Self-motivation at the intersection of risk and confidence.

Measure your risk toleranceAfter my first look at how fickle self-motivation can be, CASUDI remarked on the role risk and confidence plays in your willingness to act. Jackie Ng also mentioned the need to believe in yourself, which goes hand in hand with confidence. Are you ever self-motivated when you lack confidence? Does that lack prevent you from taking a risk? I don’t believe anyone, no matter how confident they appear is ever 100% confident. If they are they’re either lying or not challenging themselves one iota. And I’ve noticed that those that seem the most boastfully confident tend to be the most insecure.

You can’t mask true confidence. I believe those that have a strong sense of self confidence are those that can admit when they’re not. They can talk about their fears openly because they’re not constantly worried about what others think. That takes your eye off of achieving your full potential.

If you don’t have confidence in yourself, you’re going to take the necessary risks to get ahead. You simply have to believe in yourself. To do so requires looking into the pit and gauging your ability to leap across to a higher level of performance. Not always easy to do. And often those around you don’t necessarily want you to make that leap. They don’t want you to change because then they’ll either feel left behind or be forced to confront their fears should they be motivated enough to do so.

I believe risk and confidence are like peas and carrots. For example, I’m not confident in my ability to Rock Climb and you’re not going to find me scampering up this wall. First, I’ve never rock-climbed so lack the know-how and training. And it’s not something I’m passionate about. So that’d be a pretty foolish risk. But there are many situations in which my ability to solve problems, to find solutions when I don’t know the answer, allow me to take a risk or two. I’m confident I’ll figure it out. I’ve done so many times before.

But risk and confidence don’t automatically turn into action. There’s the element of want. You really have to want something to act upon it. You must have your eye on the prize. And that’s where self-motivation kicks in.

There’s a time I took a hefty risk to become a commercial photographer. I modeled my strategy after those most successful, developed a solid portfolio and marketed to the best agencies and companies around. I surrounded myself with a couple great people  to help and was making headway. Then the dot com bubble burst, 9/11 happened and the dream imploded. The creative industry suffered a major contraction. Digital and cheap remade the industry. Portland was not where success would happen and a move to a larger market wasn’t realistic at the time. I took too big risk and all of my back up safety nets failed as well. I look back and am amazed at how incredibly driven I was to pursue it but failed. I was hugely motivated and confident in my abilities. In hindsight, I realized the model I followed was probably 5 to 10 years behind where the market was moving and should have implemented additional back-up plans.

My confidence was shattered after I’d poured myself into the effort. I had to rebuild. It was then I started thinking a bit more about where my strengths and passions were located. And learned it wasn’t just the photography part. Where I thrived was pulling all the pieces together. Building brands. Thinking strategy, connection and experience. Of which the visual is one component. Back to what I’d started out doing. Just more visually enriched and with a killer image library. What’s this got to do with risk and confidence? Sometimes they reveal the unexpected. What ultimately motivates you may not always be what you initially set out to do. The trick is to pay attention and continue to believe. Failure reveals new opportunities if you move beyond self pity. You have to find the inner strength. The inner motivation to do so. If not, you’re stuck.

There’s more to it though. Stay tuned as I explore the deeper aspects of self-motivation. We humans are not rational beings. Next stop on this journey is Daniel Pink’s latest book, Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. He states that the secret is “the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.”

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