Self Confidence

A friend of mine told me a story this morning about a time that he said he had the money when he did not and then he went out and found it.

It reminds me of Mark McCormack’s What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School where he tells story after story of signing big deals that he had no ability to pay for and then going out and funding them.

Mark and my friend both knew they could get the money even though they did not actually have it.

When I was in college I needed a job and I found one programming in Fortran. I didn’t know Fortran. I had some cursory knowledge of Basic.

I went for the interview anyway and when they asked me if I knew Fortran, I said “yeah, I’ve done some Fortran programming” and then asked them if I could take the source code home for the weekend.

So they printed out the source code on a dot matrix printer on folds after folds of large format printer paper. I took that pile of paper home and opened it up.

It turned out that the postdoc who had written the Fortran program had literally commented every single line of code.

On one line was the code and on the next line was a comment that said something like “this tells the laser to move to the right by the amount entered.”

I smiled and knew that I could maintain that Fortran program and in the process teach myself the language. And that is what I did and partially paid my way through MIT too.

I am not advocating lying but that is what I did and that is what my friend did. But we lied with the self-confidence that we could pull it off.

There is a fine line between self-confidence and recklessness and I have been able to project the former without landing on the latter in my career. I think you need at least a little bit of the former in business. Without it, you won’t be able to go for it when you need to go for it. And if you don’t go for it, you won’t get it.