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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Confidence is temporary and contextual

"Confidence is one thing, but that can be temporary and that can fade as quickly as it came really." 

Who do you think made this statement? It was made by Roger Federer, winner of 16 Grand Slams, a record in the professional tennis world. Roger Federer made this statement just after he had won the semi-finals in the year ending ATP Finals at London in November 2011.

Systems thinkers call such as variables as an 'emerging property' of a system.This means that confidence is not inherent in you; it emerges out of your engagement with that system. That is why, Roger Federer can be confident in playing tennis, but he could be very nervous and jittery while 'investing his money' or 'helping his children to find the best school'.

As Confidence is an 'emergent property' of the system, it is not a 'time-less' trait; it is a time-dependent trait that is true only for that 'time' or moment.It can fade as easily as it emerged. For instance, if Roger Federer stops improving his game, his capability will not match with the demands of the game and he will feel less confident. In other words, constant improvement in the activity is not just necessary, but is absolutely essential to remain 'confident' in the field. This is what Roger Federer had to say about his effort in tennis.

As Federer explained, "I used to have a weak backhand. But then everybody played to my backhand. So obviously I was always going to improve my backhand eventually." He further added , "I think the same thing kind of happened to many different players. I don't think Novak's forehand used to be a strength. Today it's a weapon. [With] Rafa, [it’s] the same thing. He used to struggle if you hit hard into his forehand. Today it's no problem for him anymore. 

In other words, remaining confident is not automatic; neither to Roger Federer, nor to you. It depends on your engagement with the  'system' and the actions you take to match your capabilities with the changing 'demands'of the situation.  

Therefore it is wrong to claim ' I am confident'. It is more appropriate to say " I am confident in doing xyz today'. Please remember this when you are giving your next interview, or when you are talking to your boss or your subordinates. 

At this time, I sadly remember an interview of Vidhu Vinod Chopra he gave on the TV when his movie "1942-The love story" was released in 1994. Vinod Chopra wanted R.D. Burman to compose music for his film. When Vinod Chopra approached R.D. Burman for composing music, R.D. Burman had not composed music for a long time. Vinod Chopra said, 'R.D. Burman's confidence was so shattered that he did not believe that someone would want him to compose the music'. And remember R.D. Burman was a music composer of more than 300 plus films over three decades ( 1960 to 1990), some of which have been memorable like 'Padosan'and 'Yaadon Ki Baraat'. 

Confidence is temporary and contextual. Because it is an emergent property of a system, one has to 'engage' with the system to remain confident. 

A puzzle for you: What are your other 'traits', which you think are yours, but which actually 'emerge' from your engagement with the system?  

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