Thursday, March 10, 2005


CONFIDENCE – BY DON MITCHELL QC – Speech to the Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School Assembly on 10 March 2005

What an honour it is to have been invited to speak to the pupils of this fine school this morning!  It is not often that an old grey-head like me gets a chance to exchange ideas with such bright young-people as you are.  I really appreciate this opportunity, and thank those who invited me, and you all for turning out in such numbers.
I know the sun is blazing hot, and I shall not keep you long on the Ronald Webster Park this morning.
My talk is on the subject of Confidence.  And it will last for 7 minutes.
There is a lot that I could say to you about Confidence.  I could talk to you about Confidence Tricksters.  About how you should look out for those who try to gain your confidence, only to take advantage of you, and to rip you off.  I could warn you about the dangers of Over Confidence.  About what happens when you have a misplaced belief in your ability to do something that you are not prepared to handle.  I could speak about how not to be too disappointed when your confidence in the adults around you is occasionally let down.  It will happen from time to time that someone whom you trust turns out to be worthless.  We shall have to try to learn to accept that, and to strive to ensure that that does not happen to us. 
Instead, I want to talk to you about Self-Confidence.
There are in this world two types of people:  those with Self-Confidence and those without it.
There are two types of Self-Confidence:  there is the one we develop, and there is the one we pretend to have.  Sometimes it is good to pretend to be more confident than we really are.  But, the most satisfying form of confidence is the confidence that comes of practice and effort.
We are not born with confidence.  We have to develop it.  I want you to grow into self-confidence.
Self-Confidence comes with knowledge:  awareness of our abilities and of our limitations;  knowledge of ourselves and of others around us;  constant study of all the learning and experience of others that can save us from unnecessary errors and hardships. 
School-learning does not give us knowledge.  If we are lucky, school gives us techniques for learning, and practice in acquiring knowledge.
After we leave school, much of what we learned we will have to put aside and forget.  But, if we do not learn in our school years, then we fail step one in developing confidence.  Step one is learning to learn;  learning to love and acquire knowledge.  When our teacher makes us memorise a poem and recite it from memory, it is not that that poem is important.  It is the skill of memorising that we are developing that will prove to be invaluable later in life.
With knowledge comes confidence.  When we have thoroughly studied a school subject, we are confident we will pass the exam.  When we have regularly practised our serve and our backhand, we will triumph in the tennis tournament.  By contrast, when we spend the whole day looking out of the class-room window and day-dreaming, we fret and worry with uncertainty.  When we fail to do the weekend class assignment, we are filled with trepidation about turning up for school on the Monday.  I know, because that is what constantly happened to me.  I am sure it happens to you too.
With knowledge comes maturity.  Confidence comes with preparation for life.  Confidence does not come with years or age.  We are surrounded by grown men and women who have no confidence, who are perpetually immature.  We know them by their actions.  They are the wife-beaters and child abusers.  They sell drugs instead of getting a job.  Some of them even use religion as a shield for their wrong-doing.  They hide behind their position in society to do harm to those who depend on them.  They find security in their imagined self-importance.  These adults are yet immature.  Their main weakness, we can say, is their lack Self-Confidence. 
It is normal not to be too self-confident when we are young.  When I was your age, I was so shy that, when evening visitors came to my parent’s house, I hid from them under the bed.  I didn’t come out until after they had left. 
At nights, I used to lie in bed and stare up into the darkness of the ceiling begging the Almighty to just give me one little glimpse at what the future held for me.  Night after night, I lay there, fretting and tossing and turning, worrying at what was to become of me.  No matter how I prayed, no answer came.
I was always aware that so many of my class-mates were much brighter than I was.  I was always in the bottom half of class.  Eventually, I developed a plan.  If success was to come to me in my life, I could not expect it as of right.  It would come because I had worked hard for it.  If all around me were twice as bright, then I would keep up by working twice as hard.  If they read one book a week, I would read two books a week.  If they walked two miles a day for exercise, I would walk four.  If they studied for four hours in the evening, I would study for eight hours.
For years, I struggled to come to terms with the demands of my job and profession.  I strove constantly for perfection.  I was never sure that what I was doing was the right thing, or the best I could achieve.  Most of the time, I fell short in the Self-Confidence field.  The only remedy, I felt, was to set higher and higher targets for myself. 
If I can urge you to do one thing, it is this.  Never be Self-Satisfied.  Never be vain and over-bearing.  Do not be over-confident in your abilities.  But, neither be thoughtless and careless with your future.  Seek out a good career.  Get yourself qualified in whatever it is.  It does not matter what you choose.  There is always room for you at the top. 
Except for those few of us born with a silver spoon in our mouth, life will never be an easy road.  Success, and the final attainment of self-confidence, will require self-discipline on your part.  Do not let mischief-makers cause you to deviate from your determination to make yourself the best at whatever life lays out before you.  Strive always for perfection, unattainable as it appears now.  Burn the midnight oil.  Work twenty-five hours a day to improve.  In time, with the gaining of experience in life, and with the love and assistance of friends and family, will come rest and peace of mind.  Call it Self-Confidence.  Whatever it is, it comes after the sweat and the tears.