One of the greatest film actors of all-time came from an era when sound and color were still absent from the screen.
Born in London in 1889, Charlie Chaplin grew up in a life filled with poverty and hardship. He was twice sent to work warehouse jobs before the age of nine. By the time he was a teenager, his only parent, his mother, had been committed to a mental asylum.
Despite all of the challenges and obstacles he faced, he had a dream of being a film star. He wanted to act in movies for the rest of his life. He eventually did, becoming a film icon with a career spanning over 75 years until his death in 1977.
When asked about what he considered to be the greatest contributing factor to his success, he said the following:
“You have to believe in yourself—that’s the secret. Even when I was in the orphanage, when I was roaming the street trying to find enough to eat, even then I thought of myself as the greatest actor in the world. I had to feel the exuberance that comes from utter confidence in yourself. Without it, you go down to defeat.”
Brian Braun-Duin was recently crowned the Magic: the Gathering World Champion. His route to becoming the World Champion wasn’t the usual one. Brian grinded his way to Worlds by attending Grand Prix after Grand Prix, eventually earning his spot by becoming the “Grand Prix Master” for the season. He was only a Gold level pro. He didn’t have any Pro Tour Top 8s to his name. Yet, he still managed to not only get to Worlds, but win the entire thing by overcoming a field of some of the world’s best players, many of whose credentials, achievements, and status in the game far outweighed his own.
Brian is like the personification of a modern day, Magic-playing Charlie Chaplin. He always believed he could be one of the best players in the world, even when he was grinding, and even when he was fighting his way from the bottom up.
It makes no difference how much you practice, playtest, study, research, learn, and prepare to play this game. If you don’t have enough confidence in yourself as a player, and if you don’t have the self-belief that you can play with and among the great players of the game, then all of that will count for little to nothing, as your lack of confidence and self-belief will prevent those things from shining through when you go to perform.
For most players, their confidence is what I like to call external confidence. It’s a confidence that comes from, and depends on, external sources outside of themselves to exist, such as results, rewards, recognition/praise, leader boards, status, or being able to favorably make comparisons between themselves and others.
External confidence isn’t a good kind of confidence. The problem with external confidence is that it relies on certain conditions being met. As long as the results are good, the rewards are forthcoming and you’re happy with your status in the game—then your confidence will be high. But once the results turn poor, the rewards are no longer coming your way, and your status in the game takes a slip, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of having your confidence disappear right along with them.
That’s why, as a player, you should never depend on things like results, rewards, recognition/praise, leader boards, status, or being able to favorably make comparisons between yourself and others in order to feel confident in yourself. Otherwise, your confidence will just be temporary, and you’ll eventually end up on the confidence roller-coaster where your confidence is high one moment, and then crashing down the next.
You want to develop the opposite. You want to create internal confidence.
Internal confidence is a confidence that comes from sources within you. It’s a confidence that you create and dictate. It’s a confidence that isn’t controlled or determined by external things outside of yourself. Internal confidence is permanent confidence. It allows you to have a very strong belief in yourself, even when the results take a turn for the worst, even when you find yourself starting out 0-2 at a tournament, and even when you sit down at the table to play against one of the best pros in the game.
Here are 5 ways you can build a strong internal confidence:
Think of your brain like a sponge and your thoughts are the liquid you dip the sponge into. That sponge will absorb whatever liquid it gets submerged in. If you put it into a bowl of water, it will absorb that water. If you put it into a bowl of motor oil, it will absorb that too.
If you constantly say things to yourself such as, “I don’t think I can play at this level” or “there’s no way I could ever become a pro player,” or “well, I’ve lost my first round, this tournament is definitely over now,” then your brain will simply absorb what you say and behave accordingly.
But if every day you say to yourself over and over and over again, “I’m certain I can play at this level” or “I will absolutely become a professional Magic player one day” or “losing my first round means nothing. I know I can win my next round,” then your brain will do the same thing: It will absorb what you say and work to make it happen.
When you think of yourself as a Magic player, who do you see? When you close your eyes and visualize that player, what do they look like? What level do they play at? Who do they play against? Most importantly, how well do you see that person playing? Do you see yourself competing at high end tournaments like the Pro Tour? Do you maybe see yourself sitting in the Top 8? Winning the whole thing?
Or, do you see yourself choking at the final hurdle? Do you see yourself living up to your nickname as “The Bomber” and bombing when you have a win-and-in into the Top 8? Do you see a player who looks miserable, frustrated, stressed, and completely lacking any enjoyment for the game?
Never visualize the kind of Magic player you are. Always visualize the Magic player you want to be. It’s the equivalent of telling your brain, “THIS is the player I want to be.” And your brain will do everything it can to help you project that image.
What are your best attributes? What are the greatest characteristics you possess? What ideals mean the most to you? Loyalty? Commitment? Dedication? Passion? Compassion? Enthusiasm? Whatever your best attributes, characteristics, and ideals are, you can draw confidence from those values. You have every right to feel confident in yourself because you know that you’re a loyal, committed, dedicated, and passionate person. Identify what your values are, and let those values make you feel confident in who you are as a player and a person.
I’m going to give you the cold, hard truth right now: You’re imperfect, and you always will be. You’re going to make misplays, you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to throw away games, and you’re going to fail miserably at times. It’s inevitable. The sooner you accept that truth, the better of a player you’ll become. Too many players fear imperfection. Once you stop fearing imperfection and embrace it, the less you’ll fear it and allow yourself to have the confidence in confronting it. Now, am I saying you should try to make mistakes, settle for throwing away a game, or not look to evaluate things so you can improve? Of course not. Settling means you don’t try to improve or fix things. Acceptance means you strive to improve and get better while understanding that imperfection will always be there in some form.
Every time you sit down to play, whether it’s the first round of an FNM or the finals of a Pro Tour, you’re growing as a player. Every time you read articles, watch videos, research the game, and learn more about your craft, you’re growing as a player. Every time you make a huge punt, take the wrong line, and sequence things incorrectly, you’re growing as a player. Recognizing that growth and understanding that, every day, you’re becoming a better version of yourself as a player is something you could, and should, take a huge amount of confidence from, regardless of whatever results you’re getting.
Confidence isn’t something that has to be justified or earned. Confidence is state of mind. It’s a choice. Charlie Chaplin chose to believe he was one of the best actors in the world even when he was a poor orphan begging for food on the streets. BBD chose to believe he could become the World Champion despite the fact that he was only a Gold level pro playing against a field of players with more achievements and success in the game than him.
You can do the same.