Monday, August 31, 2020

Are You Overconfident?


More than a decade ago, I wrote about a 13-foot Burmese python that tried to eat a six-foot alligator in the Florida Everglades.

The python exploded.

At the time, I wrote this in an effort to demonstrate that while having too little confidence can hurt you career -- so can overconfidence.

Since that time, there seems to be an explosion of overconfidence. From the start up founder being investigated by law enforcement because he overinflated a company's financial condition to the ego-driven employee who lies about her accomplishments, there seems to be a lot unrealistic thinking these days.

Recently I was reading about Don Moore's new book, "Perfectly Confident: How to Calibrate Your Decisions Wisely." In that interview, Moore makes solid points about how it's great to be confident -- but being overconfident is asking for trouble.

Consider his points:

  • Confidence feels good. It's a feeling backed by facts (you've trained, studied, gained experience over the years). Overconfidence doesn't feel good because it comes from lying to yourself."When you realize you're overconfident, it feels like a mistake. You feel like a fool," he says.
  • There are real risks with "delusional overconfidence." For example, being confident that you're going to give a great presentation to the boss -- and then don't do any research or prep work to prepare that presentation -- can seriously hurt your career when you give a sub-par presentation.
  • Realistic expectations help you achieve success. You need to assess the risks and opportunities that lie ahead. Then, figure out the action to take to prepare yourself to take advantage of those opportunities.
  • You can't predict the future. The best you can do is make forecasts about the probables and how sure you are of them. Are you willing to bet on it? How likely is it to happen? Why might you be wrong? What might others know who believe differently than you? "That is very useful for helping us questions our assumptions and calibrate our confidence," he says.

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