I really didn't think he would be able to do it, but he went and did it: Conor MacGregor, the brash young Irish contender in the UFC's featherweight division (technically the interim champion, but that's largely a meaningless title), went out and absolutely starched Jose Aldo in 13 seconds, knocking him out with a single punch as Aldo rushed in aggressively within the opening frame.
After processing the shock over how quickly this contest came to an end, I couldn't help but admire MacGregor's borderline absurd level of self-confidence: the man has been predicting that he'd become champion for years, and when he fights in the cage, he's probably one of the most confident fighters I think I've ever seen. After getting smashed by Chad Mendes on the ground for several minutes in their interim title fight, he simply got out and went back to acting like none of that had ever happened.
MacGregor often talks about the Law of Attraction, which is of course total nonsense, but I think there's a deeper lesson here: that confidence is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for great success. I remember watching an interview with Will Smith who said something along the lines of "before anybody else believes it, you gotta believe it." The power of confidence to affect real world outcomes occurs through multiple channels, but most impressive is its ability to affect others around you, projecting a reality distortion field that ripples outward.
Aldo looked nervous in the cage prior to the bout starting, and that's no doubt due to the full year of head games that MacGregor has been playing with him. But ultimately, the foundation of this form of psychological warfare has been MacGregor's unremitting self-belief, which strikes me as a type of religious, almost mystical faith that the man has in himself.
And the truth is, it's inspiring.
But the flipside of this is that it's inspiring because he won. If he lost, we would we be mocking him for it. So when a brash, confident person rises quickly and attributes their success to their confidence, are we simply suffering from a survivorship bias where only the confident winners attract attention and are remembered as such? Where are all the Steve Jobs that failed? What are the real lessons to be imparted?
Let's say you want to accomplish something. Of course, anything worth accomplishing is difficult, so you can expect great difficulty and obstacles along the path. As you go about your quest, your mind essentially sets an internal "confidence level" that places a ceiling on what you're capable of doing.
The problem comes when your internal confidence level lies below your actual, objective ability. So if, in reality, you're genetically capable of running a hundred meters in 12 seconds, but you think you can only do it in 13, you're never going to really hit the ceiling of your capability. Better to irrationally believe that you can run a hundred meters in 11 seconds, and fail, but reach your genetic potential by covering that distance in 12 seconds instead. Of course, running is just a platonic example of any type of task. Having the error skew towards overconfidence has a lower cost that having it skew toward underconfidence.
Beliefs can be judged on their objective truth, but they can also be judged by their utility as well. In this sense, overconfidence is a rational approach to many things in life (where the price of failure is negligible).
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis