The Happy Engineer Podcast

171: See How Easily You Can Increase Confidence at Work

Are you stuck in self-doubt? Engineering leadership is hard, and imposter syndrome is found everywhere you look.

Listen now and discover how to break free from doubt and accelerate your growth in this episode!

As you listen… Tap to DOWNLOAD my free Workbook: Engineering Career Accelerator™️ Scorecard … foundational insights you can check, score, and apply immediately to stand out and excel at work.

In this episode, I explore the link between failure and confidence, sharing insights from a recent coaching session with top-performing engineering managers.

We discuss how our greatest growth often comes from setbacks and how shifting our mindset from fearing failure to embracing learning can unlock true confidence.

Hear a powerful story from Becca, an engineer and startup co-founder who transformed her confidence by breaking the confidence-competence loop.

Join me as we reframe success and failure, focusing instead on continuous growth and learning.

Ready for free coaching, LIVE? Join us in a live workshop for deeper training, career coaching 1:1, and an amazing community!  Register for HAPPY HOUR – Live Career Growth Workshop with Zach!


The Happy Engineer Podcast

Overcoming the Barriers to Confidence in Your Career: A Roadmap for Engineering Managers



LISTEN TO FULL EPISODE 171: See How Easily You Can Increase Confidence at Work

Previous Episode 170: Are You Feeling Bored or Burned Out Lately? with Erika Rothenberger


Top Takeaways on Unlocking your Confidence

In this episode of The Happy Engineer Podcast, we explore ways to reframe our mindset to unlock confidence. Discover how a growth mindset can help us overcome the fear of failure and tap into our full potential.

Here are the top three insights:

1. Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity: Success and failure aren’t the end goals; it’s about learning and growing. By reframing our journey as a pursuit of growth, we can overcome the fear of failure and embrace it as an opportunity to learn and improve.

2. Break the Confidence-Competence Loop: It’s not about waiting to feel confident after succeeding. Shift your focus from current competence to the potential for growth and improvement. Confidence is linked to the pursuit of growth, not just the outcome.

3. Join the Community: Take action and implement these mindsets in your career. Join the monthly happy hour workshop where engineering leaders gather to delve into career growth tools and mindset shifts. It’s an opportunity to connect, learn, and grow with like-minded professionals.

To go deeper and build an action plan around these points and why all this matters, listen to this entire conversation.



Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: Just a few weeks ago, I was coaching a zoom room full of 40 or 50 top performing engineering managers. And on the call, I asked them a few questions first, who here likes succeeding, who here enjoys hitting your goals. You can imagine 100 percent of the hands went up. Everybody in the room is an, a player, top performer, loves to hit their goals.

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:29] Then I asked, well, what about how many of you enjoy failing? How many of you like missing your goals? No hands went up. Nobody in the room likes to fail. And that’s not surprising. So I switched gears. I said, well, let’s talk about learning. Let’s talk about growth. I imagine each one of you are here Because you have a growth mindset.

[00:00:53] How many of you like to learn? How many of you enjoy focusing on growth in your career and in your life? How many fall in that category? And again, 100 percent of the hands went up immediately. And then I asked, well, tell me this. Do you learn more from your failures or do you learn more from your successes?

[00:01:18] Do you grow more from. The things that go poorly, the things that come off track, the setbacks and the failures and the missteps, or do you grow more from the things that you win at and succeed? And there was a little mulling it over in the room. You could see people realizing in the chat started filling up with the answer that I learned more from my failures.

[00:01:44] I learned more when I missed the goal. The real growth happens. when I fall short of what I intended, and it forces me to ask, what happened? Where do I need to develop? Where can I get better? How can I make that improvement for next time? And I looked these leaders in their virtual eyes on Zoom, and I asked them, well, which is it?

[00:02:15] Somehow, we’re not telling the truth on one side or the other. You’re telling me you like to succeed and you don’t like to fail. You do not want to fail, but you’re also telling me that you do want to grow and you grow the most from failure. So which is it? And you see, we all get trapped in this subconscious paradigm that wants to avoid failure that does not like.

