08 Mar How to Find Your Confidence, ‘Lean In’ Style
We have been conditioned to look outside of us for confidence but what if you looked to yourself? Here is an exercise that will result in an infusion of your own courage.
Start by thinking of a time when you were at your most confident. Not of an age, but a memory. And I don’t mean the last time you went zip lining. But how about the time you asked for a raise, took on responsibilities beyond your experience or cold called that new business prospect?
Here is a time that I look back to, a time when I completely Leaned In, unencumbered by self-doubt, politics or any of the other blocks that we allow to hold us back.
When I had just finished my senior year in high school, I scored a summer internship at Viacom VIAB -2.53%. I was very young for the program so they tucked me away in the human resources department far from their sexy properties like MTV or VH1. I was the frontline for screening secretarial resumes and I was elated by this responsibility. If I spotted a typo, I was told to discard the resume. I learned a lot.
The annual summer picnic was coming up and the office was abuzz; a day off for the entire company at a local camp to mingle, eat, and play.
I had heard that Viacom’s CEO, Frank Biondi was a “great tennis player.” That fall I would be headed to college to play tennis for Harvard and my competitive spirit was lifted. I wondered how great a middle-aged male tennis player could really be, and, I thought, what a great way to forge a relationship with the CEO. Yes, this is how my 17-year-old self actually thought. That hasn’t changed.
Via interoffice memo – this was 1990 – I sent him an invitation. Would he like to play a match against a nationally ranked tennis player aka me, “the summer intern,” at the company picnic? Two days later my boss, a secretary in HR, approached me with a confused and slightly irritated expression. “Frank Biondi’s secretary is on the line for you.” Unfazed, I picked up the phone: “Mr. Biondi will see you at the courts at 2pm.” she said. Game on.
It was the day of the picnic. As soon as I arrived, Collette, the director of human resources, became my constant companion. Until then, I didn’t think she knew my name. I headed to the courts, Collette by my side, and Mr. Biondi was just finishing up playing with some of his C level colleagues. We started our match and began to draw a crowd.
Word had gotten around that Mr. Biondi was in a tight match with the female intern. Suddenly there were hundreds of spectators watching. It was close and I barely eeked out a win at 7-5. We went to shake hands and to my surprise (and naiveté!), he was less than happy. Mr. Biondi could barely utter a “Great match” to me, but I was too swarmed to care. There were heads of departments and managers and interns; all were excited to meet me.
For the rest of the summer at Viacom, wherever I went, I had friends. Mr. Biondi,’s office however, never called again.
When I look back now, I marvel at the courage and fearlessness I had at that time. It was before the lessons of corporate politics, before the ramifications of risk taking were a part of my calculus. It was before a time when voices of “no” even entered my mind. I had a strength that I trusted and I did not let anything stand in my way.
What was your moment of audacity? When you were so clearly certain of what would go right that you had no fear of what might go wrong? Think of that moment when you meet your next opportunity.
To read this article on Forbes, please click here.
Samantha Ettus is a bestselling author & corporate speaker. The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction will be released in September.