As a shy, chubby Asian kid in a largely Hispanic neighborhood, Francisco Dao learned in third grade that winning friends and influencing people not only propelled his confidence but allowed him to pursue his dreams without fear. At 13 he was selling car stereos at flea markets, at 24 he started a business that would gross over a million dollars a year. At 30 he was raising capital based on his ideas and by age 34 he was writing a column for Inc Magazine and having fun as a semi-pro comedian. Today Francisco writes for Fast Company and produces Twiistup, a popular series of technology events that combine innovators, venture investors and startup pioneers in interactive forums.
Recently, Francisco published “Killer Attitude: 53 Rules of Unstoppable Confidence.
Francisco, welcome to Smart Planet.
How important is confidence when it comes to success?
I don’t want to say it’s an absolute requirement – sometimes people just get lucky – but if you don’t believe in yourself, you’re probably not going to go after the things you want in life. The lack of confidence steers you toward assuming failure, it fills you with thoughts of “I can’t” or “I’m not good enough.”
Is confidence just there for taking? How do we get it?
For the most part confidence (and or the lack of it) is a self reinforcing loop. The hardest part is putting yourself on the right track. For example, if a guy is bad with women his inability to get a date will make matters progressively worse, but if he can get a couple of dates, then he’ll start to build confidence which will help him get more dates. It’s the very beginning of the cycle which is most difficult to start. As far as how to get it, there’s not a single magic answer. It’s a combination of what works for you.
You talk about releasing your inner fighter. What do you mean by that?
All conscious creatures from fish to humans are hard wired with a “fight or flight” instinct when faced with danger. Societal rules have essentially forced us to bury our fight instincts and turn the other cheek, but directing our fight instincts in certain situations – without actually fighting – can be a very powerful tool. For example, most advice about public speaking is designed around suppressing your nerves ie. Your desire to flee. Instead, if you shift to “fight” mode you go into the situation with a completely different attitude and kind of on an adrenaline high. It’s like the difference between playing a game to win as opposed to playing not to lose.
How does perception play into confidence?
The power of perception isn’t limited to confidence. It really is everything. Here’s a small example. A lot of people get intimidated by “powerful” people, but what is that really? Let’s say you met Rupert Murdoch. A lot of people might be intimidated by that. Now let’s say you didn’t know who he was and you thought he was just some old guy – would you still be intimidated by that? Not likely. It’s all in our minds.
How do we measure how much confidence we have? Are there questions we can ask?
Hmm, the single biggest question is figuring out if you have an internal or external locus of control. In other words, if you believe that you control your own decisions and destiny it is highly likely you possess a fair degree of confidence. If you believe you are a victim of fate or other forces, you are probably lacking in confidence. The rub is most people will say they believe in themselves when asked, but if you pay attention to the things they say and do, you often find a whole lot of blaming the world around them.
How do we help our children build their own confidence?
These days many parents put their kids up on pedestals and tell them they can do anything, but they don’t let the kids actually earn it themselves. The positive messaging is great, but kids – really not just kids but all people – have to learn and “earn” for themselves. Don’t just tell your kids that they’re great, let them - encourage them - to go out and do things on their own. Here’s a small example. For a brief time I worked at The Princeton Review and you could almost tell which kids had a shot at an Ivy League school vs. a lower tier school by who called the office. You could have two kids who were both straight A students but the kid who called himself was almost always a much more complete package than the kid who’s mom or dad called for him.
To Check out Francisco's book, Click Here