Confidence has always been bedfellows with arrogance. Separating the two is a difficult thing to do, and if left unchecked, confidence can evolve into a large-headed monster.
Keeping things in check is just as monstrous as the arrogance however. It involves repeated bodyblows to the spirit, in multiple forms. Whether it be mental, physical or spiritual, constant reminders of how fallible you really are do wonders to stave off the merest hint of arrogance.
It can also leave you a complete shell of a person. Your spine must be as robust as your chin, and you really need to retain a target in mind otherwise you can easily lose sight and your journey changes its destination without you even knowing it, like a nefarious SatNav.
So, I say this with the voices in my head reminding me not to get cocky.
I have achieved my dream.
The very sentence has lost most of its meaning thanks to reality TV shows showing teary-eyed hopefuls repeating this very line like a mantra, but at its very essence, it is a powerful arrangement of words.
How many people can say that the very thing they dream of, the epitome of all they envisage in their minds eye, they have actually made tangible?
I feel confident enough to say this sentence as I have had to work extraordinarily hard to get this amazing opportunity and as my elders have taught me – you don’t get anywhere without hard work.
When I was at school, I was always good at English. Whether it be dissecting the works of classic authors, or creating my own yarns, my grasp on the language was always a firm one. I was a very short lad with a head that didn’t really fit my slight frame, so I was never one of the pretty elite. I had a big mouth though, and could raise a laugh or two which helped me evade the attentions of the bigger boys. I was popular, but it was my quick wits rather than anything else. I was also quick to self-deprecate, it was safe and it put people at ease.
Thanks to unforeseen circumstances, my academic career was cut short however. My aim of becoming a journalist evaporated as quickly as my chances of becoming the school heartthrob on my first day at Secondary School.
I was turfed out into the real world mercilessly early. I needed work, and my social skills allowed me to obtain jobs easily. Keeping them was another matter though, and for years I never kept a post longer than four months. The reason? I was incredibly lazy.
Finding the right woman helped. This is not a love story, but she pushed me toward a work ethic, and slowly, I improved. I started moving up the ladder in terms of job quality, but none of the industries I dabbled in were the right fit.
Police Officer. Bailiff. Salesman. I was never ruthless enough to garner results as a Salesman nor a Bailiff, and I made a pretty good Police Officer, but it never felt right. I wanted to stretch my grey matter. I wanted to utilise what I had, or felt I had.
Eventually, I stumbled upon a job which demanded precious little acumen or actual thinking, but paid ridiculously well. It was a great opportunity for some people and it allowed me and my wife to save enough money to get us where we needed to be.
Unfortunately though, I had pigeonholed myself.
The money was so good it was impossible to match elsewhere, so I had to stay put as it paid the bills – the lifeblood of any responsible adult. Every day I searched, I scoured the job markets, but the jobs I was looking for, I had no experience. The actual jobs that appeared for those with no experience were paying less than birdfeed.
I needed an escape, so four years ago, I started to blog. I was picked up by a couple of websites, then I began my own. Fast forward to the current moment and I’m lucky enough to be able to submit some articles for money. It has helped enormously.
I write every day, I refuse to rest on my laurels. With any form of writing, there is ALWAYS room for improvement, so I read plenty and always try to stretch myself. I write about any subject, and whether my working day has been an absolute mire or not, I will set up my miniscule desk and tap away at the keyboard.
It was part desperation, part enjoyment. All those mind-numbing days at work were made bearable by daydreaming of a chance where I could write for a living. It had no place in reality, I knew that, but it was the light that dragged me through the darkness each day.
One day, I could be noticed by a big firm, who knows? That shot in a million was exactly what I had to plump my sanity on. My actual job had less prospects than a slug at a snail speed-dating event, and I wanted much more than what I had in terms of employment.
I would look forward to the ‘ding’ of my phone which signalled an email. Could it be word of another writing opportunity? It was that pitiful.
Still, I continued to write, to strive, to stay afloat.
Then, I received word from a recruiter that they were looking for someone with my particular set of skills. Being very unlike the dynamic Bryan Mills from the film which I brazenly stole that last line, I questioned this particular recruiter vigorously. She replied that she had been reading my many offerings, and she liked what she had read.
There is nothing like a compliment to massage the ego. I have found the first reaction I have to compliments is to bat them away like a cloud of pesky mosquitoes, and I did just that with this. I took comfort from her words, but I daren’t believe them. She asked if I would like to attend an interview, to which I accepted. I had done this previously over the last few years, but I had to try even with my disbelief already consigning this chance as just another false dawn.
I apparently impressed enough to get down to the final two people, which should have again let me know that I had what it takes, but I couldn’t face it. The fall from grace as I looked at decades of menial work stood in the way. It would hurt too much if I actually thought this could be real.
Then, I went for a second interview, designed to decide who was best between me and my faceless rival. What I couldn’t see though, is that my biggest obstacle was not how adept the other guy or girl was – it was my crippling lack of belief.
More written exercises, more grilling, more slices of time in which I could make a horrible error. I left the building imagining myself working there. It was the perfect place for me. I have never been religious, but I spoke to whoever out there that would listen, that I could do great things if I could just get that chance.
My wife, mother and some select friends tried to instill in me that I was good at what I did. The recruiter also told me that the people who had seen me in the interviews were really impressed. What my family were really swayed by though, was the fact I had not given up.
Four years of knocking on the door. Four years of writing, new ideas, a constant stream of articles pumped out into the ether, with no discernible address on them other than ‘Hope.’
Anyway, I have been offered the job, and I am taking it. You know what else?
I now recognise I have that work ethic I lacked in years gone by. When it is something I care deeply about or am invested in, then just watch me go.
I am a competent writer and it has been seen and wanted by a big company. It also means I can improve, I can grow.
This piece has been written as a success story, but it is for those who feel they are getting nowhere.
You need one hell of a hard head to continue knocking on the doors. You also require a thirst for improvement, as if you think you are there then you can guarantee you are miles away.
Lastly, you must see that you have what it takes. You are the fuel that will take you where you need to be, but you can just as easily derail yourself.
Keep going, and remember there will always be haters, but they will never cut deeper than yourself.
Confidence is not the enemy.