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My interest in having my own business has led me to do some research. No surprises there, I’m a risk-adverse scientist.

But it’s not the research you may think. I’m not looking at markets and identifying key stakeholders. I wanted to know what makes one person successful in business, whilst another, under the exact same circumstances, is not.

Through my reading, I came across the terms confidence and resilience many times. Seems like common sense right? Having your own business can be a rocky road. There are times when we will want to quit, and while some do, others seem to take each set-back in their stride.

So if confidence and resilience are two of the keys to business success. Can we manufacture them? Can we become more resilient? Or is this something we have, or we don’t.

As part of my research, I decided to do a case-study. My participant? None other than my Mum, Ali. They say wisdom comes with age and she once told me a story that showed me how evolved her confidence really is.

Mum went on a personal development course that required the attendees to get up and sing in front of complete strangers on the first day. While many couldn’t do it, and some copped out with Happy Birthday – Mum belted out The Hills Are Alive from The Sound of Music

Me: “You didn’t.”

Her: “I did. I didn’t want to become someone who was too inhibited to give things a go.”

As a neuroscientist, I was curious about my own mother’s brain. What are the thought processes that occur within a fraction of a second when her self-image is tested.

So, one cloudy Sunday, I sat with a coffee and my notepad on Mission Bay beach and I conducted a phone interview with my own mother…

Where do you think your confidence came from?

I think it has a lot to do with your upbringing. I was lucky, I was told many nice things when I was a child. So I have always had a good base confidence. I think confidence comes and goes in response to life events, but then I have always returned to that base again.

So you don’t worry about what people think or say about you?

This came much later – maybe in my 20’s and 30’s. I think you need a bit of life experience before you learn this lesson. You have to experience other people. With age, you gain compassion for people. So now, if someone says something about me, I feel it. I get that instant reaction and I think why would they say that. But then I feel for them. Because I see that their comment probably comes from jealousy or some other issue. I just remember deep down that I am worthy and that what they are saying has nothing to do with who I really am.

So you hold the belief that you are worthy?

Yes. I know I’m not perfect. But I also know that I am innately a good person. Sometimes I do things and I think – shit I shouldn’t have done that. But I know deep down that I care about people and I would never intentionally hurt someone.

You said earlier that there are times when your confidence gets knocked in life. What do you do in those times? What do you say to yourself?

When I was young Nana Peggy (my grandmother) used to always say… “everything will pan out.” So when things happen that aren’t so good I just say to myself… Ok, I will deal with this and I will find a solution and everything will be fine. Everything will work out. Again, I think this comes with age. You have a few set-backs and then you learn that you can overcome them. Eventually you see that no matter what life throws at you, with the right support, you will overcome it.

Has there ever been a time when your confidence couldn’t get you through?

When I found the lump in my breast. I felt betrayed by my own body. It took me a long time to come back from that. But yet again, we made it through.

As we talked more, the picture became clearer and clearer. What makes Mum so confident whilst another struggles?

Her core beliefs about herself.

She believes she is worthy and lovable. That she is innately a good person. That everything will work out for her in the end if she stays strong and asks for help from us when needed. Core beliefs are formed by thoughts we think over and over again. As mentioned in a previous post here, the more we practice a thought, the stronger that connection becomes in the brain.

Sadly, many do not hold strong positive beliefs about themselves – they believe the opposite. They have practiced bad thoughts about themselves so often that it has become a concrete truth to them.

These negative beliefs kill resilience. And resilience is the key to success in business and happiness in life. Resilience helps us to trust ourselves to overcome any challenge. Bad things will happen, but resilience ensures that these negative experiences will not keep us down for the rest of our days.

It is the difference between two businessman – the one who suffers a financial blow and gives up and the one who suffers a financial blow and keeps going. It is the difference between those who really struggle emotionally with troubling life events and those who move on more quickly.

The good news is – beliefs can be changed. Next week I will go into the neuroscience of belief systems and how we can shape our own brain for success.

So the answer to my question can confidence and resilience be manufactured – absolutely yes.

I asked Mum if she had any last words on confidence….

“Yes. Confidence is being able to hide a packet of ready salted uppercuts in the pantry before I left for Italy and come home to find them still there! I knew I had found the ultimate hiding place from you this time – you little ferret.”

Much love xx

Photo: Katie Appleyard

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Hi, I’m Katie. I am a kiwi neuroscientist with a love for consuming and creating content. This site is where I share my personal thoughts and the thoughts of incredible minds from around the world. PhD in Neuroscience, University of Otago.

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