How To Build Confidence – A Lesson From Steve Jobs And James Cameron

You are a dynamic person with unknown potential.

Your confidence is the knob that can maximize your potential, or turn it off completely. That’s right – your confidence level at each extreme is capable of producing two completely different people.

The average person wallows around in the middle-to-lower end of the confidence spectrum. They make a devastating assumption – that the difference between the “great ones” and themselves is massive. The assumption is true – but is its own cause – a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I watched some TED talks today. If you don’t know about them, TED talks are an incredible learning resource. Almost every speech I’ve watched is thought-provoking and smart.

The first speech I viewed today was by Steve Jobs – the creator of the undisputed leader in consumer technology (Apple). The second was by James Cameron – the mastermind behind the two highest grossing films in history. These men are the best of the best. They are the leaders in two highly competitive industries. They are confident.

We can learn from people far less successful than these men, but the elite tend to have the purest form of whatever it is that makes people amazing. Let me clarify something right now – Steve Jobs and James Cameron aren’t amazing because they’re rich – they’re amazing because of their creativity, pure desire, and significant contributions to the human race.

Monetary wealth is just a natural result of that.


Steve Jobs Confidence

Steve Jobs – How to live before you die

“…You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust something – your gut, destiny, life,  karma, whatever – because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”

On being fired at Apple: “What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. I didn’t know what to do for a few months…but something dawned on me, I still loved what I did. I had been rejected, but I was still in love.”

“I didn’t see it then, but being fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”

Jobs went on to create Pixar and another company called Next that Apple bought (which brought Steve back and the rest is history).

James Cameron Suit

James Cameron – Before Avatar … a curious boy

“I was told by the folks at my company that we weren’t going to be able to do this for a while (speaking of Avatar), so I shelved it and made this other movie about a big ship that sinks (Titanic).”

“Secretly what I wanted to do was to dive to the real wreck of Titanic and that’s why I made the movie. And that’s the truth. Now… the studio didn’t know that.”

(In between Titanic/Avatar) “I made all of these documentary films for a very limited audience. So no fame, no glory, no money – what are you doing? You’re doing it for the task itself, for the challenge…and the thrill of discovery.”

How To Build Confidence

The confidence that these men have is extraordinary – and why shouldn’t it be with all they’ve done? They know a thing or two about how to build confidence. And while I didn’t get an interview with them, observation provided me with an answer.

Confidence begins with curiosity and courage.

Steve Jobs loved computers and was very interested in them from an early age. James Cameron was obsessed with Science Fiction and the ocean from an early age. They both had intense curiosity about the things they achieved greatness in. Do you think they even thought about confidence when they were doing what they love? No, it was embedded in their curiosity.

Curiosity includes confidence by ignoring it. If I have a strong curiosity to learn about beewolves, I’m not worried about failing or looking stupid – I just want to know about them. As a result of that, I’ll do whatever it takes to learn about this type of wasp. I may accidentally kill 15 of them and get stung in the face 53 times, but I’ll keep trying because I need to satisfy that curiosity. This type of perseverance is exactly what accompanies confidence and breeds success.

Not only did they have curiosity, but they had the courage to pursue their curiosities. What good is curiosity if you’re so scared or socially conditioned that you do nothing about it?

James Cameron lived 600 miles from the Ocean in Canada, but he still went to Buffalo, New York in the winter time to learn to scuba dive in a swimming pool. He has since spent 3,000 hours underwater (diving or in a submersible). He chose film-making because it was the best way for him to express his love.

Steve Jobs, as said in the quote, was fired from Apple and still had the courage to create Pixar – now the biggest animation studio in the world. He also created Next which led to his second stint with Apple.

Circumstantially, their decisions weren’t all that logical according to a conservative mind. Cameron “should have” waited until he was closer to the ocean to pursue scuba diving. After being fired, Jobs “should have” gotten a stable job at another company as well-payed executive with his credentials.

It reminds me of the big risk I took earlier this year. I’ve found that the deeper I go in this “risky direction” – the more curious, courageous, and confident I become. It’s getting exciting. My ideas are getting bigger and I’m starting to execute them.

So we learn from these great men that curiosity can spur us on to great things and build our confidence. I think this somewhat indirect way of building confidence is superior because of how natural it is. You’re not forcing the issue of confidence, you gain confidence by being so interested in something that you’re willing to fail over and over again as you pursue it in an inspiring, almost reckless kind of way.

“But failure has to be an option in art and in exploration – because it’s a leap of faith. And no important endeavor that required innovation was done without risk. You have to be willing to take those risks…

In whatever you’re doing – failure is an option, but fear is not.”

~ James Cameron

Be curious. From that, be courageous enough to take risks to satisfy that curiosity. And finally, let your confidence flow naturally as you make progress towards your dreams.

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