[00:02:49] Missing our goals. In fact, some people are so wound up this way that they won’t even set goals because to miss that goal hurts so much. The pain of that or the fear and anxiety and worry about that holds them back from even setting a goal. And these are top performing engineering managers, the cream of the crop, the best in their company telling me that I love to succeed and I avoid failures.

[00:03:18] And yet they know that the growth and the learning that they say they crave comes through failure. The same is true for you. And I’m not asking you to fall in love with failing and go seek failure for the sake of failure. And a lot of people get frustrated with a fail fast type of mentality because failure is not the goal.

[00:03:42] And I get it. I get it. But be honest with yourself. Are you letting a fear of failure, a hesitancy, a fear of judgment, a fear of other people thinking poorly about you, or a fear of what might happen if you don’t hit the goal. What will your boss do? What’s the company going to take action on correctively against you?

[00:04:04] There’s a lot of things that might be holding you back from doing what you need to do to grow. And this is the paradigm that blocks you from confidence. A failure paradigm. Is what is holding you back from showing up at your best with a bulletproof battle, hardened rock solid confidence. That is exactly what you need to succeed and grow even faster to hit those goals more consistently, and to learn even more from the failures and setbacks.

[00:04:40] Life is not about success and failure. It really isn’t. It’s about success and learning. And if you’re doing it right, success is also going to teach you something. So it’s really just about learning and learning. Okay. The succeed and fail benchmarks are arbitrary. And if you do succeed, you’re going to set a new goal anyway.

[00:05:03] The purpose of the goal is not to get the purpose of the goal is to grow. And so when you reframe this journey, not around succeeding and failing, but around, Success and learning or ultimately learning and learning that it’s just a journey toward becoming our absolute best and making the impact that we desire along that road to fulfillment in your career and in your life.

[00:05:29] That reframe, that mindset shift will unlock for you the potential to experience deeper confidence. The paradigm of failure crushes your confidence. Now let me connect to you how this plays out. Most people connect confidence to their competence. Their ability to succeed. Their current skill set, 

[00:05:54] And so in order to feel more confident, you need to also become more competent. And if you don’t have the skill and a proven result of success at that skill, then you do not allow yourself to feel confident because you haven’t done it yet.

[00:06:17] How could I go onto that stage and speak in front of those 500 people if I’ve never done it before, Zach, how could I do that in your career? There’s something right now that you’re probably a little bit nervous about doing, you’re struggling to feel confident. And it could be because you’ve never done it before.

[00:06:38] It could be because the last time you did it, you failed. It could be because someone told you that it was going to be really hard. 

[00:06:44] It’s a confidence competence loop that you get trapped in. And if that’s the way your subconscious mind, your mindset is wired, then you’ve limited yourself to experiencing confidence until after you’ve succeeded. But that’s a bit of a catch 22, isn’t it? How could you succeed at it? If you never have the confidence to go try, if you never have the confidence to lean in and grow, it’s a slow road.

[00:07:15] It’s a grinding road. It’s one full of anxiety, full of stress, full of pressure, full of self doubt, full of wondering, what if I fail? What if this doesn’t go well? It’s not a pleasant experience. When you shift away from that failure paradigm into one of learning and growth, a true growth mindset, we break that confidence competence loop, and we inject a belief in our ability to grow and learn.

[00:07:45] We inject the awareness that it’s really not about succeeding or failing. It’s about learning and growing. And this next attempt. At whatever task, whatever challenge you’re taking on, the outcome isn’t what matter. It’s the growth that matters. When you reframe it around that, suddenly your confidence gets linked to your pursuit of growth.

[00:08:15] Outcome doesn’t matter. Learning is what matters. And how sure are you that you will learn if you go take on the challenge? I’m a hundred percent sure. I know that every single time I push myself to my edge, I get better. Every single time I challenge myself on something new, I get better. And the same is true for you.

[00:08:37] If you’ll put yourself into a tough environment, if you’ll put yourself into a challenge, if you will put yourself in situations that demand you to get better, you will get better. It’s a given, it’s a guaranteed, it’s 100%. So my confidence can show up at 100 percent because I’m not placing confidence in my outcome, I’m placing confidence in my ability to learn and grow and get better.

