Lines give us confidence, not dots

One of the ideas that has helped me understand the nature of confidence is that it is lines that give us confidence, not dots.  So, a single incredible game does not make anyone a great player. Greatness and confidence come from enduring consistency over a long period of time.

One powerful implication of this idea is that we should abandon the ‘one big win’ mentality. Many build careers around the assumption that a stint at a prestigious firm or business school will mean they’ve “made it.” Similarly, many try to build companies and become crest fallen when a prestigious venture capital firm turns down.

While all of these undoubtedly help, they are, at the end of the day, just dots. You don’t become a great presenter by giving one big speech. Instead, you notch a thousand speeches that build your confidence. So, in our search for confidence in what we do, it is critical we approach it as a long process where our focus is on notching small wins. It follows that making a big difference in our lifetime isn’t about making one big choice or one big turning point – it is often a result of many many small wins over the course of a lifetime.

This, then, leads to my key takeaway from the “lines, not dots” principle – true confidence comes from a great process. Great inventors and thinkers across time had a phenomenal learning process. Think Richard Feynman, Benjamin Franklin among many others.

And, similarly, true self confidence comes from a great life process. Great habits, a great process and a purpose driven approach to life, for example, are the dots that, when joined together, provide the foundation for self confidence. Mastery in one aspect isn’t enough. It is all about lines, not dots.