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Science Says Overconfidence Key to Success

Average people think overconfidence is a character fault; entrepreneurs embrace it.
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Most people assume overconfidence is a negative character trait that creates failure through hubris and overreach.  Science, however, has long known that entrepreneurs are consistently overconfident.  If they weren't, they wouldn't launch startups.

A recent issue of The New Yorker described a series of scientific studies proving entrepreneurs consistently overestimate their chances of success. In fact, one-third of all entrepreneurs are utterly convinced there is absolutely no chance their startup will fail.

Since nine out of 10 startups actually do fail, this is overconfidence with a vengeance.

Put another way, if entrepreneurs weren't overconfident, they'd stay put in their salaried jobs like everyone else. Therefore, to be a successful entrepreneur, you must cultivate overconfidence, rather than squelch it.  Here's how:

1. Make success a must-have.

Average folk want to be successful. But wanting something doesn't cut it. Wanting won't push you forward against all odds. Wanting won't buoy you up when big problems flood in.

Entrepreneurs see success as something that they absolutely MUST achieve, no matter what stands in their way.  As Yoda said: "Do or do not... there is no try."

2. Have bright, big goals.

Average folk have wishes. They wish they could pay their bills. They wish they had a better job.  They wish they could take an extra day off.

Entrepreneurs don't have wishes; they have goals that speak to the heart and roil in the gut. They want to make millions, help billions, change the world.

3. Shrug off your failures.

Average folk are crushed when they suffer a setback.  They wallow in disappointment. They make excuses. They blame fate.

Entrepreneurs see failures as anomalies, temporary situations that teach them how to execute more effectively the next time.  And there always is a next time.

4. Ignore the naysayers.

Average folk base their self-worth upon the opinion of others. They're afraid of looking stupid. They're afraid of disapproval. They're really afraid of hearing "I told you so."

Entrepreneurs consider the complaints and comments of non-entrepreneurs to be nothing but noise. As the old saying goes: "The dogs bark but the caravan moves on."

5. Value courage above security.

Average folk are obsessed with security.  They want life to be predictable.  They want to feel safe.  They look at the outside world through the lens of their TV.

Entrepreneurs know that the desire of security keeps you from becoming the best. They'd rather live life on their own terms and die poor than suffer a half-life of living in fear.

So that's how it's done.  One question remains: How do you know when you're successfully overconfident?

Easy.  You won't know you're overconfident; you'll just feel like it's plain, old self-confidence... even when you're preparing to move mountains.

Adapted from "Business Without The Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts That You Need to Know."

Last updated: May 23, 2014

GEOFFREY JAMES

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.




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