Believe in yourself

“If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?” – Darrelle Revis

Darrelle Revis ESPNWeekend2010-051.jpgDarrelle Revis has had great success, not only on the football field, but also at the negotiating table. ESPN ran a great article on why Revis has achieved his success. That’s where I found this quote. Part of Revis’ success comes from his great belief in himself. Too often, we doubt ourselves. When I was learning about life coaching, one of the first things I came to understand is most people know the answer to their problem. However, they typically lack confidence in themselves. Either they don’t believe they can execute on the answer or they don’t trust its the right answer because they came up with it.

At some point, if you’re going to achieve anything of significance, you have to move past self-doubt. You have to believe in yourself. There’s such a thing as over confidence, but we tend to err on the side of a lack of confidence.

This can be a hard thing for me. However, I learned first hand as a goalkeeper that on the pitch, you pretend confidence, even if you don’t feel it. For instance, the over-aggressive goal keeper can cause an opposing player to make a bad shot, cut off a run, flinch and not complete a header, or simply give up on the ball, even if the keeper can’t actually get to it. When my coach explained this to me, he had me try coming out of the goal like I owned the field and I had exclusive right to the soccer ball. Even experienced players would flinch. Confidence was an edge. Playing with confidence, even if I didn’t feel it, made me a better goalkeeper. I have found this to be true in many areas of life.

Mr. Revis is right: the first step is to believe in yourself. As you do and begin to make things happen, others will begin to believe in you, too.

Every interaction we have, we have the ability to change the other person. I want my interactions to inspire others to be better people. The Christian singer, TobyMac, has a song called Speak Life which is actually based on a quote by Brennan Manning. If you’ve not heard the song, here it is:

I happen to agree with Manning’s words:

“In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.”

Every interaction we have either builds up or tears down. There isn’t a such a thing as a neutral interaction. I want every one of my interactions to build up. More over, I want to inspire others to be better people, too. What brought this to mind is the anime/manga series, Naruto (Nah-roo-toe). I’m finally into the second anime series, which starts two years after the first series ends.

If you’re not familiar with Naruto, it’s about a fictional world based on Japan’s feudal era (think samurai and ninja) with many modern conveniences. Naruto is a young ninja who, because of circumstances beyond his control, is initially shunned by his ninja village. However, he has a goal to be accepted by everyone and one day rise up to be the village’s leader. He is extremely hyper, tends to react too quickly, prefers brute force solutions to stealth and more traditional ninja methods and ways, but he’s also just as loyal to his friends and his village, he doesn’t give up, and he stands by his word (this is his “ninja way”).

In season one, there is another character, Gaara (Gah-rah), from a different village who actually had a harder upbringing than Naruto. However, the circumstances as to why they are mistreated are the same. But where Naruto endeavors to be accepted by his people and be their leader, Gaara had resigned himself to be the monster that everyone considered him to be. In battling Naruto and then fighting alongside of him, Gaara begins to understand that he can be different than the monster.

Fast forward to series 2. Naruto went away for two years of intensive training. Meanwhile, Gaara was able to change. He became accepted by his village and he became its leader. This is surprising, because Gaara, even when fighting alongside Naruto, was still a hard character to accept who still acts very much the monster. As a means of explaining the change, Gaara is shown having a flashback conversation with his older brother. There he outlines his goal to be accepted by his village and to be their leader. He now values relationships. This naturally surprises his older brother, who has seen Gaara as the monster. Then Gaara says why: because he has come to understand, because of Naruto, that he can make this choice. He doesn’t have to be the monster.

I want to be like Naruto. I want to inspire others to want to be better people. I can’t do that by telling them what they have to do. I can only do that by being a better person myself. And I can’t “fake it” because eventually a false persona will be cracked. I have to be real, so that despite my flaws, folks will still see something in me that will inspire them to try to better themselves.

When faced with a problem or issue, ask yourself, “Do I need to solve it?” This question is important because you don’t need to solve every problem. I have a tendency to want to solve any problem I come across: mine or anyone else’s. Over time I have trained myself not to try and solve every problem. Some problems don’t need solving. Or at least, not every problem needs me.

I was explaining this idea yesterday to a co-worker. We ran into an issue building a server. As you might guess with information technology, the majority of the build process is automated. We’re not consuming up actual resources like wood and metal because we’re talking about information technology. The biggest consumable resource here is time.

He had already spent a good chunk of time trying to solve an issue with what he was building and the typical solutions weren’t working. Troubleshooting the problem further was likely going to take hours. More hours than it would take to simply blow away what he was working on and start over. This raised the question, “Do we need to solve why we’re encountering an issue?” The short answer is, “No.

Think Like a Freak book cover

Think Like a Freak book cover

In Think Like a Freak, the authors talk about knowing when to quit. Basically, does it make sense continuing to try and solve the problem at hand based on the cost? They cite Winston Churchill, famous for his “Never Give In” speech, who was a serial quitter when it came to things like politics. However, there was good reason for quitting each time.

