Confidence is difficult to gain and harder to retain.When I genuinely know something well I feel overwhelmed with the need to teach people about it. Then I speak to someone who knows more about this topic than I do and I begin to second guess myself and my understanding of the topic.
When I feel less sure of my understanding of a topic I tend to read up about the topic more so that I can learn more about it. At this point the cycle begins all over again; I feel compelled to teach people what I have learned and then meet people who know more than me about the topic and then I feel useless again.
It’s incredible how rapidly this cycle moves me from discovery of a topic, to feeling confident back to feeling dumb again.
In the beginning phases of learning, I think this is partially the Dunning-Kruger effect
but as I explore a topic I think it becomes more a routine that has helped me greatly:
Learn → Practice → Teach
In his book Tools of Titans, Tim Ferris talks about this process as a good way to engage with a new skill, topic and just about anything that you have to learn.
Take time to learn from someone smarter than you with more experience.
Practice with someone at a similar level of understanding and experience.
Teach someone who is just starting out.
Then repeat these steps over and over and over again.
The reason that I initially brought up confidence as something difficult to gain and retain is because it’s easy to learn, practice and teach when there is no ego and no self doubt in play. However, if you are lacking confidence then it’s likely that you’re not going to want to teach anyone anything because your imposter syndrome makes you feel like you know nothing.
This will likely mean that you wont want to practice with someone on your level because you are fearful that they are ahead of you.
When these doubts flood my mind - and they flood with frequency, I promise - I revert back to the learning part. If I am not feeling confident enough to teach someone then I probably don’t know what I’m doing yet. If I don’t feel like I can practice with an equal then I go back and learn more, practice on my own and learn a little more.
Eventually though, you are going to have to throw yourself back into the game and start practicing and teaching again. The only way this is possible is without ego. If you carry ego with you then you’re going to feel dumb when the person you are practicing with starts to teach you something new. If you are not carrying an ego with you then you’ll realise that the person you are practicing with is actually at a teaching level now. No harm, no foul, you both gain something and move forward.
This simple cycle can lead to great relationships and incredible skills development. You can apply this to your family, friends, relationships and your teams at work.