By Prof Natarajan

Confidence is one’s ability to foresee whether or not they would be able to achieve a certain desired objective by pursuing a certain path of action. The path to the future is paved with uncertainties. As they say, there is many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip. 

There is a thin line of distinction between confidence and overconfidence. They are not two separate territories. Confidence exhibited by one person may be rated ‘overconfidence’ by another. In statistics we deal with degrees or levels of confidence. Any prediction of a future event is accompanied by an assumption of a level of confidence. Higher the confidence level, more likely that the prediction will turn out true. Statisticians predict a unique outcome only if they are 100% sure. For example you can predict tomorrow’s date with 100% confidence if you know today’s date for sure. (Some times even on such a simple prediction we go wrong!) More frequently they predict that an outcome will be within a range. The range will be smaller if the confidence level is higher. 

Future events are generally predicted on the basis of the past experience. 

That is where past data plays a big role. The more the data, more accurate the prediction based on the pattern formed by data. Hence the present hunger for data on consumer behaviour and preferences. Data analysts apply statistical techniques to make predictions). With a new hitherto unused product you are on a tricky ground. You can only predict customer responses by simulation technique. Finally the product may bomb.

Fear is a factor that threatens confidence. If a tight rope walker has the smallest fear that he would lose his balance, his confidence will be shattered and he will fall to the ground. Skill and balance will not come to his rescue. He may totally abandon the act. Even well prepared bright children sometimes do badly in exams due to the fear factor. 

This is where the quality of overconfidence comes in. We are not talking about punters who merely trust their luck blindly without any rationale. Overconfident persons are risk takers. They walk an extra mile to get what they want. They may fail on the way but this possibility does not deter them, even if others call them foolhardy. Perseverance is another positive quality they display. Just a few of them eventually succeed while others fall by the wayside and will be forgotten. That is where chance and timing play a big part. Winners are declared heroes. Failure is looked upon with contempt and derision. They are called upstarts who failed to see reason! Failure is defined as the first step to success, but often there is no second step. All said, we are all what we are. 

Most of us are risk averse and think that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. A few of us are more confident and take calculated risks. A microscopic minority are dare-devils pursue their goals with tons of self belief, overconfidence, passion and determination like Thomas Alva Edison(indefatigable inventor) and Marie Curie ( double Nobel Laureate and isolator of radium, which eventually took her life). The world owes a debt of gratitude to such pioneers. 

My conclusion: Overconfidence is a trait of outstanding contributors.

This is my husband’s take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog post topic. The other four bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, Rummuser, Shackman and Conrad.

This week’s topic was accidentally suggested by Shackman during a Whatsapp exchange. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic.



About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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  1. rummuser says:

    Now, there is overconfidence in action, delegating a task without worrying about the consequences. True risk taking at its best. You would have done well in situations where you will have to go the extra mile as the writer suggests!


    • padmum says:

      Thanks. You are right. However cautious delegators delegate a task or decision after weighing the impact of the consequences of an error and whether they can contain or reverse them. Cautious organizations also limit the power to Delegate! A manager who oversteps this limit placing his faith in the delegatee is an overconfident manager indeed. For him the cause is more sacred than the system. He overperforms and beats the system or gets thrown out by the mediocre system citing indiscipline!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. padmum says:

    Thanks. Fully agree with you. If someone has very little stake in the outcome he is simply betting on others’ money. Just one more point. ‘Overconfidence’ is the judgement of others after the event if the person fails! They pronounce him ‘reckless and irresponsible’.

    Liked by 1 person

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