There’s a fine line between confidence and stupidity

Recently I’ve realized that some of the people I most admire in life ride the razor’s edge between confidence and stupidity.  That is not to say they are stupid, or cocky, or jerks.  It’s more a realization that there seem to be some people who are born with a unique ability to never second guess themselves.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not one of them.

I recently read an article about Danny Way, perhaps the best skateboarder in the world.  He was trying to perfect a trick that had never been done before.  Each time he attempted it, he was literally risking his life.  He tried unsuccessfully all day, time after time, until at the end of the day he finally pulled it.  Then he went home.  Just like Barry Sanders – score, set the ball down, walk back to the sidelines.  Danny Way needed to pull that trick for himself.  He knew he could do it (confidence), but if he missed he could have been killed (stupidity).  Some of these guys live their entire life on that fine line, never seeing things from the outsider’s perspective.  They respect the danger, but they somehow feel immune to it.

I showed up at the Puker this morning like Danny Way.  I brought my single speed mountain bike to do (road) hill repeats with a bunch of guys. This was a mixture of confidence and stupidity because in addition to nursing 2 cracked ribs and a broken toe, I was laying in an MRI machine last night trying to figure out why my head felt like it was exploding this weekend.  A guy like Danny Way, or Lance Armstrong, or (insert immortal sports figure here) would have shown up and ridden like he was freshly rested and ready to rock.  Not to impress anyone, but because their brains are not programmed the same way as mine.  All they know is 110%, all the time.  I certainly managed to hang with the group, and I’m pretty sure no one noticed much of a difference – but I did.  I didn’t feel that confidence once we started.  I did feel stupid for not bringing my road bike and just taking it easy. I’m not Danny Way, or Lance Armstrong or Barry Sanders, I’m just me.  I’m a 40-year-old guy who rides for fun, and the minute I forget that, I lose one of the cornerstones of happiness in my life.  I’m not out to prove anything to anyone except myself.  It doesn’t matter if I come in first, last or mid-pack in any race.  How I feel while I’m in the moment is what it’s all about.  I would guess it’s the same for about 99.9% of the guys I ride with.

One response to “There’s a fine line between confidence and stupidity”

  1. Dennis Hong Avatar

    Just stumbled on here, and… hey, nice post!

    In my teens and early 20s, I used to do a lot of street Rollerblading, so I totally understand what you mean about the confidence versus stupidity thing. I’ve had my share of stupid injuries that easily could have been prevented if the voice in my head had just said, “what the %@#@ are you thinking?!?”

    As an older and (I’d like to think) wiser person now, this is what I’ve realized. For every Danny Way who pulls off that moves and turns himself into a hero in his sport, there are probably hundreds of dudes with the same disregard for danger who *didn’t* make it and either seriously injured or maybe even killed themselves. People just never hear about these dudes because… well, because they’ve self-selected themselves out of the sport.

    Point being, the odds of actually overcoming stupidity with confidence are probably a lot slimmer than we may realize.

    So, there’s nothing wrong with playing it safe. At least, that’s how I see it… nowadays.

    For what it’s worth.


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