"When I come out I have supreme confidence. But I'm scared to death. I'm afraid. I'm afraid of everything. I'm afraid of losing. I'm afraid of being humiliated. But I'm confident. The closer I get to the ring the more confident I get. The closer, the more confident. All during training I've been afraid of this man. I think this man might be capable of beating me. I've dreamed of him beating me. For that I've always stayed afraid of him. The closer I get to the ring the more confident I get. Once I'm in the ring I'm a god. No one could beat me. I walk around the ring but I never take my eyes off my opponent….During the fight I'm supremely confident. I'm making him miss and I'm countering. I'm hitting him to the body; I'm punching him real hard. And I'm punching him, and I'm punching him, and I know he's gonna take my punches. He goes down, he's out. I'm victorious. Mike Tyson, greatest fighter that ever lived."
I love this dual attitude: terrified of failure but also supremely confident of success.
It's too easy (and trendy) to just say "fear is the mind killer" or speak in glowing terms about how instructive failure is. If you aren't terrified of failing you probably don't care enough.
If an investor asks an entrepreneur, "Are you scared of your business failing?" and the answer is, "Not really," I'd be concerned. The best answer would be, "I'm fucking terrified that this will totally flop, and I'm doing whatever it takes to make sure that doesn't happen, and I'm confident it will not happen."
Too much fear can be crippling and preclude action. I think the optimal amount of fear is one notch before the "crippling" point.
I got nervous before high school and AAU basketball games.
I got nervous before big sales presentations in the early days of business career. So nervous, in fact, that I had a hard time getting business cards out of my suit jacket because my hands were shaking.
I get nervous before public speeches, difficult phone calls, or high-stakes emotional encounters.
I'm scared of failing, scared of letting people down, scared of embarrassing myself, scared of not one-upping what came before.
But the fear tends to be like cotton candy, it melts upon contact when the moment of truth comes — the tip-off of the basketball game, the start of the big sales meeting, or the first words of the crucial one-on-one conversation I'd prepared for. In the clutch moment, confidence must take over. When you come to the plate and crouch into your stance, you must believe that you are capable of hitting a home run.
As Tyson has also said, "Fear is your best friend or your worst enemy. It's like fire. If you can control it, it can cook for you; it can heat your house. If you can't control it, it will burn everything around you and destroy you. If you can control your fear, it makes you more alert, like a deer coming across the lawn."
Here's a compilation of other Tyson quotes. Here's my post on developing self-confidence. Here's my post on getting to the point of saying "I can do this!" Here's what elite athletes focus on in the clutch moments so they do not choke.