it was very hard on me, but my speaking abilities have gotten better, and I’m no longer (usually) absolutely as terrified as I used to be. I find that the more times I confront my fears, the more I grow as a person. Nevertheless, I’ve got lots to learn still in this field, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your posting and revelations – this is not an issue I find easy to talk with others about, and it’s extremely heartening to know that I’m not alone in my feelings. I think you’re awesome. Thanks.

  78. Santosh says 03 January 2010 at 20:33

    Great post!

    I would add one more thing — taking the initiative to learn/research more.

    Very often, fear is really fear of the unknown. For instance, investing tends of be a “black-box” for most people. Stories of people losing their fortunes combined with this breeds more fear.

    An easy first step would be to take a deep breath and set out to learn more about this formerly unknown area.

    “Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing”.
    – Warren Buffett.

  79. William says 16 January 2010 at 16:56

    This is a great post. Am planning to share with lots of friends.

  80. Dollars Not Debt says 18 February 2010 at 09:13

    Great article! Keep up the good work.

  81. David Maxam says 10 March 2010 at 10:50

    I’d disagree that no one is born with confidence, in fact I’d argue that we’re all born with it. A little child charging across a playground can walk up to another kid and confidently as can be say “Wanna be friends?” That kid naturally walks around with just as much confidence and self belief as Donald Trump. It’s not until we are socially conditioned by parents, schools and society as we grow up that we lose that natural in-born self esteem. The truest self confidence isn’t a constructed pile of ego boosts that comes from accomplishing and acquiring things. How then could someone who suffers disastrous misfortune ever have the confidence to rebuild? The greatest confidence is an inherent quality of the self, independent of exterior circumstance and experiences.

    Unwire the social conditioning, tear down the constructed ego, and limitless unbound self esteem and confidence will be discovered underneath it all.

    Just my .02

  82. Biscuits and Gravy Recipe says 04 April 2010 at 12:09

    visualizing success is the hardest part. Many people just are not positive or optimistic in nature.

  83. lala says 26 April 2010 at 17:26

    Visualizing success is something I’ve done so often. It doesn’t always work though. Things happen, even with the best of planning and knowledge and practice. Having the confidence to get up again after failures is what’s difficult.

  84. Cassy says 11 August 2010 at 04:45

    Excellent article. “if you say you can, you are right. If you say you can’t, you are right”

    I have fear of exams. I like to study but not for sake of exams 🙂 “The magic of thinking big” is an excellent book.

  85. Steve R says 11 August 2010 at 06:44

    The best thing I ever did was take an improv course. I now get up in front of people, whether at work or social and present. Major confidence boost.

  86. Joe DeGiorgio says 11 August 2010 at 06:50

    Thanks for making available this classic post for those who haven’t read it before. It reminds me of the best success manuals that are out there, and it reads like a blueprint we must follow in order to grow and make ourselves more successful.

    Great article!

  87. Jeremy says 11 August 2010 at 06:51

    I have to second Steve R’s(#4) opinion that putting yourself in it is a great thing. I am a Toastmaster and I must say that it has made me a better speaker in front of people but also in one on one interaction. It makes you more confident about your abilities. Whether it’s ToastMasters, an improv course, a drama club, or anything else just put yourself in positions to be challenged and be successful. Step outside of your comfort zone. If you do that, your “comfort zone” will grow as will your confidence.

  88. Rachel211 says 11 August 2010 at 08:07

    I used to be really nervous about going to things as simple as parties. Then once when I was getting ready and not liking the way some tiny detail looked on me, I thought “When was the last time I noticed something this small on someone else? And even if I did, would I have even remembered or gave it a more than a passing thought?”

    I realized that EVERYONE is so concerned about the way they look or are being perceived, that they really don’t notice much detail about anyone else. It’s almost like having one of those blurred camera lenses around you – nobody is going to notice that your tie is not the exact same shade of blue that your hanky is. Heck, they probably wouldn’t even notice most big things most of the time.

  89. Ellen Cochrane says 11 August 2010 at 08:11

    I recently bought the Savvy Blogging tapes which featured JD. He was a great speaker, clear, thoughtful and funny. He must have followed his own great advice!

  90. Golfing Girl says 11 August 2010 at 08:22

    Fear is probably what kept me from playing on the mini-tour (golf). In my younger days I was fearless, going for every pin and not worrying if I had selected the right club. As the years passed, I began to question my decisions and indecision crept into my swing and my game greatly suffered. Even today I have to say to myself (quietly so my playing partners don’t laugh), “this is the perfect club for this shot.” Good shots begat more good shots and the opposite is true as well. I’m sure this applies to most experiences.

