Overconfidence: Why “Faking It ‘Till You Make It” Works So Well

I’m going to make a case for an important skill that anybody wanting to achieve success should look to develop and harness: overconfidence.

Yes, that’s right.


Otherwise called: “cockiness”, “arrogance”, or to my UK friends, better known as “Alan Sugar Syndrome”

People hear all of the time that they should approach things with confidence. “Be confident, be confident. Show confidence”. But at the same time, they’re also told to be “humble.”   “Be humble, show humility”.

How do you do achieve both if you haven’t done it before? Yes, there’s a fine line there. A “sweet spot” if you will. But how do you find it if you don’t know where it is?

Easy. Go overboard.

You won’t be able to find the sweet spot between confidence and humility unless you’ve crossed the overconfidence threshold a few times.

Oh, but you don’t want to come across as a giant pompous dick you say?

Well, why not?

Chances are, you already are one.

I promise you… somebody thinks you are one.

For one, we know you’re human. Which means you already think about yourself 60% of the time and only think about others 10% of the time.

You probably have a Facebook account – which basically means you’re already a narcissist.

Everybody, on Facebook

So, there you have it. Being that you’re human and you’re probably on Facebook. You likely already think too highly of yourself. At least about something.

So, let’s work on being overconfident in real life. Think about the benefits.

In order to explain this, I’ll give you a few examples, defining overconfidence (from freedictionary.com) as being overconfident or:


Excessively confident; presumptuous.

and the opposite of overconfidence as “fear” or an inability or extreme lack of self-confidence. Yes, I’m speaking about extremes here, but it’s important to illustrate the point. Even from the definitions, it’s not hard to see which is the preferable trait to possess, but for fun..

Let’s take this further by looking at some examples.

Why don’t we start where all fun social experiments and social observations tend to start – in a bar.

Two guys are the local pub and they both see a pretty girl they would like to meet.

  • Guy A is an overconfident ass who is quite sure he can win her over with his charm and sleep with her tonight. He’s “God’s Gift to Women”.
  • Guy B is terrified. Complete fear. He “doesn’t know how to approach women in a bar”. “I wouldn’t know what to say”, “This is scary”, etc. That guy.

Given these two examples. Who has the better chance with the girl?  I’m not asking who gets the girl, its a hypothetical situation – one which silly commenters are likely to point out all kinds of reasons why Guy A doesn’t succeed in his “quest”. Regardless of that – seriously, all I’m asking is who has the better chance here? You know the answer.

Another example. Two foreigners are in China.

  • Foreigner A glanced at a phrasebook said “this language doesn’t look so hard” and decided to go around bumbling horrible tones and butchering the Chinese language to anybody that would so much glance at him: taxi drivers, waiters, even random people on the street – all were victims of his awful pronunciation and horrible tones and communication skills. But, he didn’t care, he thought it was fun when they looked him awkward and took it all as a learning experience.
  • Foreigner B was paying a lot of money for Chinese lessons and thought she was on some great adventure to study Mandarin and see Beijing. But whenever she was out and about in China – she never spoke Mandarin. She was too scared she’d mispronounce something or say something offensive. Afterall, we’ve all heard the stories about all of the foreigners who get raped and slaughtered just for mispronouncing the 3rd tone. She wouldn’t dare speak. She’s not ready yet.

Who has the better chance of progressing in the language? C’mon, you know the answer.

You want some more examples? Okay, let’s talk about everybody’s favorite childhood memory: middle school math.

  • Child A is the guy who thinks he’s a frigging “math whiz” and always raises his hand or offers to go up to the board, because he wants the teacher and the whole classroom to see how goddamn smart he is. Half of the time he has the wrong answer.
  • Child B is quiet and shy and thinks she’s “just not good at math”, she knows this to be true, because her father isn’t good at math and neither is her mother.  She gives up on math problems whenever she sees a big number or something that looks remotely scary. “Too hard” she says without even attempting the problem.

Who’s going to learn math and have better success in the subject?

Again, you know the answer.

But, don’t just take my word for it. No, instead let the king of overconfidence tell how great his life has been due to his own unbridled overconfidence in himself:

(PS, I always found it incredibly amusing how many people were actually “offended” by MJ’s Hall of Fame speech. You’ve spent 20+ years rewarding the guy with worldwide fame, hundreds of millions of dollars, called him the “best ever!” numerous times… and you’re surprised he’s extremely competitive and a bit cocky?  Really?!? Were you asleep during his whole career?)

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