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Dancing with Doubt and Confidence

If I could pick two influences that have the greatest impact on my own successes and failures in life, they would be my two dance partners,personal doubt and self-confidence.  Even though I know I have total control over these two emotional states, it's always a struggle finding a healthy balance between the two.  Self-confidence is so crucial to the way I present myself to others and the way I engage with life in general.

When I take on a task with a high level of self-confidence, it's almost certain that I will enjoy the process and end up with a very good outcome.  However, in order to keep innovating and growing on a personal and professional level, I need to periodically question plans and approaches.  That's where the dance of Doubt and Confidence becomes very complicated.

When I decided to make the move from IT professional to professional trainer, I did so with a great deal of enthusiasm and self-confidence, which is exactly what's needed to be successful.  I spent a great deal of time reviewing the training material.  Even though I was very familiar with the technology, I discovered that delivering scripted explanations and examples was very different from what I was familiar with.  My first official training event came, and I was feeling good about my preparation.  I had my dance partner Confidence proudly at my side and was ready to get going.  Once the class started, came the technology issues.  Problems with the transfer process resulted in totally blank Power Point slides.  Then the conference call kept dropping, and I was losing my network connection to the class.  Needless to say, my dance partner Confidence crawled off into the corner and shriveled up while I was feeding all of my emotional energy to my other dance partner, Doubt.  By the end of the class, my new dance partner weighed over 300 pounds, had two left feet and was named Doubt.  For the rest of the class I was consumed with dread and started making lots of mistakes.

I knew I needed to make changes to how I approach difficult situations if I was going to be successful as a professional trainer.  Because this first training experience was such a disaster, I felt I had seen a worst case scenario.  I felt if I could be prepared for at least these problems going forward, I would have most potential problems covered.  Just then my dance partner Confidence perked up and proclaimed that this was a onetime thing and it could never happen again.  After considering that, I decided to take a bit of Doubt and feed it to Confidence.  There is no way to know all of the possible problems that will confront me, so a bit of Doubt is a necessary motivation for planning to prevent future disasters.

Nowadays I have Doubt on a strict diet and have Confidence on a rigorous exercise routine.  When I review my class surveys, I don't just focus on the negative or positive but look for possible intersections between the two.  I often get conflicting results from class surveys such as "it's too long", "it's too short", "there's not enough explanation", "explanations sometimes ramble", etc.… I think these opposing responses will help me develop the best possible balance of content and delivery techniques.  I think the observation that good trainers are also good story tellers is spot on.  I am continually trying to develop an interesting and compelling story for each class.  I would love to say that I am there or even close, but Doubt reminds me that I still have a lot of room for improvement and Confidence reminds me about the time I wound up feeding all of my Confidence to Doubt.

Posted by Tim Schilling, Sr. Trainer, Epicor University


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