Last night, the No. 1 ranked Duke Blue Devils narrowly escaped an upset victory by the 9th seeded University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights.

The game had some dramatic plot points. Like pitting the nation's best player, Zion Williamson, against the nation's tallest player, 7-foot-6-inch giant Tacko Fall. Then, there was mentor versus protégé: legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski versus his former player and assistant coach Johnny Dawkins (UCF's current head coach). Or how about the emergence of Dawkins's son Aubrey, who was last night's best player...and whose last second tip-in attempt, had it gone in, would have won UCF the game.

But another major plot development only became clearly visible after the game. 

In a postgame interview, Duke player Zion Williamson was asked about his mindset as he directly challenged UFC's giant center, hitting one of the game's most important shots.

In his response, he repeated a single word three times:

"My mindset's pretty confident because...when the greatest coach in the world looks at you and says, 'You guys live for these moments,' I mean, that's all the confidence you need. So, when I went, I was very confident it was going in."

As I listened to a number of different interviews with Williamson, he repeatedly credited his coach with helping to provide him with that same quality:


There's a major lesson to be learned from this, and it can prove invaluable in helping you in business--and in life.

The role of confidence in emotional intelligence

Confidence is defined as belief in one's abilities, an overwhelming feeling that things will work out well. That belief, or feeling, is a key element of emotional intelligence--the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.

Years ago, psychologist and author Daniel Goleman explained why emotional intelligence is so valuable in the workplace.

While Goleman acknowledged that IQ and talent are by far the most important factors when it comes to career success, he also helped prove that your ability to manage emotions and relationships can help you get further.

Last night's game was a perfect example. 

Good basketball players will tell you the pivotal role confidence plays on the court. Countless talented players have fallen victim to their feelings or emotions in a big game; at times, said players are simply unable to demonstrate a skill that they've successfully practiced thousands of times before.

Duke found itself down with just two minutes to go--to a team ranked much lower than them. But with their coach's help, their confidence never shook.

(Notably, confidence also played a major role for Duke's opponents. UCF put themselves in a position to win because they had confidence in their own abilities--that they were every bit as good as the No. 1 team in the nation.) 

The ability to display confidence will help you far beyond the sports arena. Among other things, it can help you give a better interview, nail a key pitch or presentation, and even get what you want in a tough negotiation.

So, if you want to be successful, you must first identify your strengths. Work hard to develop those strengths through learning and repeated practice.

All of this will help build your confidence. But you can go one step further by finding a coach: a mentor, a colleague, or even a family member who can help instill confidence in life's big moments, when you need it most.

Because building your own confidence is good. But when someone you trust helps build your confidence, that's even better.