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How to Be More Confident Today

|  “Get inside the mind of an admissions officer. Understand how admission decisions are being made. It will change the way you present yourself in your application.”

If competence were a prerequisite for confidence, the world would be full of timid people. You don't need to know everything and you don't need to be able to do anything particularly well in order to be confident. Instead, you must believe in your ability to figure things out.

Taking the mindset that you can figure out what you will need to succeed allows you to approach new ideas and take the risks that will lead to growth, and eventually, to success and competence. At this point, the competence, confidence loop is real and will continue to build you up.

In the meantime, get started! Be willing to take some risks, fall down, and give yourself an opportunity to get back up and grow into your own confidence. 


  • Why confidence is an important skill to develop in life
  • A virtuous cycle that’s designed to help us succeed
  • The confidence mindset– how do successful people think
  • How the Ivy League Challenge can help you grow more confident today
  • What I learned about confidence by coaching adults

     And so much more.


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Too many people are overwhelmed, stressed out, and frustrated about college admissions prep. I created this podcast to help you build a standout college profile and boost your confidence. Enjoy!

– Steve Gardner, Founder

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Welcome back to season two of the Ivy League Prep Academy Podcast. Equipping you to successfully pursue the college of your dreams. We believe everyone deserves to reach their full potential, and the admissions process shouldn't hold you back.

How do I become more confident? This is such a good question, and I've heard it so many times. So let's dive right into it. Confidence.

Where does it come from? How do I become more confident? Why is it important and how do I get more of it? Confidence is so important because, as you know, right, when you look at someone who you believe is very confident, you'll notice that they feel ready for life's experiences. When we're confident, we're more likely to move forward with people and opportunities rather than back away from them. And if things don't work out at first, confident people also have resilience, right? Confidence is very closely tied to resilience.

This ability to get back up again when things don't work out at first. Of course, when confidence is low, the opposite happens. We back away from opportunities.

We back away from people. We feel resigned to quit or give up when we face hardship rather than get back up. So confidence is a key ingredient in being willing to take the action that leads to skill development, or what we call competence.

In a previous podcast, we talked about how the one thing that sets successful people apart from everyone else is this bias for action. And confidence, like I said, is a key ingredient in being willing to take that action that leads to greater skill development. And once we develop that skill, once we start having some wins, we begin to feel more competent, more capable.

And when we feel more capable, when we feel this competence that lends itself to more confidence, all right, when we feel more confident, we're more willing to take action and develop those skills and become even more capable, become even more competent. This is a virtuous cycle that helps explain why some people become so much better at what they do than others. But of course, competent people are confident, right? If you believe that you are the best in the world at something, of course you're going to feel confident.

That makes sense. That's logical. What I want to talk about is the mindset gap that some people have that keeps them from entering into that virtuous cycle of confidence, leading to competence, leading to more confidence, leading to more competence, et cetera.

This confidence competence loop, the virtuous cycle, what allows you to get into that cycle is a mindset. And it's a mindset that far too few people have. So how do we get there? What is the mindset and what do we do? Let me begin by telling you that people who do not develop competence and confidence have a mindset that says, if I don't know what I need to know, or if I don't have something that I need, then that's a sign that I should quit, that I'm not good enough, that I can't do it.

Confident people, people who develop confidence, have a very different mindset. Their mindset is if I don't know or have something that I need, then I'll figure it out or I'll create it. The thing I love most about my life is that I get to work with students and help them identify their values, help them identify what would make them the best version of themselves and then take those values and take that visual image of the best version of themselves and use it to begin solving a problem within their sphere of influence.

And we call this an impact project. And the Impact Project is amazing for so many reasons. Of course it sets you apart when you apply to university.

It is the X factor that really helps set you apart from tens of thousands of other applications that are going into these elite universities. But guess what? That's just the tip of the iceberg. The advantage that you get in being able to punch above your weight academically, in getting admitted to top universities and or getting outsized scholarships for yourself that help make a better education or an education at a higher ranked university realistic, or the scholarships that make that education at that top tier university realistic.

Financially, that's just the tip of the iceberg. The real joy and the real benefit of creating an Impact Project and doing what we do in the Ivy League Challenge is the confidence that students develop. The confidence, the resilience, the self efficacy, the self awareness, the emotional intelligence.

So before I worked with middle school and high school students to develop these Impact Projects, I used to work with adults. And that's why I think it's so important that we begin working with students early and we shift the mindset away from middle school is there to prepare us for high school, and high school is there to prepare us for college. College is all meant to prepare us for our first job.

