Last year I read Amy Cuddy’s fantastic book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. I’m still impressed at how many ideas have stuck with me, more than a year after I finished reading. I still think about that book on a regular basis—for me, that’s the sign of a good one.
Here’s one idea I keep coming back to, even now: in the book, Cuddy tells a great story about learning to surf, which apparently you need to do if you marry an Australian, as Cuddy did. She tried and tried and couldn’t get the hang of it, until her frustrated instructor finally told her it was really pretty simple: “You just have to decide to stay on the board.”
To her astonishment, it worked.
I’ve been thinking about mindset and resolve and staying on the board this week, for reasons I’ll explain in a future post. (Soon!)
In Presence, Cuddy compared surfing to decision making: our natural human tendency is often to gather data until we feel confident we’re ready to make a decision, so we put off deciding until we feel certain about what choice to make. But that’s not how it works, she says. In fact, it’s the other way around: decisions create confidence.
My Myers-Briggs type is INFP, and like so many people who have that “P” at the end of their type (and there are a lot of us: 46% of all people), I love to gather lots of information before I make a decision. Lots and lots. In fact, one of the glaring weaknesses of P-types is that they’re vulnerable to staying open to new information for so long that they miss the opportunity to even make the decision.
If we wait until we’re certain, we’ll never decide.
This is me, too often: I feel uncertain, not sure if I can stay on the board. So I don’t decide. Or I don’t attempt to do the thing, whatever the thing is. I’m not sure I have what it takes, so I don’t even try, crippled by self-doubt. (Hello, imposter syndrome.)
Of course, I don’t usually realize I’m doing this—which is what makes this pattern so insidious.
When you surf (so I’m told), you don’t pop up on your board and then see if you’ve got it. You have to decide you have what it takes before you ever begin, or you’re hopeless. (And if you fall, you fall. That’s part of the sport.)
There’s a huge difference between quiet confidence and an inflated ego, of course. I can’t run a four-minute mile, or lead a Fortune 500 company, or paint like Cassatt just because I decide to. But that thing right in front of me, that I’m already prepping for? That’s in my realm of possibility, if I decide to go for it.
Have you ever decided to stay on the board? Do you need to make that decision? I’d love to hear about your experience with mindset, confidence, and actual surfing in comments.