"Drink your own Kool-Aid" - John Westenberg

Believe your hype. Nobody else is going to.

Why you’ve got to drink your own Kool Aid.

This isn’t me saying that if you just believe in yourself, you can do anything. Because statistically speaking, that is patently untrue. Believing in yourself isn’t the positive secret that you’ve been waiting for, and it’s no guarantee that you’ll wind up happy as a clam with everything you want.

Believing in yourself doesn’t make dreams come true.

But the reverse is absolutely true. Because not believing in yourself is a sure way to fail, not believing yourself is like making an absolute promise that there’s no way you’ll ever succeed.

Drinking your own Kool Aid is about having absolute confidence and commitment in the face of any odds.

Confidence is something that people think you’re either born with or you’re raised with, and if you didn’t luck in enough to be in either of those categories, you’ll never be lucky enough to command a room with your own belief in whatever you’re doing.

I don’t believe that’s true. I think confidence can be taught, it can be learned, and it can grow organically. I think that because when I was a kid I had zero self confidence, as a result of struggling with a speech impediment and being bullied, mocked and derided for not being able to open my mouth and speak coherently.

15 years later, I can get up and talk to couple of hundred people without freezing or freaking out, and I can push and pull them towards every point I want to make, and it’s not perfect, and sometimes I stammer and sometimes my speech problems resurface, but I get it done. And I help people, and they find value in what I do. That’s confidence that I’ve hammered into myself through years of working and trying and building.

Through years of drinking my own Kool Aid by insisting that I had what it took to get up, over and over again, and speak. Insisting I had what it took to write, and start a business, and scream into a mic in a shitty punk rock club. I’ve been drinking my own since I was a teenager, and it’s given me the drive I need to get out there, get mean, and get shit done.

I know there’s a popular idea that arrogance and pride are a bad thing. We’ve pretty broadly shoved them all into the category of Hubris, as if believing in your work and its power is somehow akin to mounting the walls of your enemy’s Fortress and shouting that not even Zeus can stop you. The thinking being, sooner or later you’ll be struck down by a lightning bolt…

But I don’t think we should hide from our work, hide from the way it makes us feel, hide from our own belief in ourselves.

I wrote about this for the first time yesterday, and I think it deserves being explored more. I think there’s too many people out there who never muster up the courage to believe wholly in themselves and their work.

They don’t advocate for themselves, they don’t cheer for themselves and when the chips are down they look in the mirror and they look their own reflection in the eye and say, “I knew it wouldn’t work.”

And I don’t know about you, but I can’t see that as being a positive way to do fucking anything. If you’re trying to create something, you’ve got to be drinking your own Kool Aid. You’ve got to be your own true believer, an absolutely dedicated fan of your own work who will stand by its worth and strength and value.

 We make fun of Kanye West for his tweets about himself, but I admire the fact that he drinks his own more than any other artist, celebrity or entrepreneur that I’ve ever come across. He does take it too far — he veers into arrogance more than I’d ever be comfortable with — still, there’s a few things you can learn from him.

Is he the best role model for frugality or management techniques? Probably not. But his confidence and self belief are contagious. There’s very little doubt in my mind that Kanye can do almost anything he really wants to. He’s that focused, that driven, and that buoyed by his own self worth. I admire that in a hustler. So do a lot of other people.

Right now, you’re probably still thinking that I’m advocating for arrogance, that I’m a big fan of being a massive prick, reeking of hubris. But let’s flip the concept a little.

Imagine you’re a investor with a few million bucks and you want to invest in a startup. Let’s say you’ve narrowed it down to two companies, and you’re trying to decide between ’em. Let’s say they’re both roughly equal in their value, their market fit, and their capabilities.

Who are you more likely to invest in, the guy who shuffles his feet and says “I guess” instead of “I know”, who’ll tell you that he ~thinks he has a good shot?

Or the woman who says she’s going to make it. She’s got what it takes. She’s 110% sure about what she’s doing and why. She believes in her product, her company and herself.

There are people out there who are always going to call that arrogance. And they’ll say that humility is always a better path than having tickets on yourself. But I’m not one of those people. I believe in people who believe in themselves. Those people can inspire, they can lead, they can build.

This doesn’t apply solely to startup founders. It’s the same advice if you’re a musician or a writer. I mean hell, it’s probably going to apply if you’re working in an office job and you want a raise, you’re not going to get it if you don’t back yourself.

Life is about rolling the dice, and it’s all a gamble. I don’t have the knowledge that I’m going to win at anything. But I have the belief that I’m good enough to win, that I’ve worked hard enough to win, and if anyone asks, that’s what I’ll tell them. You can call me proud, and you can call me a tool, but you’ve got to admit that I’m not scared to put myself out there.

Take this quote out for a spin and see how it feels:

Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong. — Peter T. McIntyre

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I’m a writer, a speaker, and a social media entrepreneur. Appeared and published in Business Insider, Inc.com, TIME & others. Read more

Email: jon@jonwestenberg.com

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