Self-Confidence III

[A]s a few strokes on the nose will make a puppy head shy, so a few rebuffs will make a boy shy all over. But whereas a puppy will cringe away or roll on its back, groveling, a little boy may cover his shyness with nonchalance, with bravado, or with secrecy. And once a boy has suffered rejection, he will find rejection even where it does not exist—or, worse, will draw it forth from people simply by expecting it.

— John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Today’s quote is the third in a three-part series on self confidence. Wednesday Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “A man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.” Thursday Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No man can make you feel inferior without your consent.” These quotes are important to me because they underscore the fact that we are victims less often that we think. If I feel inferior, or intimidated it is because I have chosen to feel that way.


People who can’t spell a word in more than one way are dumb.

— W. C. Fields

I stumbled upon this quote early in my career and have had the opportunity to recite it countless times. I taught high school for two years right out of college and the students were merciless. I moved on to teaching at the college level for many more years where the students were more forgiving but no less astute. Then I made the move to corporate America where, as a business professional, there no end to the opportunities to make presentations or take notes at the whiteboard. Despite my passionate commitment to correct spelling and grammar an occasional misspelling in front of the class or a typo in the PowerPoint deck is inevitable.

Here is where our old friend W.C. Fields comes to the rescue. After discovering a spelling mistake in front of a group of people I simply recite his pearl of wisdom, wait for the mild aknowledgement of smiles, and move on. No need to have your confidence shaken or allow the audience to derail your message. Just move on quickly with wit and aplomb.

The aphorism plays equally well from the audience as it does from the podium. It is a great way to help a presenter through a rough spot if they become unnerved by a typo.