Monday, February 25, 2013

Ain't No Horse Can't Be Rode

One grizzled westerner says, “Ain't no horse can't be rode; ain't no cowboy can't be throwed.” Problem is … some people seem to be riding most of the time while others sit in the dirt discouraged.

Why is that? Why do some people seem to have an easier go of it than others? Why do some people seem to find their place while others never quite “get it together”? And why do many average and ordinary people accomplish extraordinary, or at least notable, things while others expect that they will never really amount to much?

There is not a single quick and simple answer to these questions. But I have discovered that there is one factor that is crucial, one thing that plays an indispensable role in whether we will spend more time riding the horse or sitting in the dirt. This factor is more basic than raw talent or hard work. It is more fundamental than one’s background or intelligence. It has to do with the reasons why some people are able to compensate for poor backgrounds and others do not, why some intelligent people lead healthy and happy lives while other smart people flounder.

What is the one, single factor that makes the greatest difference whether one will lead the life they want or be disappointed again and again? In my experience, that factor is CONFIDENCE.

In his article How ‘Average’ People Excel (Reader’s Digest, 1992), Alan Loy McGinnis tells about how Thomas J. Watson, Jr. learned to make good things happen in his life. Watson’s father was founder and longtime head of IBM. But young Thomas was a lackluster student who even needed a tutor to get through the IBM sales school. He recalls that he had no distinctions and no successes.

Then he took flying lessons. What a feeling he experienced soaring above the clouds! He soon learned that he was good at flying – very good. He plowed everything into this “mad pursuit,” as he fondly called it, and gained self- confidence. From that point on, his life took a significant turn.

Watson became an officer in the US Air Force during WWII. Though not brilliant, he discovered that he had an orderly mind and an unusual ability to focus on what was important and to put it across to others. These were traits he would build on.

Watson went back to IBM. With his new-found confidence he eventually became chief executive of the corporation and took it into the computer age. In 15 years he increased IBM’s revenues almost tenfold.

Confidence is a life ingredient that is essential to success and wholeness. It is perhaps the single most important trait that enables seemingly average people to do and become all that they can. And the good news is – it can be learned. No one has to suffer a lifetime of low confidence.

Have you heard about the little boy sitting on the bench at his team’s baseball game? When asked by a concerned parent if he was discouraged that his team was behind 14 to nothing, he responded, “Discouraged? Why should I be discouraged? We haven’t been up to bat yet!”

With confidence like that, it was going to be an exciting game.

-- Steve Goodier

Image: Haslam