Sammie’s story exposes the thin line between ‘cockiness’ and ‘confidence’. I bet you’d love this story – and the lesson.

me & sam
Me ———- Sammie

The highpoint of my April 2016 tour of Lagos, Nigeria, was a 2-hour hangout with the incredible Samuel Okonkwo somewhere in Victoria Island. I already reported the details of that hangout on this platform some time ago; I simply tagged that day the first day of the rest of my life, an experience like no other. Ralph and Paschal were there, too, and they felt no different. However, I did save the last dance for now, and I’m pretty sure you’d like it.

I didn’t get to talk about ‘Recruitment Day,’ the longest day of Sammie’s life. On that single day, everything required of an employee of one of the most elite corporate organizations in the world was tested in a series of activities, and to even say that the exercise was very closely monitored is to say it lightly. It was indeed closely monitored, since the firm only had an eye for the very best two of the forty-something-thousand ‘qualified’ applicants. The long and short of it is that Sammie made that number – top two.

However, there is more. Sammie didn’t get up there just like that; no, he did scale a number of hurdles. The most imposing of these hurdles was a straightforward question fired at him by one of the recruiters, and the extent to which he let that question get into him gets to decide his fate. Yes, the question was so imposing that it could bury one’s spirit 12ft below sea-level. My own spirit even fainted when he reproduced the question. “What makes you think you stand a chance?” Let me quickly advice you don’t dare underestimate that question, because it is indeed as powerful as I’d earlier painted it. That question leaned against the backdrop that Sammie was the least ‘paperly’ qualified of the last six standing.

Let me throw some more light. Sammie’s other five contenders stood out for their exceptional brilliance and intimidating résumé. To further clarify this, all five had a master’s degree matching the job description. In addition, four of the five entirely studied in A-rated UK universities with even two or so finishing top of their respective classes. The one that didn’t entirely study abroad had bagged his first degree from one of Nigeria’s very finest private universities, and had gone on to bag a master’s degree in a UK university. And what had Sammie himself got? He had just a first degree from a Nigerian public university in an entirely unrelated course of study. He didn’t even finish first class or top of his class.

Now you see where the question – What makes you think you stand a chance? – came from. To say the least, the question was a legitimate one; I’d have repeated it at least thrice if I were the recruiter. And, as I suggested earlier, it could bury one’s spirit, which was the biggest hurdle Sammie was up against at that point of ‘Recruitment Day’.

But Sammie isn’t Sammie for nothing. He had come out that day clothed in absolute trust in God and sophisticated confidence in his God-given abilities. Let me quickly add: his nickname has always been Whizkid, long before Wizkid Balogun showed up. Yes, this guy is a wizard of some sort. And his reply to that spirit-burying question is as legendary as it is profound: “I have never been this confident in all my life that I do stand a chance. Your people who let me come this far know why they let me.” This answer would immediately be followed up by a comment from the very recruiter whose question had just been smacked down: “You are threading the thin line between confidence and cockiness.

Now to the point in question: The line between confidence and cockiness is so thin that it takes only a trained mind to discern it, just like it takes only a microscope-aided eye to see a bacterium. After all, what is cockiness if not exaggerated confidence. Yes, cockiness designates one who is overly confident, arrogant, or boastful. The cocky one, like the cock, is the proud one. On the other hand, confidence simply means being very sure of yourself or something

Let’s quickly finish up with our Sammie gist before proceeding. Good to know that this recruiter was good enough to have refrained from tagging Sammie cocky, which would’ve possibly shown him the exit door, but he still found it difficult to see Sammie as just confident. However, Sammie’s answer was purely circumstantial. The Sammie I know wouldn’t have given that answer on a normal day. On a normal day, a smile plus a frank look does the job of communicating his confidence. But on this day everything was at stake, and the only measure good enough for a desperate time is a desperate one. He wasn’t going to let the legitimacy of that question get the better part of him, and he wasn’t about to sell out to a recruiter who gets a paycheck for sending him packing. Sammie knew he had to win, and he did. Watch out for one more gist about Sammie. Soon.

Back to the point in question: Cockiness and confidence. Let me give a clue as to knowing where one stands at any point one doubts where one stands – as to whether one is being confident or cocky. Always employ the humility test. And the answer to this simple question does the job: “How do I feel right now?” The cocky fellow feels on top of the world and, hence, looks down on others. The cocky person feels invincible and all-knowing. The cocky person rides on the wings of the wind in his/her mind. The cocky person loses touch with reality and makes him/herself the very axis of the earth’s rotation; they think everything spins around them.

The confident person is simply sure of whatever he/she is sure of, and can go all the way to demonstrating it. Importantly, and inspired by the humility element, the confident person concedes defeat as soon as he/she is proven wrong; he/she even laughs at him/herself seeing how wrong he/she had been all along.

I define the thin line between confidence and cockiness as sophisticated confidence. And, like Sammie, endeavor to only get that far when everything is at stake. Why? Because at the point of sophisticated confidence, only a trained mind can make out the difference between sophisticated confidence and cockiness (they are identical to the average person), and there are very few trained minds on the planet – just one or two in every town. Yes, only resort to sophisticated confidence when you’ve nothing to lose. Otherwise, you might get to lose so much, since cockiness or pride or arrogance registers as turn off to next to every human being.