I stumbled across this funny video about Bill Gates and his upcoming last day at work at Microsoft (July 2008). Bill is retiring from his full time job at Microsoft this year to spend more time on the Gates Foundation.
In his video, Bill is hamming up the fact that he is a geek, he drives a cheapo car and is apparently forgetful, that he is a wannabee rock star, and even that he could be a potential running mate for one of the current presidential candidates. He (or his staff) engaged the help of numerous celebrities, rock stars, and politicians to participate in the video. The video came across as entertaining and wonderfully self-effacing.
The really cool part about the video is not that Bill is retiring or that the world's richest man (or second richest man, it's hard to tell) made a video about himself. The really cool part is that Bill Gates has the self-confidence to poke fun at himself. Bill Gates has the self-confidence to make a video that ridicules Bill Gates. That is confidence!
Self-confidence is an emotional intelligence competency in the domain of self-awareness. Here is how Daniel Goleman defines self-confidence:
Self-Confidence – "A Strong Sense of one’s Self-Worth and Capabilities."
– Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence
Why would anyone with a strong sense of their own self-worth and capabilities need to poke fun at themself? They don't, of course. But it is only those who do have a strong sense of their own worth and capabilities that find themselves able to joke about their short-comings. Individuals that are lacking in self-confident don't give themselves the freedom to do that. It is as if they are on the defensive all the time, trying to make sure no one sees through their facade Even though the reality is, other people usually see us as we are, confident or not.
Consider the following questions for yourself:
- Do you ever feel as if you wouldn't dare let others see how overwhelmed you feel in your job?
- Are you aware of your weaknesses, or the areas where others might get a chuckle about you?
- Are you willing to let others have a laugh at you about those areas? Would you even make a joke out of it and let others laugh at you?
If you are too serious about yourself or feel threatened by the idea of laughing at yourself, perhaps this would be a good opportunity to lighten up. Others certainly already know about our weaknesses, follibles, and blind spots, even if we don't talk about them or bring attention to them. They may even see our weaknesses more clearly than we are able to see them! Why pretend that they don't exist?
It reminds me of Al Gore who, as vice president for 8 years and a presidential candidate in 2000, was seen as robotic, stiff, and boring. Then, after losing in the 2000 presidential election, he started doing speaking engagements and he hosted Saturday Night Live and poked fun at himself and his situation. Suddenly, he is more popular now than when he was when he was as a public servant.
So my advice to you today is to lighten up and be confident enough to have some fun and let others have a laugh at your expense. It will make you much more human, and much more self-confident.
If you find that you need to boost your self-confidence, consider the following tip, from my list of 20 tips for improving your emotional intelligence:
Tip of the Day #10– Self-confidence is when we are grounded, secure, and self-assured. It’s easy to be rattled or thrown off our game by a recent setback or failure. One technique for overcoming a lack of self-confidence is to reflect on our past successes. Create a timeline on a piece of paper and mark on it the successes, small and large, that you have experienced over your career. By reviewing our past successes, we can put our current setbacks into perspective and see them as temporary.
And if I am wrong about Bill Gates and my judgment that he feels self-confident enough to make a joke, I will go out on a limb and offer my coaching services to him. Heck, I am pretty sure that I can help him feel more self-confident. Clearly, my exorbitant fee won't be an issue for him. Hey, it may even make him laugh.
In fairness, I guess I should also offer this same deal to Warren Buffet and Carlos Slim Helú, the other two individuals who collectively make up the three richest men in the world. Warren and Carlos, if you have self-confidence issues, please feel free to contact me directly for help! Go on, make my day.