Before the recent boxing match between Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao, De La Hoya’s trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., decided not to train De La Hoya for the fight. He had this to say:
Oscar doesn’t need me to beat Pacquiao. He really doesn’t. For this fight, Oscar can beat Pacquiao with just about anyone training him… Ain’t no way Pacquiao can beat Oscar. No way.
At that time, it seemed like Mayweather had every reason to say that. Pacquiao was much shorter and usually competed at lower weight divisions. He didn’t have the experience that Oscar had.
Which was why the outcome of the match was a shock to almost everyone, with Pacquiao beating Oscar with a technical knock out before the ninth round. Oscar just didn’t have the physical disposition to finish the match.
I bet Mayweather is eating his words now.
What does this have to do with web working? Did you ever enter a contest, submit a proposal, or take on a challenge thinking that there was no way you could lose – and yet you did? It happens to many freelancers I know, including myself. We can be so confident with our own skills that we fail to see our faults, and they inevitably trip us up in the end.
Confidence versus overconfidence
Although we should tell prospective clients that we’re good at what we do, deep inside we should always know that we can do better. This isn’t about low-esteem for your work. For me, I just know that if I devote more time to practice and learning, I can be a few steps better than I am right now. In other words, there’s always room for improvement.
Internal overconfidence can sometimes lead you to think that your skills are fixed and unchangeable. This is the top, and you’ve reached it. You are naturally good at your field, so you depend mostly on your talents. But doing this has its limits. The truth is that there are always more skills to learn, mistakes to fix, and changes to adapt to. Especially on the web where trends and technologies easily shift. Working on the web often means that diligence, research, and innovation often trumps natural talent.
Instead of being confident solely because of your skills, you should be confident about your ability to learn and adapt. Know that you can deliver what your client needs now with the skills you have now. But never tell yourself that you know all there is to know about your field. You may be the best, but this is something that you will be tested on every day.
Being the best feels good, and there’s nothing wrong with being confident. But overconfidence can bring a large blow to your ego when you meet someone who does your work better than you do.
It seems to me that overconfident people avoid failure. They have good reason to do so. Failure is painful and it can even be humiliating. It tells you “You’re not that good.” But as many people have already pointed out, failure and imperfection can push you to raise your game.
This is also good news for people who feel like they aren’t “naturally good” at marketing, business, SEO, blogging, or a number of other salable web working skills. By accepting that there’s always room for learning, even for the experts, it means that you can learn all the new skills you want and explore any field that interests you. You might not be “that good” yet, but you will be. It just takes dedication.
Getting to #1 isn’t an end in itself. It’s a lifelong commitment to learning and practicing what you’ve learned. We may be good, but we can also be better. Let’s remember that as we take on projects for the new year. After all, you don’t want to be knocked out when you least expect it.
Are you always confident about your work? What do you do to prevent your confidence from getting to your head?