  91. Keetha says 11 August 2010 at 09:02

    What a great post! I feel pumped up after just reading it.

    I’ve bookmarked it and will revisit it often.

  92. chacha1 says 11 August 2010 at 09:20

    I would like to add another piece of advice for building confidence: Recognize what you’re good at.

    Everyone has SOME special talent or skill, but many downplay their abilities out of fear of judgement or criticism. Whatever you are good at, embrace it, and employ it as often as possible.

    And on the flip side, don’t criticize. Always assume that the other person is doing their best. Many cut other people down as a way of feeling better about themselves. Oddly enough, it doesn’t really work.

  93. Techbud says 11 August 2010 at 09:27

    Love the Yoda quote to start! Public speaking was always an issue for me, but I found you couldn’t let the fear rule you. Tackle it head on. After a few speaking occasions, I found I wasn’t so bad at it and the fear went away.

  94. mike says 11 August 2010 at 09:46

    Best of luck through this rough stretch, J.D.

    Fear has been a common theme in my household recently. I have a 6yo who genuinely enjoys most of what he faces in life, but sometimes needs the extra “push” to get him to step up to the plate and have a go at it. I’ve been trying to teach him that it is better to do something and fail then to never try that same “something” in the first place.

    As a side benefit, it also forces me to apply the same advice to myself.

  95. Judy says 11 August 2010 at 10:04

    Personally, I have no problem with public speaking – I just love it and have from childhood and was However, I have just start shivering if I know I have to interact one-on-one with a stranger or someone I do not know well. I tried for many years trying to open up to people I did not know well but I could not get over the fear and just abandoned my efforts. JD’s article is a reminder for me to try again. I think I will try again…..

  96. Todd says 11 August 2010 at 10:37

    The “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy certainly does work in those instances where you’re put on the spot to speak in front of people. A good front can make you appear confident. Perception is everything.

    Great post, BTW.

  97. Matt says 11 August 2010 at 10:43

    There are hints of this throughout the post (and some of the comments), but I would add: Life is a “numbers game”. The best home run hitters hit around .300-.400 (on good days). That means around 2/3 of the pitches that come their way are fouls, strikeouts, walks – whatever. As the saying goes – you can’t hit a home run if you don’t get up to the plate. Picturing the pitcher (who could be your boss, a potential date, or a customer) in a pink tutu might help!

  98. Chris says 11 August 2010 at 10:58

    This is a good list of tips. I’m an introvert who suffers from a number of problems which this article addresses, and it’s good to see that I’m not alone.

  99. Rob Bennett says 11 August 2010 at 12:02

    One way to do that is to do the things that scare me, to take them on as challenges, and to learn from them – even if I fail.

    This post is positively awesome. I believe that the single biggest problem people have in the modern world is a lack of courage.

    Do you know how people today do not respond to e-mails if it would cause them to feel some discomfort? People just don’t like to say “no.” I force myself always to respond. I just do it for practice. I feel it would be cowardly to duck and run.

    I think this is important. You know inside whether you faced up to things or hide. If you have a record of facing up, you will be able to handle the challenge when you need confidence for something big.

    I greatly admire the work you do at this blog, J.D. When you are on, you are really on.


  100. Tiffany says 11 August 2010 at 12:07

    love this post. i am one of those people that fears public speaking more than death. i can’t stand everybody looking at me, listening to me, expecting me to inject some sort of brilliance into their brains.

    however, as the only RN at my non-profit i get asked to do a lot of company wide health trainings and precautions presentations. and i say yes, every time, even though i don’t have to. i’m hoping that after enough “yes’s” and enough presentations i will be more confident, relaxed, and maybe even come to enjoy public speaking? (well, more realistically, tolerate it)

    until then, i will fake it with a shaky voice and several “ums…”

  101. Andrea > Vancouver Marketing Consultant says 11 August 2010 at 13:21

    Realizing that perfection need not be your goal is really freeing. Good for you for figuring that out.

  102. Jean Val Jean says 11 August 2010 at 16:43

    I thought you would find this link interesting, although you may have seen it already.
    keep up the good work.

  103. Ryan says 11 August 2010 at 17:53

    What a perfect (sorry, I guess I should say good) time to re-run this. I just did stand-up comedy for the first time on Sunday and if it wasn’t the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done, it’s certainly in the top three. I don’t have a lot of inspirational things to say on the subject of courage, my attitude is very much like a soldier–even though it scares the crap out of you, and it could be horrible, you do it anyway.

