Look at the kid in the front row, fourth from the left! Yep, the one with the rolled-up pants (room to grow) and checkered jacket. That’s yours truly in Mrs. (Lois) Johnson’s Kindergarten in Bethel Park, PA! This photo was taken in 1960, and I’m five years old.
Even though I don’t look very cheery in this photograph, I was blessed with a happy childhood and loving parents. On a second look, none of the other boys appear too thrilled either with their hands in their laps and being this close to girls. Yuck, cooties!
I was one of the youngest kids in this class. My report card from those days read, “Kevin is young and lacks confidence.” Today, that might be considered as low self-esteem.
My parents decided to hold me back a year so I could grow in confidence. Yes, I repeated kindergarten! Mrs. Johnson’s advice and my parents’ wise choice set me on a more elevated life trajectory. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
Odd that I still remember those words and that label, “Kevin … lacks confidence.” Back then, it stuck with me in a bad way. If I lacked confidence, then how could I get something I didn’t have?
Today, I realize the inaccuracy of my five-year-old brain’s comprehension of those three words. Mrs. Johnson offered my parents her informed feedback so they could make a more informed decision about addressing the matter rather than labeling me as being deficient. In my naivety I mistakenly “owned” the label as it being a core attribute of who I was. Five- and six-year-old minds do things like that. Sadly, so do 25-, 35-, 45- … year-old minds, too!
“Lacks confidence” became a curse on me. I began to fulfill that label by playing it safer and living in fear making poor decision, looking stupid, and being teased. I erected a defensive wall from criticism and an aversion to seeking help. Those footers remain in place even today.
If you’ve read the opening paragraphs of The On-Purpose Person, you may think otherwise, but please know this: “the man” is not autobiographical. That narrative does, however, reflect aspects of my life where I was afraid to make waves or express an opinion. I lived in a jail cloaked in hesitation and doubt. In essence I began to fulfill the label I erroneously adopted as true.
Purpose is like that, too. You don’t lack a purpose. Every person has a God-given purpose that is gift-wrapped inside of your life. You may not know how to discover it or how to power it up or master your purpose. Your life purpose, too, must be cultivated over time.
Make the Move Toward Mastery
Since the late 1980s, my calling has involved thinking, writing, and sharing about purpose. My early pioneering work provides me with unparalleled experience and insight. I am confident.
Today, I assuredly am the world’s leading authority in the field of purpose and being on-purpose. My crusade has been to eradicate meaninglessness. I’ve cracked the code so the individual search for meaning and purpose is over in minutes. Instead of spending time searching for purpose, my clients now invest their time building their lives to be on-purpose.
Yet, in many other areas of my, I’m openly unaccomplished. For example, about ten days ago the toilet in one of my bathrooms was constantly running. I jiggled the handle, but that didn’t fix it.
Next, I made the big mistake of removing the top of the commode. Ninety minutes later plus another 40 minutes round trip to the hardware store, and guess what? The commode lid remains on the bathroom floor along with my toolbox. The toilet runs worse than when I started. Plus, there’s a new leak somewhere above the shut-off valve and the tank. When the water is turned on, water leaks on the floor.
Think it’s time to call the plumber?
How Do You Build Confidence?
No one is born lacking confidence. We lack competency, but not confidence. With repetition, guidance, and experience, we can accomplish most anything to a basic competency.
That’s what training is all about. Here are three of many elements of training that build confidence:
As my parents rightly understood, repeating kindergarten gave me familiarity so I could anticipate what was coming. That helped me to be better prepared personally and educationally.
I started teaching tennis at age 12. I read every book I could on the game of tennis. In my early 20s, I became a certified USPTA tennis professional.
As an example, let’s say I was working with a student on their backhand; I could quickly identify the mechanical problem in their stroke, such as a grip change. Then I had to help my student get comfortable hitting the ball repeatedly with the new grip so they could replicate the swing without me being present. The rest of the lesson was often filled with reps or repetition so they could gain competence.
Tennis anyone? The first time each new student showed for a tennis lesson I asked, “Why are you here for a lesson?”
Their answer to my “why question” revealed their motivation. Once I understood that, then I could realign their purpose and the lesson to achieve a faster, better outcome.
Stroke production is relatively easy to identify and correct. The greater challenge is typically the student’s self-perception and degree of confidence. For example, if they were a person who “lacked confidence,” then overcoming their psychological health was the greater challenge than the execution of the swing.
