The Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte believed he had a “guiding star” that led him through romance, 12 major battles and two island exiles. Talk about confidence in your abilities! Napoleon practically invented it. For this 5-foot-7-inch “Corsican Ogre,” it didn’t start that way.
Confidence can be manufactured — even faked. Most successful professionals have done both. First they learned the elements that lead to solid confidence, sometimes even charisma. Next, those who make it to the top know that once in awhile, you’ve got to pretend to make it real. Start by learning the basics, then put yourself in situations that require every shred of self assurance and determination you can muster.
The difference between confidence and self-confidence is nuanced. Confidence is focused on the external world around you. Self-confidence focuses on your personal reaction to events in your past. Confidence predicts a bit of the future — you are certain of upcoming events. Self-confidence is a puzzle made up of the pieces of your past. Napoleon left his past behind and always focused on his confident future.
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The small Corsican boy with bad skin and a poor command of the language never quite fit in at the French military school at Brienne and then the military academy in Paris. Pouring himself into his studies, he ended up graduating early as an artillery officer.
The mystery is that Napoleon always knew he would win. He didn’t always win, but he knew he would. By repeatedly firing at the enemy’s fortified center line, he perfected the “divide & conquer” technique. Russian, Austrian and Prussian generals were commanded to avoid engaging the armies personally led by Napoleon because of the intense loyalty and contagious confidence that multiplied through the ranks.
We know the final outcome — first exile; 100 day revenant; Waterloo, Belgium; second exile on St. Helena; death at 51 from stomach cancer. Along the way, he instituted the Code Napoleon, ended the Spanish Inquisition, dissolved the Holy Roman Empire, started the Bank of France and commissioned the Arc de Triomph. His guiding star worked overtime.
Visual confidence — We can all spot the visually confident person. Sometimes it is at the airport, coffee shop or bookstore. Because confidence focuses primarily on external events, we notice how some people navigate their world with a sense of success and a conviction in certain outcomes of their affairs.
In other words, confident people seem to know what is going to happen. They don’t predict the future, but they have a sense of stability in what will likely happen.
Emotional confidence — Something happens in our brains when we feel confidence. This “rush” sometimes encourages us to tackle the nastiest and riskiest items in our lives at the time. We almost run to do the things we have been avoiding out of fear or unpredictability.
Whether it’s asking for the date or a signature on the contract, the infusion of confidence helps us believe in a good future. Or, at least it provides us the tools for handling rejection with speed and without pain. Confidence seems to be a miracle drug!
Napoleon lost six of his 12 major battles. He left Josephine to marry Marie Louise partly to stop assassination attempts by bearing a male heir. In exile, he was not beaten. He gardened, wall-papered his own room and dictated four historical memoirs.
To increase confidence:
1. Gather information
2. Access resources
3. Deliberately gain experience
Napoleon was buried inside four enclosed coffins to deter souvenir collectors. Forty years later, authorities still recognized his features. Although he wanted his ashes buried on the river Seine in Paris, Napoleon’s body was returned from St. Helena and buried at L’Hôtel des Invalides in the nation’s capital. He is literally still surrounded by his generals.
Rick Griggs is the former Intel Corp. training manager, inventor of the rolestorming creativity tool and founder of the Quid Novi Innovation conference. Reach him at 970-690-7327.