In the case of my co-worker, it didn’t make sense to continue trying to find out what went wrong. There’s a whole host of reasons why we could have experienced the issues. Going down the path of each one was going to take time. The server was in the process of being built, meaning it hadn’t been delivered yet. It was time to quit. The “reward” or “earnings” for solving the problem was more than the effort to solve the issue. This was not a problem that needed solving.

When you are facing a problem, ask yourself that question. Some things have an intangible cost and/or benefit. You can still ask the question. It’s just the consequences or benefits don’t factor down to a money amount. Know what’s valuable to you in those intangible areas. Know what’s important.

I’ve grown my hair out multiple times for donation. It takes some time, as hair grows about 1/2 an inch a month, and the donated hair must be in a ponytail. However, I know that it benefits others, it doesn’t cost me much, and it’s more a matter of biding my time. This is sort of “passive helping” towards others.

The three main hair donation channels I’m aware of are:

Each channel has different requirements and primarily serves a different group of people. Therefore, if you’ll be willing to consider your hair out to donate, check the three and see which one is the best fit for you.

Even if you’re used to short hair, it’s doable. It does require some “grin and bear it” moments as you get used to the longer hair. For instance, I tend to wear a military “high and tight” when I’m not growing my hair out due to my days at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. So if you’ve never donated before, please consider doing so. It takes multiple hair donations to make a single wig.

A friend of mine recently received feedback anonymously. The feedback raised some questions my friend wanted to ask. The problem with anonymous feedback is that when you receive it, you don’t know the perspective of the person who gave it. You don’t know what factors influence that feedback. And you can’t ask questions to understand specifically what caused that person to give that sort of feedback. This is true whether the feedback is positive or negative.

When you choose to give feedback, it’s best if you can give it in person. If nothing else, attach your name and contact information. If you care enough to give feedback, care enough to be willing to be engaged in a conversation about it. For those of us who seek to improve, having that conversation is crucial, and details often matter. Looking at it from the other side, I have found that those conversations can be more informative for me than for the person I offered a comment to. It’s an opportunity for both people to grow.

However, if you leave the comment anonymously, that conversation never has a chance to happen. Neither side can grow from it. Therefore, if you choose to leave feedback, do so prepared for that conversation and attach your name.

Not all change is good. For instance, developing a destructive habit is not a good change. Therefore, having the mindset that “something has to change” but not having an idea of what should change and how it should change is fraught with unnecessary risk. 

I mentioned yesterday about wanting to a better husband. That is a vague goal. It isn’t measurable. It puts out there that I need to change, but not what or how. I’ve seen too many relationships where change did occur, but in the wrong direction. How do I prevent this in changing myself? One way is to consider how to be a better husband:

  • I listen better.
  • I actively help out with the household chores.
  • I put the needs of my wife before my own.
  • I pay attention to my wife’s moods and respond accordingly.
  • I remember my wife’s love languages and show my love frequently using those languages.
  • I actively plan and make happen times when we can be alone – date lunches or nights, weekend getaways, etc.

Admittedly, some of those are still on the vague side and I will need to consider them further. However, note that I have an idea of how to change. I am planning my change. I am acting with purpose. I am actively seeking to control my change.

Don’t just let change happen. Think about how you want things to change. What direction is a positive one for you to change? How will you know you are moving in that direction? What can you do to actively make progress? What can you control? Then take those steps. Maximize the positive change in your life. You have a choice. Execute it. 

“I’m not going to change. He/She has to take me just the way I am.”

I heard this from a friend who is adamant about not changing for anyone. This friend would potentially give up a relationship where both people have invested much time and energy. When my friend said it, I became sad. Somehow my friend has bought the lie that you can have a fulfilling relationship and never change at all. 

Yes, every relationship leaves us changed. The change might be minute. We might not recognize that a change has taken place. However, we are changed. My friend recognizes that and that isn’t the sort of change being referred to in the “no change” declaration. My friend was referring to intentional change: change you seek after to be more compatible for the relationship. 

After 20 years of marriage, one thing I can say I have learned is that I must be continually changing. My wife deserves for me to be a better husband. That means improving myself. When I look at where I should be and where I am, I shudder. I am surprised my wife puts up with me. However, when I compare where I am to where I started, I am even more surprised that we have made it this far. I love my wife. I want to be that better husband. Thus, I desire to change. 

If you’re in a serious relationship, it is implied that you care about the other person. If you’re in a dating or marriage relationship, one would expect that you would want what is best for the other person. Eventually that comes back to looking at yourself. After all, if you want the best for them, doesn’t that also mean the best partner? And that’s where change comes in. Moreover, that’s where a desire for change should be. None of us will ever be all that we can be for the other person. That should never stop us from trying to make progress in that direction.


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