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WRAY: Grades, confidence, and power of belief

“I got straight A’s,” I heard a young neighbor exclaim.

There are two remarkable things about this statement. One was that Jimmy was sitting at my breakfast room table enjoying a plate of pancakes with five much younger boys who had slept over at my home for my youngest son’s birthday party.

Jimmy is the kind of charming, gregarious child who likes to join the fun. So, when the boys came back in for pancakes from playing in the front yard, Jimmy came along, too. There were plenty of pancakes to go around, and he was perfectly polite about being there.

The funny part is that Jimmy literally found an open door and walked through it.

Entrepreneurs know that finding open doors and walking through them is a critical life skill. Andy Cabistan, co-founder of local startup Watson, is one such entrepreneur. I have enjoyed witnessing Andy “walk through” the doors of events at The Creative Coast and, as a result, find his co-founders, identify business models and further develop the Watson communication and collaboration tools.

Back to my breakfast table. There was a second remarkable thing about Jimmy’s comment that also reminds me of Andy and other successful entrepreneurs: Jimmy’s confidence.

“Wow, Jimmy, that is awesome,” I replied. “I am so proud of you and thrilled to hear you are tackling middle school with no trouble.”

“Well, all A’s and B’s,” he replied.

No slowdown of the pride and no apology. Sort of like “Straight A’s” and “all A’s and B’s” are the same thing.

Then Jimmy added, “My Spanish teacher gave me an 84. She is really mean.”

Again, no explanation that an 84 is actually a C. I marveled at how the confident, enthusiastic youngster had originally announced, “I have straight A’s” when actually he had A’s, B’s and a C.

I smiled and explained that there are lots of mean people in the world: “Luckily, for most situations, mean people can only make our lives more difficult, but they usually can’t stop us. I hope you can focus on the Spanish class and get that 84 to the A you seek.”

His eyes brightened. “I can do that,” he said. I loved the commitment and realized his original statement was as much a goal for the future as it was a report of the past.

The moral I wished to learn from Jimmy’s conversation was that confidence is the beginning, perhaps middle and end to all things great.

The first step is to believe that something great is attainable. I hope Jimmy never loses his confidence and continues to find himself sitting around tables where he can thrive because of doors his smile opens. I hope he continues to see himself as a high achiever.

The trick for a founding CEO is to follow Jimmy’s footsteps and claim greatness: “We will raise $100,000 in our Kickstarter campaign,” or “We are closing on a $40,000 convertible note in March” or “We will do $1 million in sales this year.”

The successful CEO, however, will then break down the steps needed to reach the goals and measure progress along the way. Successful CEOs do not simply “wish” success to happen — they make it happen. They don’t have time for “mean” people who get in the way or make it difficult to succeed.

Successful CEOs simply move forward, relentlessly, until goals are achieved.

In his article “Why High Confidence Is Crucial for Entrepreneurs,” Sangeeta Bharadway Badal explains, “You recognize opportunities and initiate action. While uncertainty may plague others — who endlessly weigh the potential value of an opportunity, gauge the complexities in the environment and fall prey to ‘analysis paralysis’ — a resilient self-belief leads you to act. And act quickly. You are so confident in your ability to control the events in your life and to manage your environment effectively that you know you will succeed.”

However, he also warns, “Sometimes overconfident entrepreneurs make decisions in haste. The challenge is to help entrepreneurs use their confidence to open doors and achieve goals rather than to overreach.”

Andy, in his pursuit of creating, launching and building a Savannah-based training and consulting company, has a firm and effective grasp on the confidence concept. Likewise, Jimmy, with his mouthful of pancakes and his newfound focus on improving his Spanish test scores, is also well on his way to a bright and successful future.

 

Bea Wray is the executive director of The Creative Coast, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the creative and entrepreneurial community within the region. Bea can be reached at 912-447-8457 or bea@thecreativecoast.org.

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