From Stage to Investing, Why Courage Is More Important Than Confidence

Opening for HAPA at the Highline Ballroom, NYC
Opening for HAPA at the Highline Ballroom, NYC

I used to pray for more confidence. Perhaps not surprising for a shy kid, I'd pray for the boost of confidence I needed to introduce myself to a stranger, give a presentation, or play guitar on stage.

If we reverse engineer how to increase one's confidence, we need to understand where confidence comes from. Pick any endeavor. For me, I'll pick playing the acoustic guitar, my avocation. Whenever I had to play in front of an audience, my brain said "fight" but my body said "flight." I'd sweat, my hands trembled, my stomach turned. Let me tell you, attempting to finger pick your acoustic guitar with sweaty, trembling hands does NOT sound good. Over time, though, the fear slowly subsided and was replaced with enjoyment.

“To stand up on a stage alone with an acoustic guitar requires bravery bordering on heroism. Bordering on insanity.” – Richard Thomson

Practice Makes Perfect

You get confidence by doing something repetitively and successfully. You may not start off good at something but the more you do it, the more you do it well, and eventually you'll get up to bat and hit the ball. That's confidence.

Confidence Is Overrated

Author Dani Shapiro says that confidence is overrated. What is much more important is courage. Sure, I can practice a song safely at home. I can play it well 1,000 times; but, it takes courage to get up in front of 400 people - just me and my guitar. Indeed, it's not practicing at home that gets you over stage fright. It's repeatedly forcing yourself to play in front of 5 people, 50 people, and 100+ people.

Confidence is highly overrated.  Show me a confident writer, and in all likelihood you will also be showing me work that falls short of originality or greatness — because originality and greatness come from the willingness to take risks.  To leap into the void.  To do what scares you.  And while it may seem that this leap would take confidence, what it really takes to leap is courage.  Which is a whole other kettle of fish. – Dani Shapiro

When you are looking at a new journey whether it's getting up on stage, entrepreneurship, or starting to invest, the first attempt requires courage, sometimes tremendous courage. Certainly, lots of people start late when it comes to setting financial goals like saving for college or retirement planning. Courage is what you need to take the first leap, that first attempt. The confidence actually comes after courage. Too often, we never take the initial leap because we are waiting for the confidence to come and we think that the courage will come later. It's actually the opposite.

Pray for courage, not confidence.

What's that something that you've been thinking about doing?  What's holding you back?

This post originally appeared at the Runnymede Blog.

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