Today, my new and returning clients are asked, “Why are you here? And, how can I best serve you?” Little did I know that at 12 years of age how those questions would so shape my life and calling.
Ask a Pro:
Get help from someone who, as the old adage goes, “…has forgotten more than you know.” For many of us carrying mental misnomers, asking for help can be difficult. Get over your pride and get the help you need.
The Book of Proverbs has five separate instances where it advises us to seek guidance and advice. Thanks to platforms like LinkedIn, Upwork, Topcoder, HomeAdvisor, CarProUSA, and more, finding a specialized pro is easier than ever.
For the most part, our parents are our pros. My parents relied on Mrs. Johnson, their pro, to guide my early childhood development and plan the growth of my confidence. Who in your life is guiding your personal leadership development?
The word unconfident may be a real word, but it describes a nonexistent condition. Lack of confidence implies a deficit where none actually exists except by the person misguidedly declaring it. Low confidence is the better term.
“Lack of confidence” is a debilitating lie. I’ve lived it. Intellectually, I know it’s a devilish deception. Yet, decades later I remain in a daily battle to act boldly and trust my confidence.
By analogy, let’s look at a Tesla automobile. Standing still, it has zero speed, but does it lack speed? No. This electric vehicle possesses the raw power to go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 2.5 seconds. It doesn’t lack speed, nor can it travel at a negative speed. It can drive in reverse, yet even then, the speed is measured in positive numbers.
Each of us naturally lacks competence at the start of anything new. Confidence, like 0–60 mph, builds, but it is never lacking or missing in a person. Mistakes set us back, but they are an inevitable and essential element of the confidence-building process.
“Lack of confidence” cuts to the very nature or soul of a person —it’s just too destructive to the psyche. Strike “unconfident” or “lack of confidence” from your vocabulary. Avoid inflicting or strapping those labels on yourself or anyone else.
Visualize and speak about yourself in terms of being “in creation.” Your purpose is your being. You are being and becoming. In The On-Purpose Person, I introduce the idea of being an “on-purpose person in creation.” You’re constantly in the process of being and becoming you! When you are a work-in-process, you’re a learner or a disciple on an imperfect path to becoming an on-purpose person. That’s a more powerful and peaceful version of who you are. Step on the accelerator!
Discovering Your God-Given Purpose
When I was 12, my mother was reading the book I’m OK, You’re OK by Thomas A. Harris, M.D. The title captured my attention, so I read it. My worldview opened to a new possibility — I was OK, and I could fashion my life. I didn’t need to live in “lack of confidence” mode for the rest of my life. From that point, I’ve been a hungry student of personal leadership development content.
After consuming massive quantities of self-help literature, I recognized its limitations. In the mid 1980s, I was drawn to and discovered the raw source of all self-help — God. All self-help material is a second derivative of God-help.
I figured, Why not go to the source? The pursuit of discovering one’s purpose is a spiritual quest. Each of us lives with holy discontentment longing to be satisfied. A 2-word purpose statement opens the door to the home of a sacred reconciliation of mind, body, and spirit. There you will find unconditional calm and peace, even if turmoil swirls about you. That’s what it means to be on-purpose.
Hmmm, what if my On-Purpose work since the late 1980s is overcompensation to become a confident man? It worked!
Keep Building On-Purpose!
Readers of The On-Purpose Person know that I start each chapter with a quotation. For this post, I turned to my book of quotations about confidence specifically. These quotations will stimulate your thinking:
I had no vision of the scope of what I would start. But I had confidence that as long as we did our work well and were good to our customers, there would be no limit to us.Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart (1918–1992)
To do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in, and scramble through as well as we can.Sydney Smith, Anglican Clergyman and writer (1771–1845)
Fortunate is the person who has developed the self-control to steer a straight course toward his objective in life, without being swayed from his purpose by either commendation or condemnation.Napoleon Hill, Author, Think and Grow Rich
Calm self-confidence is as far from conceit as the desire to earn a decent living is remote from greed.Channing Pollack, U.S. Magician and Hollywood Actor (1926–2006)
Confidence is the feeling by which the mind embarks in great and honorable courses with a sure hope and trust in itself.Cicero, Roman philosopher, 1st Century B.C.
I leave you with one parting On-Purpose Proverb:
Lack of confidence’ is a deceptive weed to your spirit. Left unchecked, this lie will devour every field where you endeavor to excel.Kevin McCarthy