Nobody feels confident first time they try a backflip



Lisa Earle McLeod

Do you take risks?

Do you wait until you’re fully confident before you make a move?

If so, it’s likely that you’re dooming yourself to mediocrity.

I’m going to lift my lifetime ban on sports analogies to illustrate this very important point.

Nobody feels confident the first time they try a backflip.

If you wait until you’re 90 percent sure you will succeed, you’ll probably never try. Or if you do, it will be too late to matter.

I know this from firsthand experience.

I used to be a gymnast. But I wasn’t a very good one. The reason I was doomed to mediocrity was because I was too afraid to try something until I was pretty sure I could do it.

I eventually learned to do a backflip, but not until the 10th grade, at which point I was already too old to be a serious contender.

If you’ve met me in person, you know that my chances of becoming a world class gymnast were doomed by fair-haired, weak jointed ancestors who married similar types resulting in a long line of skinny fragile ankles and knees that buckle under repeated impact.

Yet 30 years after I gave up being the next Nadia Comaneci (Google her if you’re under 35), I am only now realizing how often I’ve allowed the, “I’ll wait until I’m 90 percent sure I can succeed” mentality to hold me back.

I was recently facing a potential business opportunity. As I weighed the possible options, my 20-year-old daughter who knew what I was dealing with, posted this quote on my Facebook wall.

“I always did something I was a little not ready to do.” - Marissa Mayer, CEO Yahoo.

The second I read it the cold truth hit me square in the face: one of the reasons I was vacillating about the biggest, boldest option was because I wasn’t 100 percent sure I could do it.

The rest of the Marissa Mayer interview convinced me. While speaking about her best decisions in a talk with NPR Correspondent Laura Sydell, Mayer said, “That feeling at the end of the day, where you’re like, ‘what have I gotten myself into?’, I realized that sometimes when you have that feeling and you push through it, something really great happens.”

My daughter said, “You know when she (Mayer) took that CEO job there was no way she was thinking, ‘Hey I got this.’ Part of her had to be scared.”

But she did it anyway.

As I reflect on the three very best decisions in my own life: getting married to my spouse; having our first child; and having our second child, I see that in each instance I was scared. If I’m honest, I was only 60 percent sure (at best) that I could handle the role I was about to accept.

But I did it, anyway.

Studies show that a man will go for a job if he believes he has 60 percent of the skills needed, but a woman won’t go for a job until she believes she has 90 percent.

I jumped into two of the hardest jobs ever (spouse and motherhood) knowing that I was only 60 percent ready because I wanted it so badly that I was willing to risk failure.

The 60 percent principle is my new mantra. If I want it, and I’m close to 60 percent confident that I can do it, I’m going for it.

I’ll let you know how it works out.

‑ Lisa Earle McLeod is a sales leadership consultant and author of several books (


Comments are subject to moderator review and may not appear immediately on the site.

Please read our commenting policy before posting.

Any comment violating the site's commenting guidelines will be removed and the user could be banned from the site.

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment