It's a scientifically-proven fact that successful entrepreneurs are supremely self-confident, even to the point of being overconfident. Self-confidence makes it easy for entrepreneurs to visualize success and difficult for them to imagine failure. As a result, entrepreneurs take risks that other won't.

For example, a 2018 study at the University of California at Santa Barbara encouraged participants to think of themselves as either more (or less) self-confident by telling them that they'd scored high (or low) on an IQ test. The researchers then asked participants if they wanted to play a game. The study showed that:

"In two-player tournaments where the higher score wins, a player is very likely to choose to compete when he knows that his own stated confidence is higher than the other player's, but rarely when the reverse is true."

Self-confidence, however, does more than just change your own behavior; it also changes the behavior of those around you. Self-confidence is, in fact, contagious due to the phenomenon of mirror neurons--brain cells that fire "both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another."

As Margaret Steward of the Department of Neuroscience at Regis University cleverly put it in her 2017 master's thesis:

"The mirror neuron system complicates the 'old monkey see, monkey do' adage. Mirror neurons can be likened to 'monkey see, monkey's neurons fire as if monkey did, but in reality, the monkey did not do.'"

While mirror neurons reflect any human behavior, the behaviors that result from self-confidence--like risk-taking--turn out to be particularly contagious. That's why entrepreneurs usually attract a coterie of true believers who have (as they say) "drunk the Kool-Aid."

The mirror neuron effect of self-confidence is so powerful that it can actually convince other people to disbelieve their own senses.

I learned about the power of self-confidence when I was a kid and (for some reason) wanted to convince my sister that the word "energy" was actually pronounced "engerny." She didn't believe me so I pulled out a dictionary, turned to the word "energy," pointed at the page and said, with utter conviction: "See for yourself! It's spelled 'e n g e r n y'... engerny." Her response: "Gee, you're right. That's amazing." Even though my self-confidence was just an act, it was enough to cause my sister's brain (and she's very smart, BTW) to believe something patently ridiculous.

Silly as that example seems, it's the sort of thing that happens all the time--in a much larger and more significant way--throughout the business world. Elon Musk, for example, is insanely overconfident and, through that overconfidence, inspires employees of his companies to overcome obstacles that the "real world" believes to be patently impossible.

Published on: Nov 8, 2019
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