[00:09:05] And I will continue to persist in those actions until I cross the threshold of success. It’s that simple. You look at a toddler learning how to walk. Every time they fall, do they sit there and give up or do they just immediately start getting back on their feet again? How many times would you allow a baby to fall down before you would tell them you’re never going to walk?

[00:09:34] You’re never going to figure this out. And while it might seem like a cliche or trivial metaphor to you, it is not different. Your subconscious mind is just as powerful today as it was back then when you were a baby learning to walk.

[00:09:50] The difference is your conscious mind has picked up this belief in this idea that, Oh, I’m going to fail. And it starts to pull in all of these, different things from your environment and signals from the outer world and the conscious mind then feeds them in as, as reinforcing data that this is not going to go well.

[00:10:08] And we get this paradigm buried into our subconscious of failure. So I’m challenging you to take this easy change. It’s an easy change from focusing on success and failure and competence. Drop that from your view all that matters is that my outcome leads to growth, learning, improvement.

[00:10:34] When you do that, Your confidence will go through the roof. I have an amazing client right now named Becca. And Becca just started working with me a couple weeks ago. And I want to read an email that she sent me because it’s exactly related to this. And I think you’ll find this is the kind of experience so many engineering leaders have.

[00:10:58] She said, Zach, I just want to add in that I finished the mindset module last night and the confidence video was profound for me. I rewound and watched the section probably four or five times on the confidence and competence loop and how to break that with a growth mindset. As someone who struggles with confidence issues and imposter syndrome, I was like, it can’t be this easy.

[00:11:24] Thank you. But the concept of itself was straightforward and I look forward to employing it to change my mindset around confidence. I replied back to Becca and what I said was, Hey, to your last point on confidence. What if it were easy? And that’s the question I want to ask you right now. What if it were easy?

[00:11:48] What if it were easy? To have a radical shift in confidence. I asked Becca, she said, okay, I’m choosing to trust that you’re right. And that it is easy. I’ll be taking the lead on a customer onsite visit today. The CEO is not coming. So the confidence module came at a good time. A couple of days later, here’s what I got back.

[00:12:15] Zach, you were right. It was easy. I leaned into what I knew, I accepted that the outcome will be growth in the topics where I’m not as strong yet, and I smashed it. That is what happens when you make this simple shift. Give yourself permission for it to be easy. Stop focusing on your current level of competence and coming up in your imagination with the hundred ways that this could go wrong and you might fail.

[00:12:44] And focus your energy instead on the truth that you are an intelligent engineering leader. You have the ability to learn and grow. It is obvious or you wouldn’t have gotten to where you are. Focus on that. Put your confidence in that. And allow it to be easy. What if it were easy? It can be. And I want it to be easy for you.

[00:13:09]  I’d encourage you to join us at the next Happy Hour. Every month we have happy hour and you can join a community of engineering leaders, managers, directors, people who want to grow people who are ready for that next level, 

[00:13:23] We get together live on zoom once a month, do a workshop focused on these career growth tools. The mindsets, the things that you need outside of your ability to write code or solve engineering problems. It’s all that other stuff that holds us back. And we tackle that in a free workshop every month, a great opportunity for you and me to connect, for you to meet some other incredible leaders and take this to the level of action and implementation in your career.

[00:13:53] So register for the next happy hour. We do it every month. You can click the link that’s in the show notes or grab your phone and you can text us and we’ll send you the information that way. The text is just the word happy. Grab your phone and text the word happy to three, three, seven, seven, seven. One word happy to three, three, seven, seven, seven.

[00:14:17] Answer a couple of questions so we can get you all the details and join us at the next happy hour. It’s an awesome event. I’d love to see you there. Just like Becca experienced, you can have that same experience. What is that thing where right now your confidence is shaken? Let’s change the focus from success and failure to a focus on growth.

[00:14:40] Let it be easy and do it with us in community at the next happy hour. I’ll see you there.