How To Get Confidence From The School Of Life

Creating a successful startup is difficult work. It’s difficult because you are not sure if your idea is valid or crazy. It’s difficult because one day it looks like you may be creating the next Facebook while the next day your company appears to be a pipedream.

It’s also difficult because a startup is essentially just a theory. It’s a theory that people want your product. Creating a company is essentially years of work to prove this theory correct. This task is solitary in nature. As Peter Theil puts it in this book Zero To One:

“The prospect of being lonely but right—dedicating your life to something that no one else believes in—is already hard. The prospect of being lonely and wrong can be unbearable.

Therefore handling the emotional aspect of creating a company is vital. You have to have enormous belief in your abilities and self-esteem. One succinct book on the topic is On Confidence published by The School Of Life. The book gives a quick overview of the 9 categories of obstacles (see image above) preventing you from feeling that you can achieve your goals. For example, in Chapter 3 the author addresses the Imposter Syndrome:

“The impostor syndrome has its roots far back in childhood – specifically in the powerful sense children have that their parents are very different from them. To a four-year old, it is incomprehensible that their mother was once their age and unable to drive a car, tell the plumber what to do, decide other people’s bedtimes and go on trips with colleagues. The gulf in status appears absolute and unbridgeable. The child’s passionate loves – bouncing on the sofa, Pingu, Toblerone – have nothing to do with those of adults, who like to sit at a table talking for hours and drinking beer that tastes like rusty metal. We start out in life with a very strong impression that competent and admirable people are not like us at all.

This childhood experience dovetails with a basic feature of the human condition. We know ourselves from the inside, but others only from the outside. We are aware of all our anxieties and doubts from within, yet all we know of others is what they happen to do and tell us – a far narrower and more edited source of information.

We are often left to conclude that we must be at the more freakish and revolting end of human nature. Really, however, we’re just failing to imagine that others are every bit as fragile as we are. Without knowing what it is that troubles or wracks outwardly impressive people, we can be sure that it will be something. We might not know exactly what they regret, but there will be agonising feelings of some kind. We won’t be able to say exactly what kind of sexual kink obsesses them, but there will be one. And we can know this because vulnerabilities and compulsions cannot be curses that have descended upon us uniquely; they are universal features of the human mental equipment.

The solution to the impostor syndrome lies in making a crucial leap of faith: that others’ minds work in much the same way as ours do. Other people must be as anxious, uncertain and wayward as we are.

In other words, we should constantly remind ourselves of the humanity of others, that they too, like us, have weaknesses. On Confidence is a short read, and highly recommended if you are ever in need of an emotional boost to get you through a tough period.