Confidence and competence

The first time I do something, I’m hesitant. Every move is cautious. The tenth time, the caution is still there. The hundredth time it’s beginning to fade into the background. The thousandth? The ten thousandth? It’s gone, returning only when the stakes are high, or in the aftermath of a blunder. The progression from novice to apprentice to master is signified by this replacement of caution with confidence.  

But unfortunately, because we all walk this path in everything we do, we go on to assume that those who exhibit confidence have also accumulated competence. That’s why pretenders often make it to positions of status and power. During the rapid operation of our perception and judgement confidence is considered synonymous with competence, so we elevate those who should remain on the ground floor.

Of course, time corrects the balance, revealing the mismatch between confidence and ability. After all, confidence can get you places, but it can’t keep you there indefinitely. But it’s still something to be wary of; confidence has only a correlative relationship with competence. The former is no guarantee of the latter.