    That said, there was a good six months of procrastinating before I actually got up on stage. Deadlines are very helpful. If you want to do something “someday”, someday can keep sliding into the future. If you’ve committed to doing it in two weeks, you’ll do what it takes to be ready.

  104. renrei says 11 August 2010 at 19:43

    you write your articles all fine and dandy by my standards….you’re straightforward-no bullsh*t way of writing always impresses me and as a fellow learner, i know you are constantly growing and improving. i personally also wanna thank you for everything i’ve learned in your blog/site. wishing you the best always, and hope the conditions turn out good (it always does anyways):]

  105. Tingkerbelle says 11 August 2010 at 19:58

    Great article! Most of the time when I experience a not-so-good situation/s, my self-esteem or self-confidence go down to the extent that I fear to move on & challenge myself more to go back up because in the end I might fail again. However, when I read your article, you hit me bulls-eye with your techniques. Yeah, you’re right. I should not procrastinate nor compare myself to others. Promise to do my best not to!
    Upon reading this article, it also reminded me of a book that I have read. It was entitled “Positive Thinking in a Time Like This” by Dr. Norman Peale who is (or was since I don’t have any idea if he’s still alive) a world-renowned lecturer and author. This particular book talks and teaches on how to combat our negative thinkings. It helps us learn how to have “what it takes” when life gets tough, understand why we should never be afraid of anything or anybody and see how “healthy thinking” can keep us feeling healthy.
    This book was intended to make us strong enough to face our problems successfully, and come out of them as more effective person. We’ll get along much better, understand where we are really headed in life, and find ourselves creatively working to succeed. I would like to share some of my favorite lines from this book that I am currently learning and trying to practice today:
    1)Reverse your mental image of yourself as being weak to a clear picture of yourself as becoming strong. Then hold that positive concept firmly in consciousness until it takes with you.
    2)Practice until you master it; then keep practicing to keep it, the powerful creative thought that you can if you think you can.
    3)Become a positive thinker. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities–always see them, for they’re always there.
    4)Never be afraid of anything or anybody
    5)Remember: what you think you will become–good or bad,weak or strong, defeated or victorious, so practice being a positive thinker in a time like this.
    6)Be humble, be big in mind and soul, be kindly; you will like yourself that way and so will other people.
    7)When the going gets tough, let the tough get going– you’re tough.

  106. robyn says 11 August 2010 at 23:35

    this is a great post and so relevant to me as a person trying to return to work and completed post graduate studies and get the confidence to speak in front of groups there. thanks for this great, inspiring post. i have learnt heaps, can use heaps of it in my life, studies, business.

  107. David/moneycrashers says 12 August 2010 at 04:06

    I simply decided one day that the stress involved of living in fear (or lack of self-confidence) was just too draining. I used that desire to eliminate that stress from my life as a means to develop self-confidence.
    No one is better than you are…they may be better at utilizing their talents, but no one is intrinsically better than you are

  108. Mat says 13 August 2010 at 01:55

    What happened to your emergency fund of articles?

    Early on in GRS you mentioned having a stash of general purpose articles to publish in an emergency

  109. Tyler Tervooren says 13 August 2010 at 18:57

    You should post this one every year, JD. Overcoming fear is such a huge part of life for so many people and getting through it is not that hard, but you do have to keep “showing up” to make it work.

  110. Rob says 10 September 2010 at 10:19

    “Self-confidence is knowing that we have the capacity to do something good and firmly decide not to give up.”
    – His Holiness the Dalai Lama

    Great article: here are four simple ways to increase self confidence and restore faith in you!

    1. Think “positive”: write down at least 10 things you’ve done well or been proud of in the last few weeks. Look at the list and think, what does this tell you you’re great at? You could also try to write down a few things each day that you’ve done well. They don’t have to be huge achievements, just stuff you’ve done a good job of. Also think about what you actually done to make these good things happen. Here you’re focusing on not only the outcome but also the process too. See negative experiences as temporary and specific to a situation.

    2. Think “solutions”: big problems sometimes seem impossible to achieve, so break them down into smaller parts. Completing these small parts will make you feel more confident and valued.

    3. Think “passion”: determine what you do best and then reorganize your life, if possible, to spend more time doing these activities.

