How the sums add up

Went after work on Friday for drinks with JV. Donna joined us later.

We started at Union Electric sipping cocktails in the upstairs extension. I was in a buoyant mood, and the cocktails helped that along nicely. After an hour or so, Donna joined us for another drink before we headed out for dinner at Ombra.

Had a good meal and interesting conversation. Donna left us to visit a friend and JV, and I went to Long Son for another cocktail. Then home, James.

Had a fun night, but there were a couple of notable things to come out of it.

First is just an observation – I’m in the middle of one of those patches where I’ve become interesting to the opposite sex. I’m enjoying it. You notice it at first in the lingering glances and friendly smiles and eye contact, and the prickling knowledge that others are aware of you. Often there’s even a sense of deference. Everything seems to revolve around you, with others waiting to take their cue. Conversation follows, and the rest of it.

This I remembered from when I was a lot younger and better looking, but I’m getting it again. I look okay – better than I have – but I expect much of it is attitude and confidence – which brings us to the next thing.

JV attended the Forum/Landmark recently, and we sat and discussed some of the things he got out of it. He explained the concept of the Winning Formula – the instinctive fall-back position we have to get what we want, or where we feel most comfortable.

For JV he said his winning formula was to please people to avoid confrontation. Donna said hers was her interactions with other people and her soft skills in that area. So what was mine?

You know, I couldn’t answer directly. I made a quip about having some losing formulas, then finally offered up my intelligence. It’s rare that I feel intellectually flummoxed, and I actually enjoy the challenge of surmounting complex ideas and systems. I tend to think of it as my ace – there’s nothing I can’t get my head around and master. I can see and think my way through things.

Donna had a different take, though it’s not unrelated. She said my winning formula was self-belief.

She has long lauded my confidence, but I haven’t taken much notice of it – maybe because I’m aware of the moments of doubt and frailty. I can appear a certain way, but it’s far from being 100%, and even so, there’s a good component of fake it till you make it.

Self-belief I think is slightly different. If confidence is the outward expression, then self-belief is the wellspring from which it flows.

I know that I could never have survived my troubles without a fundamental faith in myself – call it self-belief. In that context, it is a defensive attribute. But as Donna offered that up, and JV had no cause to disagree, I stopped to wonder where this self-belief has come from.

I remember many years ago, I struggled with my confidence. I was the type of kid who would try and overcome it by acting differently. I was never timid, though I could be shy. My habit then was to defy it, as it has been ever since with anything that challenges me.

Somewhere along the line, it changed – from having little confidence I became someone with the confidence to take on anything. I agree, it has empowered me along the way to challenge myself to greater achievement, and even to greater risk.

You could argue that my self-belief was forged in the act of doing things and achieving them. I put myself out there, was recognised for my efforts, and over a period consistently rewarded with promotion and responsibility. I could see that others valued and trusted me. I also discovered that I was smarter than most people. Was that it?

Perhaps it was, but there’s a difference between quiet self-confidence and ringing self-belief. I achieved the latter, not all of which can be easily explained by keeping score. The answer is I don’t really know unless there is something innate in me which was fed by my relative success.

So here I am today, and as I reflect on that, I think my travails lately have strengthened me having survived them. I am more tender, but I also know that I have the flexibility of mind to endure most things. Certainly, that leads to self-belief, but I wonder if I am accorded this almost by exception? For me, I’ve done the sums, and they add up to a good reason for self-belief; where in others, for their own reasons, they factor in elements that lessen the sum?

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