The Key To Confidence

I Can vs. I Can't

Throughout this blog’s history, I have emphasized the significance of intangible qualities that come from within. For example, many years ago I stressed the importance of passion in regards to training. In other entries, I have highlighted attributes such as patience, consistency, and desire. All athletes can benefit from these freely available intangibles.

Unfortunately, many continue to overlook their relevance. One reason for the neglect is likely the lack of attention that the fitness industry directs towards them. It is much easier to market a product than it is to sell someone on the significance of patience. The latter may be less expensive, but it is more difficult to find. Intangibles cannot be purchased online. You can’t open them for Christmas. And you can look high and low, but you’ll never find a coupon code. You either develop these attributes within, or you don’t.

Yet, while it is up the individual to become more passionate, patient, and consistent, there is at least one intangible that remains elusive…


You will be hard pressed to find any experienced athlete or coach who dismisses the significance of confidence. Confident athletes tend to be more successful. There is no denying this simple fact. The confusion therefore is not whether or not confidence is important, but rather how does an athlete go about developing it. What steps can an athlete take to become more confident?

Fortunately, part of that question is answered in the video below. Listen to CT Fletcher share his thoughts on the subject (foul language included).

CT’s words are in many ways similar to those shared previously by the legendary Bernard Hopkins. Below is one of my favorite all time quotes which came from Bernard many years ago while preparing for a bout.

“I’m always going to come in (to the fight) overconfident and I have a reason to. I always come in overconfident because I train so hard that I leave no room for doubt in my mind. I never go in there to lose. The word is not even in my dictionary. I train confident, and I train to think over-confidently. If I didn’t, I’d be a fool.”

Like CT Fletcher, Hopkins emphasizes the significance of outworking everyone. If you refuse to let anyone work as hard as you, there is a good chance that you will gain confidence. And even if someone does out work you, as long as you don’t believe it, you will still be more confident than before.

There is more to confidence than working hard however. First and foremost, confidence takes time to develop. You can’t work hard today and suddenly wake up confident tomorrow. True confidence often requires some of the previously mentioned attributes. For instance, you must be consistent in your efforts to outwork the competition.

Suppose you are a boxer preparing for a bout in six weeks. You are not just competing against your opponent six weeks from now when you enter the ring. There is a competition taking place each day. A few of the daily events include the following:

  • Who is going to work harder today?
  • Who will make better decisions when they leave the gym?
  • Who will eat better?
  • Who will sleep better?
  • Who will spend more time studying video of his opponent?

I could go on and on with examples. The point is simple. Each day is a competition and confidence slowly develops when you regularly win these daily challenges. It is not enough to work hard on occasion. The mind is not easily fooled. You can’t trick yourself into being confident. Real confidence requires an investment in time where you continually outwork the competition.

Beyond Hard Work

As much as I promote hard work, it will take even more than that to develop lasting confidence. True confidence comes from hard work and experience. For example, Bernard Hopkins was already a world champion when he shared the words above. I’m guessing CT Fletcher also had previous success before he started asking who was coming in second place. That level of confidence is not developed through hard work alone. Hard work is an important piece of the puzzle, but experience is as well.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to acquire experience. It needs to be earned one event at a time. Therefore, it goes without saying that many young athletes have yet to develop true confidence. There is nothing wrong with that. It is to be expected. Speaking as a boxing coach, I couldn’t tell you how many young fighters I have seen who had to rush to the bathroom shortly before entering the ring. I have even seen young professionals who were battling the same anxiety in the dressing room. These are often high level athletes with considerable amateur experience. What they lack is professional experience. As a result, they are battling uncertainty. Uncertainty can literally crush a young athlete’s confidence.

The best advice I can give to such athletes is to control every aspect that you can control. You may not have the experience, but that is no reason to let your opponent outwork you. Enter your event knowing that you did everything in your power to prepare. Don’t leave any room for doubt. Lack of experience is no excuse to be outworked.

And when you truly believe that you outworked your opponent, you will be better at hiding the anxiety and fear that exists within. One concept that I always try to instill upon my athletes is to compete with a poker face. Don’t show your hand before the event. Take comfort in your hard work. Constantly remind yourself that your opponent did not outwork you and you’ll be more likely to forget about any lack of experience or fear.

In summary, there is nothing that you can do today to develop true confidence tomorrow. It takes time. Don’t wait until it is too late. Start taking the necessary steps as soon as possible. Every day counts. It may seem like a long journey, but there is no better feeling than looking into your opponent’s eyes and knowing that you outworked him. Conversely, there is no worse feeling than to be on the other end of that stare down. It is up to the individual to pick a side. Just remember that your choice must be made many weeks in advance.

If you can’t decide, expect someone else to decide for you.


“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” – Mahatma Gandhi


  1. Word! I think you need the passion to achieve the level of confidence you are talking about so it is great that you connect these two!

  2. confidence is tough – you need it to get ahead, but you also need small wins to reinforce it. Best approach I’ve found is repeating some thought for a few mins during the day…subconscious will figure out a way to start executing on the thought and that will can occasionally overcome positive, direct experience.

  3. It’s all in a state of mind / Thinking – Walter D. Wintle

    If you think you are beaten, you are
    If you think you dare not, you don’t,
    If you like to win, but think you can’t
    It is almost a cinch you won’t.

    If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
    For out of the world we find,
    Success begins with a fellow’s will
    It’s all in the state of mind.

    If you think you are outclassed, you are
    You’ve got to think high to rise,
    You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
    You can ever win a prize.

    Life’s battles don’t always go
    To the stronger or faster man,
    But soon or late the man who wins
    Is the man WHO THINKS HE CAN!

  4. This post is gold, buddy. I agree with all the points listed around here and I definitely agree that confidence is something that you require in order to succeed. Anyone who thinks otherwise is just kidding themselves. For me, once I found my passion, it was all easy from there on. Nice blog, I’m subscribed now!

  5. Excellent post.
    But I would definetly emphasize the portion of experience in it. Experience with dealing with certain situations is what builds confidence pure confidence.

    As the now infamous Chael Sonnen said:”Losing is always an option!”.
    If you learn how to deal with these situations AND overcome them – that is when you build true confidence. Just telling and motivating yourself to be first doesn’t cut it once you face true adversity. That’s when experience of being in a similar situation will take over.

    Ross – by the way: how do you view the upcoming Hopkins-Kovalev matchup. I think this will the most intriguing fight this year and has a direct relationship to this post.
    Sven, Italy

  6. Great post as always. When you have done everything possible to prepare and then done even more, and have some experience to go along with it, you can be truly confident in your endeavor, whatever it is.

  7. Getting confident and maintaining is a constant challenge but a necessary ingredient if you want to achieve your goals. You need to always audit yourself and make sure you remind yourself that you are committed to succeed and will keep on doing your best.
    This article has been a real help. Thanks and best of luck to all!

  8. Best advice for any sort of competition. When you begin that XC race, you’ve got to be confident that your better than the next guy. Thanks, Ross.

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