Confidence and Conventional Wisdom

What does confidence have to do with conventional wisdom?  Let’s find out.

Conventional wisdom

Conventional wisdom is something that makes intuitive sense to us.  So much so that it’s widely-accepted belief.  Complete the following sentences:


The definition of insanity is…

The best defense is…

You can check your answers below.

Not so wise

Is conventional wisdom all that wise?  Let’s use our three sentences to explore that question.

If quitters lose, are we relegated to a life of insanity?  If we’re not allowed to quit what we’re doing to pursue a better alternative, how do we get a better outcome?

Our first two sentences, when examined together, illustrate how dichotomous conventional wisdom can be…as does the third sentence.

If the best defense is a good offense, then how do you explain the success, and popularity of Aikido?  The focus of Aikido, a martial art form, is “to control aggression without inflicting injury.”  Karate is another martial art form that emphasizes it is to be used solely for defense…never to initiate a violence.

The role of confidence

While we’ve seen that conventional wisdom isn’t so wise, we still haven’t answered the question “What does confidence have to do with conventional wisdom?”

It takes confidence to challenge conventional wisdom.  For people with low levels of confidence, challenging widely-held beliefs is akin to putting oneself at risk…opening the door to ridicule and, consequently, potential hits to their already-fragile confidence.  Not a pleasant thought.

But for confident people, it’s a no-brainer.  Confident people develop an explorer’s mentality.  They’re constantly examining what’s being said or done looking for the dichotomies highlighted above.  For it’s in challenging conventional wisdom and the status quo that they continue to learn, grow and gain even more confidence. 

These are the things that motivate confident people.  They’re also the things that afford them great influence and open the door to countless opportunities…again, further enhancing their confidence.

Risk-free challenges

Let’s remove the discomfort from challenging conventional wisdom.  The fear associated with challenging anyone about anything is based on another bit of conventional wisdom…our definition of confrontation.

The word confrontation is defined as “a hostile or argumentative meeting or situation between opposing parties.”

You know from personal experience that you can disagree with another person without being either hostile or argumentative.  That means that you can dispute what’s being said or done while being respectful of the person’s beliefs and feelings.

We can acknowledge that possibility of getting the aforementioned outcome, yet fear that our challenge might escalate to a full-blown confrontation.  The good news is that we can avoid that possibility.  All we have to do is ask a question.

Let’s go back to our earlier examples.  Let’s assume that you told me that quitters lose and I disagree with that commonly-held belief.  I might say “Quitters don’t necessarily lose.  If what they’re doing isn’t working, they should quit and find an alternative.”

While you may agree that, in that situation, a person should quit, it’s not likely that your attitude  toward the conventional wisdom has changed.  More importantly, I may have  left you feeling a bit embarrassed…if not defensive.

If instead of the statement above, I asked “What if what the person’s doing isn’t producing the desired result?”  Note: The tone of the question makes a huge difference.  Questions should always sound like inquiries, not challenges.

By simply converting my statement to a question I get you to rethink your position…and the conventional wisdom behind it.  The likelihood of my “disagreement” escalating to confrontation is virtually nil because my question doesn’t pose a challenge…it’s a QUESTION.

I hope that this simple technique will cause you to more frequently challenge conventional wisdom any time it surfaces.  It’ll not only make you a more creative thinker, it’ll bolster your confidence as well.

For our kids

Another reason to openly challenge conventional wisdom is that kids emulate the behaviors of their parents and other adults in their lives.  When you regularly challenge conventional wisdom, you let them know that it’s a good thing to do.  In fact, it’ll help them be viewed by others as creative thinkers with wisdom beyond their years.

When you couch your challenges in the form of questions, they learn to ask questions instead of making challenging statements, which minimizes the risks of them being subjected to hostile acts and hits to their confidence.

Give your kids the gifts of confidence, influence and opportunity…teach them to challenge conventional wisdom.


Quitters lose.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

The best defense is a good offense.

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