How this world champion chess player survived a crisis of confidence


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When chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen was 13, he faced chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, one of the highest-rated players in the world. As Carlsen sat down to practice, he couldn’t help but feel that he couldn’t win against such a formidable opponent. Now 27, Carlsen says giving in to that belief was his biggest mistake.

“In this particular game, if I [had] in fact, I seriously believed that I could [have] beat Kasparov, then I probably could have done it, ”he says. In other words, the skill won’t get you far; confidence was the missing piece he needed to beat his opponent.

In business, too, there are many ways to deal with similar crises of confidence, from making a pitch to investors or trying to win an account with a large client. Here are three tips from Carlsen for dealing with those moments and building self-confidence:

1. Trust yourself, regardless of the consequences.

Confidence comes from trusting yourself to make a decision and agreeing with the results, even if you fail. This explains why so many successful entrepreneurs count failures on their achievement lists. For Carlsen, that meant trusting his instincts and making a quick decision – without looking back. “It’s better to trust your instincts and burn yourself out sometimes than to always question yourself,” he says.

2. Be prepared to work.

By the time Carlsen was 17, he was playing with the best chess players in the world – and for the first time, he says, he began to feel confident in his abilities. “When I was 10 or 12 I would often give away draws to presumably stronger opponents because I didn’t really believe I could beat them and I was happy with a draw,” he says. Of course, he had many games in those intervening years which helped him improve his skills and therefore his confidence.

This kind of self-doubt is often referred to as impostor syndrome – a psychological pattern in which you doubt your own accomplishments or think you don’t deserve them. To overcome this, as Carlsen did, you must first recognize the condition and then work diligently to overcome it. As Carlsen says: “Within a few years I was completely convinced, rightly or wrongly, that I was the man, I was the best.

3. Look for immediate victory after losing.

Carlsen’s approach to losing is also instructive. When he loses he says he doesn’t dwell on it because bad results can persist. Instead, he’s looking for a win – ASAP. “For me, I just… need to be able to fight back somehow,” he said.

He also notes that he’s never been a good loser and instead of working on ways to deal with losses more gracefully, he’s focusing on a different issue: “I should be better so I don’t lose.” . ”

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