    4. Think “praise”: be alert to praise both informal and formal. A smile, lack of complaint, a nod, etc can all be taken to mean someone is happy about what you’re doing. Look out for the small signs that have big meanings.

  111. David says 02 August 2011 at 19:18

    Great article. Its so true that you have to face fear in order to grow. I read your article on procrastination as well and you mention “If it comes to mind, then do it”. Well, I sort of apply the same philosophy to fear (of course if it is reasonably safe for me to do so). I do this to push myself past fear which is the greatest detractor of life. Almost everything bad stems from some kind of fear.

  112. Sharms says 05 March 2012 at 04:38

    Hi JD,

    great post… i’ve been constantly bogged down by fear of marriage, travelling abroad, being dependant on someone i hardly know and feel i’m completely losing my confidence when i think of this change…. your post encourages me to think of things in a positive and better light….. i know im panicking and stressing too much about the unknown that lies ahead…im trying my best to focus on the good things that married life has to offer..and i’m going to try and think confidently and act confidently….i guess making a checklist of my fears and facing and overcoming them will surely be on my agenda….

    Thanks a ton!

  113. ghazanfar says 13 September 2012 at 05:28

    sir your article is very good it will help me to overcome my shyness and as well as build self confidence.

  114. Amanda Gillam says 20 September 2012 at 02:11

    Excellent post! Fear can be absolutely crippling unless it’s dealt with and these offer some excellent ways forward. Really great read.

  115. HOMI R. MULLAN says 08 October 2012 at 23:17

    JD Roth, Am lucky to have spotted this article of yours on ‘Building Confidence & Destroying Fear’, in my net search to find material on ‘Confidence Building’, a topic to be included in my training program for 24-Sales Executives working for a Central Bio-medical Waste Treatment Facility. They are dealing with potentially Infectious waste, and have to interact with highly educated Medical fraternity at hospitals and clinics. Your pointers am surely going to use, but reading your blog has boosted my confidence too. Thanks, and keep it up.

  116. chris davison says 27 November 2012 at 11:32

    A very well known brand used to use the slogan, “just do it” and it applies to confidence.

    The ‘fear’ of doing something is often far worse than actually doing it and many public speakers will back this up.

    Dig deep and get through it and you will be glad you did as there will be a fantastic sense of accomplishment.

  117. Jason says 20 February 2013 at 03:11

    Great article. I bombed a presentation today quite badly from nerves. This gives me hope, some more interesting reading and things to practice. Thanks!!

  118. ben wales Scot says 23 February 2013 at 15:16

    This is one of the best articles I have read ………Thanks for the confidence foundation…..I DO NOT HAVE TO PROVE TO OTHERS BUT TO “BE CONFIDENT ACT CONFIDENT”

  119. Richa misra says 28 March 2013 at 22:51

    I fisrt of all want to say a thank u for publishing such a good article on positive thinking.
    i slightly disagree with some of your points. hope u take it in a good way.

    1.look sharp: This should be mentioned in a way, that one should take good care of onself to the extent, that one’s sloppy dress and uncouth appearance doesnot make you feel yourself as dis-confident. For example: Even Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mahatma Gandhi did not believe in being dressed sharp because they were confident in their minds.

    2. Do the right thing: This is an escapist attitude. We know that if we do the right thing, we will surely do it well. But the problem is we most often do not know what the right thing is. And if we become afraid not being able to do the right thing, we become dis-confident and unsure of our decision. This post should be written as . To do the right thing is not always important, but doing the things that u think is right , is important.

    While all the points were true, and i appreciate you to write more things like these.

  120. Lourdes says 08 August 2013 at 03:19

    Thank you for posting this article. This helps enlightened my mind on how to combat the feeling of fear in many aspect of my human existence. It is true that no one is born with confidence, it is developed. This make me feel like I am not different to others in terms of fears, but knowing that there are many ways to fight fears, makes me feel better. More power to you!

  121. self success says 29 October 2013 at 22:45

    We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your web site offered us with helpful info to work on. You have done a formidable task and our whole community will probably be thankful to you.

  122. Imran says 05 November 2013 at 07:36

    All my life doubt has held me back. After reflecting on my life I finally came to the conclusion that fear and doubt can only be removed once you start taking risk, if you win you learn from it, if you lose you build experience. Since I’ve had the epiphany I’ve taken more calculated risks and have progressed further than I thought I could. Thanks for sharing this inspirational post.

