A few weeks ago, my friend Jenn gave me an awesome compliment. She said I was “made of win.” I have since passed the compliment on to others who I think are made of win.

I made this happen. No one pushed me here.
I made this happen. No one pushed me here.

I didn’t ask Jenn her definition, but here’s how I see it: People who are made of win don’t back up when things get scary. They take a deep breath and another step forward. They know that living means taking chances and pressing on when things don’t go their way. They don’t wait around for someone to do it for them or with them. They say, “hand me the hammer” and go in.

As promised last week, I read “The Confidence Code” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.  As you know, the one wish I have for my nieces and nephews is that they live confidently. I’d love for them not to waste years of their life wishing they were brave enough to do something. So I read this book mainly with my nieces in mind, but I have some good takeaways for all of us:

1. The best gift we can give is to compliment effort. “I’m so proud of how much effort you put into coloring that picture/studying for the SAT/practicing for your recital.”

If we just earn praise for the end result, we learn that we have to be perfect. I remember as a kid, giving a speech (or maybe doing a reading – something that required me get up and use the microphone) at church. My mom told me she was so proud of me for doing that. She didn’t say it was the best speech she ever heard. She praised me for having the guts to stand up there. That stuck with me.

  1. Gaining confidence comes from trying things. We don’t wake up one day confident, we have to practice. Confidence “requires hard work, substantial risk, determined persistence and sometimes bitter failure.” Ideally, the authors say, we start enduring a few hard knocks early in life. That’s the fastest route to confidence. We also learn to build on our success. So I successfully spoke in front of the crowd at church as a kid, later I could give a sweet toast at my sister’s wedding without fear. The feedback I got was not that it was the best toast ever, but thank yous for sharing my story. When my brother got married, I didn’t even plan my words, I just took the microphone and started talking. That’s how I learned that I can wing it in other situations. Speak with confidence from the heart and you’re gravy.
  1. Men shake off failures much faster than we ladies do. They often attribute misses to outside factors. For example, my friend just applied for a job and didn’t get a response to his resume. His explanation was that he applied online. “They never saw it.” I would have internalized that. “If they didn’t call me, it’s because I wasn’t right for this job because XXX.” It’s much easier to shake it off and try again, if he hiring manager never saw your resume than if you think the hiring manager didn’t like what she saw, right?
  2. You think Team Spirits quit because we lost a couple games? Hell no!
    You think Team Spirits quit because we lost a couple games? Hell no!

    Studies show the most effective way to practice confidence is in sports. We learn that with practice, we improve. We learn that a loss is no big deal. Come back and play again next week. We don’t quit the team because we missed a goal or even because we got injured. Shake it off.

  3. Women don’t have to behave like men to be recognized. Female members of Congress get significantly more legislation passed and work more often with members across the aisle, according to a Stanford University study cited in the book. Clearly they’re doing it right.
  4. Don’t underestimate that you make things happen. You can go with the tide, or you can be proactive. When people ask why I moved to New York, my standard answer is usually something along the lines of “my company had a job open in the New York office, so I took it.” This makes it sound like the current pushed me to New York when in fact, I knew a job with more responsibility was opening, and I asked my boss if I could move, and have this better job. One of those scenarios takes confidence, one takes not kicking hard enough to get out of the current.
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