Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be.
But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.
Earlier this month I met up at a Starbucks with Peter (names changed), a former UCLA student of mine. As we were talking, a middle-aged woman approached us. She was out of breath as she pointed to Peter’s red water bottle, “Is that yours?” she asked with what I thought was an accusatory twinge.
Peter gave her a startled, “It’s mine!” To my New York eyes she had a “you’re lying” look in her eyes.
Peter stared at her and then did the most remarkable thing – he offered her his water bottle, asking, “Would you like to take it?”
“Is it yours?” she again asked.
“Well, if it’s yours I don’t want it” – she said with more a whiff of confusion than annoyance.
Peter held it out saying, “You can have it – it seems the bottle meant a lot to you.”
This unusually kind gesture snapped her back into the moment. She was thrown off balance. As was I!
She left without the bottle. When I complimented Peter on his kindness, he shrugged, saying, “It’s just a water bottle. She seemed more invested in it than I am, so why not give it to her?”
Peter thought little of the encounter – I, though, was blown away by his composed generosity.
In these weeks following I’ve been thinking about Peter’s particular style of confidence.
He was not quick to feel judged because he has such a solid sense of himself. This allowed him to practice an uncommon generosity to a stranger who was emotionally stressed.
Even as I write this I am in awe of his generosity BECAUSE that generosity is wonderfully grounded in a sense of confidence.
Peter adapted to the circumstance of the moment, took the woman and her situation in stride knowing that life is littered with the whack-a-do!
Doing something unexpected in a conversation, in a relationship – heck, in your life – takes confidence. SO – the question is – how do you develop that kind of confidence?
That kind of confidence is a choice.
Peter reminded me that we choose the kind of confidence we want to display in our daily life.
Confidence is manifested differently in each of us. For Peter – to be confident is to be generous.
We each have to decide what confidence will look like and sound like in our own life.
After writing that last sentence, I stopped and reflected on what confidence looks like for me. I’m not terribly proud of my answer. . .
Because I was bullied growing up, I resolved when I was in college that I would never again allow anyone to verbally intimidate me (and, yes, there’s anger laced in that sentence).
I resolved to not be afraid of others who were physically imposing.
I decided to not be afraid of people whose lives were so very different from mine.
And, yes, because of the confident people who have been so generous to me, somewhere along the way I resolved to ground my confidence in generosity.
However, I’ve yet to give away my water bottle!
What does it mean to be confidently generous and not simply be nice or kind?
It means that you’re willing to act in unexpected ways that surprise both the other person and you!
It means acting out in specific gestures – offered because you want the other person(s) to experience something good.
It means being consistent in surprising others.
And to use my favorite Italian word, it means having a sense of sprezzatura * which is what makes confidence SO attractive.
Sometimes, while going about the business of confidence it’s easy to forget the hidden dimensions to being confident.
Peter reminded me that in its essence to be confident is to be generous.
Do you want to become more confident?
· If you were more confident, what would you do MORE of?
· If you were more confident, what would you do LESS of?
· What is the “water bottle” you can offer to someone this week? This month?
I typically begin my workshops with this observation from guru Seth Godin:
We need you to provide the things that are unexpected, scarce, and valuable. Scarcity and abundance have been flipped. High- quality work is no longer scarce. Competence is no longer scarce, either. We have too many good choices – there’s an abundance of things to buy and people to hire.
What’s scarce is trust, connection, and surprise.
In other words, what is scare is generosity.
And the #1 thing confident people really do well? They continually replenish that scarcity!
now THAT’s the business of confidence!
* graceful conduct or performance without apparent effort