  123. Samashan Pillay says 30 November 2013 at 23:01

    this was the wake-up call I needed 😀

  124. Jonas Ezeanya says 20 December 2013 at 10:42

    I have coached hundreds of people in public speaking and presentation skills; one thing I always sing to those who have The Phobia is that you cannot overcome your fear if all you do is imagine what might go wrong. To stop the fear, act the confidence.

    Public speaking fear is one of the very few human challenges I’ve seen where your mind is your biggest enemy (another being salvation). So if you’re expecting to someday “make up your mind” to face the audiences, prepare to wait till the next blue moon!

    Remember, in this case and just like electric current, your mind will always take the path of least resistance, and that is: RUN AWAY FROM PUBLIC SPEAKING!

    You have to fight it with physical action. Put yourself in the “war front”. If necessary, fake it till you can make it!

    Jonas EZEANYA
    Lekki Peninsula, Lagos, Nigeria

  125. Naveen Rajput says 13 February 2014 at 22:15

    Very nice and helpful article on How to Build Confidence and Destroy Fear,and it’s also going to help me to kill my fear and increase my confidence .Feeling very fortunate to being here. I like this website a lot.

  126. athar nayab says 08 March 2014 at 10:12

    you really helped me in building self confidence
    thank u

  127. Patent Lawyer says 30 April 2014 at 04:26

    Such a wonderful and inspiring post, SO level headed and sensible but also completely aspirational! I congratulate you!

  128. Elizabeth wanjiru says 13 July 2014 at 07:39

    Thanks alot for the powerful knowledge you have impacted on me since from know am going to build my self confidence which i have learned from you and be succeesful in future as i have dreamt of.

  129. Marie says 17 April 2018 at 05:50

    Stumbled upon your via Firefox’s recommended articles this AM – I subscribed to the RSS and I’ve never done that before! (say yes!)

    I see so many parallels in our mindsets – or at least in your previous mindset. I have read and at times acted on many of these things but its when that “shit happens” happens, it can REALLY set one reeling – backward. And it’s hard to remind oneself of where we were BEFORE that whatever it was tripped us up. But, today’s article and the one before about the scarcity mindset (I, too, share that in 2 of the 3 ways, thank you, Grandma, who lived through the depression and Mother, who raised me in fear of just about everything else.) Somehow I managed to grab fear by the you know whats, divorced myself from a bad marriage and moved 900 miles away from home to start over and did, so far, a bang up job. Yet, I still hold myself back in many ways. And whoa – “the talker”. I can fix everyone’s problems – but I often just sit and stare at solutions to my own. Why!?!

    So, thanks for the kick in the pants – I, too, have nowhere to be most days, (certainly not at 5 am) so find getting up and out on a scheduled routine one of those things I tell myself is a reward for working for myself from home. (as I sit here typing in my bathrobe.)

    Look forward to reviewing past articles and each new one as they come and getting on with a more full life! (But, I’m not going to sit here and read them all right now – I’m getting UP out of my cocoon and getting my day started!)

    Have a great day!

  130. Joe says 17 April 2018 at 07:17

    Wow, this is a huge post. Your best work yet. Nice job putting it all together.
    I’ll put Impro on my list. I’m at the point where I say no to a lot of stuff these days. Life is already good and comfortable so I don’t want to change. That’s fear of losing what I have. I need to say yes a lot more. Thanks for the reminder.

    I think we don’t need to go all in at once, though. It would be easier to say yes to a few things. Time is a precious commodity when you have children and other dependents.

  131. Dave @ Accidental FIRE says 17 April 2018 at 07:24

    Wow, epic post JD. I probably won’t be the first person to think of the Jim Carrey movie “Yes Man” while reading this. I too have found this to be very helpful in life. Saying ‘yes’ has not always worked out and sometimes it’s even been a bad idea, but in sum I’ve found it’s been a far better choice than saying ‘no’ overall.

  132. Jason@WinningPersonalFinance says 17 April 2018 at 10:04

    Wow JD. You’ve outdone yourself with this one.

    The point about a person on their death bed regretting working too much really hit home for me. I’m way too young to have worked too much so far but I’d be on that path for a while. I’m very focused on working less and making my work more meaningful in the future. Selling out all of the best years of your life to maximize income WILL NOT be the regret I have on my last days.

  133. Andrew says 17 April 2018 at 12:09

    As a big fan of Dune, the section on Action Cures Fear and more specifically, the use of the Litany Against Fear made me cringe. For easy reference, here it is again repeated:

    I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

    The scene you referenced, Paul’s test of humanity, the test is literally to overcome the fear (of leaving his hand in the box) *without* taking action. Removing his hand from the box of pain would be failure, and failure ostensibly meant his death. If he left his hand in, and used his mind to overcome the fear of pain and the unknown, he would be a human, not an animal. An animal would let the fear overcome it’s mind and remove it’s hand, no matter the consequences.