And our first job is meant to prepare us for advancement. And sometimes, some other day, some other time, we will begin to take action on the things that really bring us to life, right? We'll begin to make our impact. Some other day, when we're qualified, we'll begin to make an impact.

Well, I used to work with the adults who had that mindset all through their teenage years, all through middle school, then high school, then college, then their first job, then their first advancement and second advancement and third and their fourth jobs and everything else. Until finally they decided that they were sick of preparing for some other day. Some other time.

And then they began their Impact Projects, right? Then they began to start their businesses or write their books or do their thing. And I helped those adults to achieve their goals and to reach their dreams. The reason I tell you this is because as a middle school or a high school student, you often think that what's holding you back is legitimate, that the things that you feel are holding you back are keeping you from getting started, are legitimate reasons to not get started yet.

I'm going to tell you the reasons that I heard from adults and see if they sound familiar. They're going to be the exact same reasons, slightly scaled up for adults, but you're going to hear patterns. You're going to hear the exact same reasons not to get started, the same mindset.

So when I worked with adults, they would say, well, I can't be a published author because I've never written a book before, right? Of course, before you've written your first book, you've never written one before. But some people say, well, I haven't written a book before, so I can't become an author. Here's another example I can't build a website.

I don't know how to program or I've never created a video before. How can I get on YouTube now? I could go on and on and on and on. The list is endless.

What they all have in common is a mindset. And that mindset is, I can't do what I want to do. I can't make my impact, I can't make my difference because I'm lacking a skill, because I don't know how to do something or I don't have something that I need.

In other words, this mindset says, in order to be confident, I need to already be competent. I need to already have the skill, I need to already know how to do the thing. I need to already have all of the materials, all of the resources that I need to succeed.

In other words, these people believe that confidence comes from being Superman or superwoman. If you have superpowers and you already know how to do everything you need, then you can do it. Of course.

What are they lacking? They're obviously lacking the perspective that says everyone started without knowing anything. Everyone started as a beginner. Everyone, even the best in the world, began as a beginner.

So confident people understand that, and they know that it's not about already having the skills and already knowing how to do everything that allows you to be successful. They know that what allows you to be successful is actually the mindset that says, if I don't know or have something that I need, if I don't have that skill, then I need to go develop it. I need to go figure it out, I need to create it.

And they know that developing skills, just like publishing a book or developing a website or forming a company or any kind of impact project, start out slowly. So average people say, yeah, they can do it because they have X, right? But I can't because I don't have X. Of course, confident people, if you want to become confident, then you begin by saying, they began as beginners, and so can I.

And let me tell you, this shift changes everything. Instead of believing that you have to already have the skill, instead of believing that you have to already be good at what you're doing in order to begin, you can begin knowing that taking action is going to show you where you fail. Taking action is going to show you what you don't know.

And that quote unquote failure is of course, the first data that you need to begin developing your skill, which leads to greater confidence. Now remember that it starts out slowly. You're not going to develop skills that are hard to develop.

You're not going to develop them overnight. You develop them slowly over time, and you build resilience as you trust the process. You know that trying things is how you find out what you don't know yet.

And then you get up and you try again. George Bernard Shaw said, quote, when I was a kid, I realized that I failed about nine times out of ten. I didn't want to be a failure.

So I worked ten times harder and did ten times as much. Remember, developing confidence is that mindset. It's the mindset that says, okay, if I'm going to really develop mastery in this thing that's important to me.

That means that I'm going to have to fail more times than the beginner even attempts. I can't let my fears make my choices for me. I'm going to have to shift my mindset around what skill development means.

I'm going to have to decide that success for me is rising every time that I fall. I'm going to give myself the chance to fail so that I can succeed. So if there was any one gift that I could give to my listeners, it would be this shift in mindset away from I have to be superman or superwoman.

In order to be confident towards in order to become confident, I need to begin somewhere. I need to take action that proves to myself that I am someone willing to fail so that I can get up. I am someone who is willing to be successful because I'm willing to rise every time that I fall.

And when I don't know or have something that I need, I'm going to figure it out or I'm going to go create it. I will make my impact within my sphere of influence. And as I continue to develop myself, my sphere of influence will grow and with it, my impact, and with that, my confidence.

Begin the process today. Don't let fear hold you back. Don't wait until some other day when you are more confident to begin.

Because the confidence comes from the doing. Take your first action today. Learn from it and keep getting back up every time you fall.

You got this.