Doubt: Put Doubts in Your Doubts

Fazio, why did you quit?!

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my high school auditorium. I was overweight, pushing 215 as a sophomore. A sophomore full of doubt, insecurities, failures, fears, and lists of what I couldn’t do. Behind me the voice of the best athlete in our high school, and the starting varsity quarterback, belted out the words. Fazio, why did you quit? It was the loudest thing I have ever heard and something I never want to hear again.

I loved sports and loved playing them. I was good at sports, not great, but good, and better than most at a few things. However, I was consumed with worry and fear about what people thought instead of what I felt and thought. This misdirected focus kept me from succeeding.

My worry and doubt started early for me. When I was young I played baseball. Every minute of every game all I worried about was what would happen if the ball were hit to me. It made no sense, because when the ball came to me, I knew what to do and did the right thing. I would traumatize myself with each pitch. I was so scared that I would literally wet my pants with every pitch. I know this sounds a bit crass, but I need you to know what it was like for me to be stuck because of my doubts. My parents had to ask special permission for the umpire to let me be the only one on the field to keep their uniform untucked.

How did I get to the quitting? As a freshman, I was too afraid to go out for the football team because I was just too scared. I knew I could play and be good, but it was something new and I was afraid. I didn’t play football freshman year, or any sport for that matter. All I did was wish I were playing. I felt like a loser and, in many ways, I was a loser. At the start of the next year, I decided to try out for football. I lasted less than a week. Every practice all I said to myself was I was too far behind and couldn’t do it. I hated every minute of it and quit. I defeated myself. That’s why the quarterback called me out.

Then one day in gym class mid year, Coach Fred McClain pulled me off to the side and said, “Come see me after school, you are going to throw shot put.” I was scared to death, but he saw something in me, or he saw something on me – most likely my huge gut and rather large chest and shoulders. I threw shot put that year, and I gained some confidence. Finally, senior year, I made a simple decision. I went out for football again. I wasn’t great, but I did it and fought through my fears. It was the start of my path to learning that no matter how many doubts I had in myself there was always a voice inside of me that knew I could. I made a choice to focus on what I could do rather than what I knew I couldn’t do. I know this seems simple, but it changed my life and that grit stuck with me, and I leverage it every day.

Now I don’t hesitate to get up to play or get the ball anytime and every time. Of course I get nervous, but I own it and use it. I still fail all the time, but I fail forward. I went from being a kid that wet his pants at the thought of a baseball being hit to him, to someone that thrives at the opportunity to be on live TV and talk to the nation about how to be your best when things are at their worst. I share this not to be arrogant or to brag, but to illustrate the power of going from doubt to confidence. Trust me, if I can make the shift so can you.

There’s not much worst in life than being a slave to your doubt. Doubt is just as bad, if not worse, than hearing from others that you can’t do something. Doubt is something internal. It’s a feeling, an association, and a recipe for failure. I can remember working with an executive that reeked of doubt. He was someone who was intelligent, well established, but riddled with doubt. Every decision, every move, he had hesitation. The doubts lead to indecision and eventually ate away at his confidence, and worse, his competence. The challenge is that doubts can get a hold on us and emotionally cripple our progress. The gift is that once you control them, new opportunities arise.

Doubts are emotional beliefs that we create and give power to. You need to analyze your doubts just like you would analyze a business decision. The downside of doubts is an ugly experience. Anytime emotion comes into play it feels like fact. Feelings are not fact, they are just our associations with experiences, but we have a hard time determining what is fact and what is fiction. The truth is that most doubts are fiction that we make fact. Because our minds follow the direction of our emotions it is very easy to let doubt consume you.

Renowned psychologist to athletes, Dr. Al Petitpas, teaches athletes that in order to be successful you need to keep your doubts in check. His strategy that I have seen work tremendously is to put doubts in your doubts. I have seen him turn people’s level of performance in sport and life around through this strategy.

Excerpt from Simple is the New Smart, Career Press