    The litany is about acknowledging the fear, but not allowing it to influence you, to have power over you. Action may be the solution if you are afraid of doing a particular thing, such as what you outlined in that section, but inaction can also be the answer to fear. To give a money example: The stock market is falling, your retirement investments are loosing money at a rapid pace. Liquidating your stock would be giving into fear, and sitting on the stock and trusting your long-term investment strategy would be inaction, but would be overcoming your fear.

    Coming from tendencies to do nothing as a reaction to fear, action could often be a good solution, and ones I would agree with. I also see many people that jump to action as a reaction to fear, and inaction would be a better answer. To give some heavy handed examples: fear of missing out when an investor “buddy” of theirs gives them an insider tip to buy a hot stock while it is only a penny! Or a fear of not looking successful to friends, parents, potential mates, in-laws, etc, so they buy more than they can afford, a big house in a desirable neighborhood, a sporty car, and lavish vacations.

    Action or inaction isn’t necessarily right nor wrong, it is not allowing fear to guide your decisions.

    • Tina says 21 April 2018 at 12:33

      I would argue that in any scenario the “action” is in fact the CHOICE a person makes. We face many forks in the road on a daily basis and we must choose our path. If we set aside irrational fears and negative thinking, we expand our vision of possible paths to take.

  134. S.G. says 17 April 2018 at 12:53

    I confess, I didn’t have time to read the whole thing. But after disagreeing with you yesterday I am happy to say we’re on the same page here ;).

    I haven’t put as much thought into this issue as you have, but I DID decide a long time ago that when faced with a new experience or opportunity I would examine how much of my reluctance was fear, and how much was personal taste. If fear was unjustly holding me back I would push past it. I have since taken on a number of items just because I was afraid of them.

    As a final thought: fear of public speaking isn’t irrational. It might be overblown, but what you really fear is a loss of status if it doesn’t go well. I think fearing the loss of the respect of your peers is rational. I think part of the problem is that people don’t really know what they fear in order to prepare appropriately. They don’t fear “public speaking”, they fear the vulnerability and are anxious about only having one chance to do something right (or wrong).

  135. Amy says 17 April 2018 at 14:41

    This is a really great post. I read it twice! Thank you. I look forward to Thursday!

  136. Steveark says 17 April 2018 at 16:40

    Wow, JD, I’m one of the older guys around here and everything that has worked in my life, all of it, was something you listed! Saying yes, taking action, taking chances, overcoming fears, stepping out, all that made my life so far, at least in my opinion, something special and way way outside of what I’d have expected when I was a teenager. And those principles are so simple, and so available to everyone. And it is like a coin balanced on its edge for most of us, heads we take that fearful chance, tails we play it safe. I took the chance and life ran away with me in the best of ways. But it so easily could have been tails. Great post!

  137. Brent Truitt says 17 April 2018 at 16:54

    Wow – that is a one monster post.

    “On their deathbeds, people generally regret the things they did not do rather than the things they did”

    When I was a kid in high school for one of my credits I visiting elderly people. A 99 year old woman who founded the Shakespearean society in Victoria B.C. asked me if I had any questions.

    I asked her what her biggest regret in life was. Her reply was;

    “I wish I had taken more chances.”

    • Marty says 18 April 2018 at 11:48

      Brent, You kind of left us hanging. How did that effect you? change your prospect on life?

  138. kiwigirl (no longer) in LA says 18 April 2018 at 01:58

    Posts of this calibre are why I missed GRS during the non JD Roth years. A couple of years ago when I was working through your money course and was about to hit FI, I told you my goals and how afraid I was to take that first step. You told me I had to do it, that the important things always are terrifying. I’m about 80 days into my new life and so far so good

  139. Mr. Income Master says 21 April 2018 at 05:10

    I’m a big believer in action creates motivation. I find on the days that I do stay in bed that bit longer and sleep in, I feel lethargic and lazy when I get up. But on days where I force myself out of bed early, I feel energetic and productive.

  140. Tawcan says 02 May 2018 at 16:04

    Love it! I always enjoy posts that are a bit outside of the norm and give different perspectives. Thank you for writing this. I’m sure I’ll be reading the entire post a few more times over the next few days.

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