Everyone knows the famous story about how in the fifth inning of the 1932 World Series Babe Ruth pointed to the bleachers showing all who could see that he was going to hit the next pitch over the fence for a home run.
While there is to this day some debate as to whether Ruth was actually calling his shot, the story has become an enduring part of baseball folklore and therefore history. It has also come to signify the angst induced admiration we have for someone who is bold enough to confidently stake their claim in the world.
To those players and fans of the opposing team, Ruth’s gesture was the epitome of arrogance and cockiness that begged for a response of derision and cries for a strikeout.
But to the Yankee faithful, the Sultan of Swat’s actions were a rallying point reflecting the confidence that ultimately carried the day and the team to victory.
So why I am talking baseball with you today?
Recently there was a question posed in LinkedIn* that asked Where is the line between confidence and cocky? It is undoubtedly a great question, and one that I am certain we have all asked ourselves at one point in time or another. Especially given the fact that in today’s highly competitive world it appears that we are at a crossroads between what we have traditionally believed and what is now required for us to step up and stand out like never before. Or to put it another way, while it is said that pride cometh before the fall, lacking confidence in the business world is a sure way to quickly end up on the outside looking in, in terms of career advancement and success.
As a guide for helping you to determine whether you are being confident or cocky, here are a few questions:
- Are you in Yankee Stadium or Wrigley Field? In other words you have to know your audience. If you are in a group that is laid back as opposed to rah rah let’s go get em, you have to govern yourself accordingly. It doesn’t mean that you have to be someone you are not, or change your ultimate goal i.e. you still have to hit the home run. What it does mean is that you have to modify your manner of delivery so as to connect and engage rather than enrage others.
- Do you have a track record of walking the talk? In referencing Mohammed Ali in my response to the LinkedIn question – who I believe is at once both confident and cocky – Ali, as described in a testimonial to his leadership, lived his live with “integrity” and in the process became “a world-known leader and a folk-hero” through his tireless effort to achieve rights for African Americans. Ali was not only a champion in the ring, he was also a champion in life. This of course is walking the talk. Regardless of how some may feel about certain aspects of his personality, there is nonetheless a universal respect for him and his accomplishments.
- Are you earnestly passionate? Passion is its own form of confidence because it demonstrates your belief and enthusiasm for what you are doing. Think back to when you talked about something for which you had a great deal of enthusiasm. Were you not energized and certain in expressing your belief or position? This sincerity or authenticity will come through loud and clear without your having to make proclamations about how great you are.
- Are you always prepared? The old axiom regarding the need to be prepared has never been more appropriate than it is today. In a previous post I talked about how it is important to to be “proactive” after a merger, and “researching the new owners, networking with managers and putting in extra hours” to establish yourself as an important player in the new scheme of things. Similar to the Babe taking batting practice before the game, when you do your homework and understand the goals of those with whom you work and the needs of the clients you seek to serve you will be ready for whatever challenges you may face. This in turn will demonstrate a level of confidence that will build others’ confidence in you.
- Are you interesting? I recently had a discussion with the boss of one of my clients. My client is soft spoken, dedicated, great in terms of moving the business forward but honestly, if he had some cockiness, he would be considered more confident and eligible for the next promotion. I told his boss I would help him to become more “edgy” and he loved that word. So is being edgy and cocky one in the same? This brings us right back to point one . . . you have to know your audience and adapt your approach within the framework of your authentic self to best connect and communicate your vision for making their life better. And who wouldn’t be interested in hearing you talk about how you can help them to be successful!
In the end confidence is the result of knowing your audience, having a proven track record, being earnestly passionate, and being prepared, all of which will enable you to communicate with confidence your ability to help others to achieve their goals.
Revisiting that momentous day back in October 1932 when the Babe called his shot, was he confident or cocky? What do you think now?
* A Special thank you to