the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: confidence

TED Talk on Confidence


Hello, there! I’m so glad to be here with you for this afternoon’s TED session. Haven’t the other speakers been amazing? Just outstanding!

Today, I want to talk to you about confidence.

True confidence has become the cornerstone in a growing movement, one that has become international, emphasizing self-respect and personal attainment in our daily lives. In today’s world, we have a feast of opportunities that were unheard of a hundred years ago, but we still feel powerless and unworthy to sit at our rightful table. A thriving industry has been developed to help others attain this confidence — books, courses, even lectures like this one, but most of the teachers involved in these enterprises don’t speak from hard-earned personal experience. They were either born with this confidence, or were privileged as children to have mentors and family members guide them towards the path of self-actualization.  What could they ever teach us, when confidence seems like an unattainable goal, like winning a gold medal at the Winter Olympics?   How can they they speak to those who still struggle with inner demons, the voices in our heads that are judgmental and critical.

I speak to you from a different place.   I have been plagued by these same naysayers in my brain, gone through the same battles, and only through hard work and introspection have I learned to root my feet into the soil of life, like a strong tree. I stand here as someone who was once like you, fearful and uncertain.  Now I share my vulnerability with you, the wisdom I have gained in my travels, so we can walk together towards our dreams.

First, let me say that it is impossible for me to share everything with you today.  That would take several days.   Hey, I’m willing.  We can bring in Chinese food in here on our breaks!  Yes, I think this topic is THAT important.    But there are other speakers who need to come up here, so my time is limited.    So, let’s focus on the the core point, the one tool that is most effective in building confidence.  Let’s examine it, as if under a microscope.   What has worked for me.  And what, I am convinced, will work for you.

So, let’s begin.  Let’s examine the thought process that I use during a fearful or anxious moment, one that snaps the brain into working for me, and not against me.

First, let’s imagine a giant stone, or rock. It could be a square slab of stone, of granite or marble, or a circular boulder. It doesn’t matter. What is important is that the object is hard, intimidating, and seemingly impenetrable.  And embedded inside this stone, in the center,  sight unseen, is your “confidence.”  Since you cannot see this confidence, you might doubt its existence, but it IS there.

Now, see yourself standing next to this stone, this fortress, the prison of your confidence. You want to get to break it out, but it seems out of reach.   Then you notice a chisel on the floor. You pick it up.

You are not an artist. You are not a Michelangelo or Rodin.  But you understand how a chisel works.  You pound into the rock, picking at it.  Harder and harder. Faster and faster. The air is filled with dust, and the stone looks hideous, but you are not here to create beauty. You are on a journey to the center of the rock, where the confidence you seek is waiting.

In the novel, “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” Michelangelo was described as “a master, the fierceness of his joy sending the chisel through the block like lightning through cumulus clouds.” I do not want you to see yourself that way. I want you to be a frenzied attacker, a drug addict needing his fix.  Even though this whole process is happening in your mind, in only a few seconds, it should feel like a month of sweat-filled work, your biceps sore, your arm muscles throbbing.  The stone, the boulder, the marble, whatever it is that you have imagined, disintegrates further with each blow, until you reach the very center of your nemesis, and then with one more brutal swing, you reach the heart of the stone… and it is empty.  There is nothing there.

Wait a minute.  There’s something wrong with this story.  I can’t put my finger on it.

How many people are in this audience?  Can we turn on the lights please?

Jesus, there are a lot of you. I didn’t realize that I am speaking to so many people today.

Why am I doing this talk anyway? Is doing this TED thing really going to help me get readers to my blog?

And did I forget to dress today?  Why am I standing in front of all of you completely naked?  God, this is awkward.  How could I do this?  Do I leave the house so infrequently that I’m now leaving the house without clothes?

Can we dim the lights please?  I’m naked.

No, not on the audience.  On me.

Thank you.

You can still see me, can’t you?  I was afraid of that.

I know what you are looking at.

You are looking at the scar on my left leg. I hate having to explain that.

OK, it happened in North Shore Day camp in Queens. I was seven. Rob and I were playing tag near the pool, and I slipped and cut my leg on a metal chair. And there was blood all over the place. And I had to get stitches.

But don’t worry, Rob and I are still friends.

In fact, I just saw him last week. He is married and has two kids. And they just got a cute little dog that they named Hatchi.

You should see Hatchi. He is so friendly and cute. He runs up to everyone. He pees wherever he wants. He’s so confident. He should be giving this talk.

Oh.  Well, I see that I am getting a cue that my time is up.  Let me wrap up by saying this —

“Confidence is standing naked in front of a group of strangers to give a talk on confidence, and winging it.”

Pin that on Pinterest.

Thank you.


I have so many goals that I want to push through (money! writing! hot babes!), but I lack the confidence to get what I want.

This weekend, I was fascinated watching this kid climb up this fake rock at a street fair. He has confidence.

Should I climb a mountain?

What gives you your confidence?

(I know this post seems like one of those self-help inspirational posts that I usually mock, so you should understand that it took a bit of confidence to publish this).

The Best Blog of All Time

My site was nominated for Best Blog of All Time!

I am lucky to have Sophia in my life. She helps me “grow.” She teaches me confidence. By nature, I back away from distinguishing myself, about grabbing the most out of life. I have a therapy-sized sense of modesty, insecurity, and need to be liked. But I am 100x stronger than when I first got married.

Today is the anniversary of our marriage. Not surprisingly, I had been depressed all day, lying on the couch, 3000 miles away from my separated wife, looking out the window, watching the cars pull in and out of the Pathmark supermarket parking lot.

I mentioned my blahs on Twitter, and got some heartfelt advice: Anymommy told me to eat something with chocolate and peanut butter. Several other women suggested ice cream (surprise!) TwentyFour and Antonia told me to start drinking. Mir was the most practical with her suggestion to rent some porn. (Rent porn?! Who rents porn anymore?)

The comment that most caught my eye was from Ricewenchie:

Do something nice for yourself today. Like create a new anniversary for this day…

At first, I thought that was a dumb idea, and somewhat delusional. If Sophia and I ever divorce, am I supposed to re-write history and forever think of October 13 as the day I bought a Hamilton Beach blender at the discount store for my mother in order to show her how to make a smoothie (that was the one big event of the day)?

But after thinking about it, I embraced the idea, with a little tweak. To celebrate our wedding anniversary in any traditional way makes me sad, while ignoring it is impossible. So, instead, I will combine the two — like chocolate and peanut butter — and focus on the positive — something good that marriage has brought to my life, and how it has changed me, despite the current status.

That’s why I put that badge on top. I can’t think of anything more arrogant than putting up a badge that announces your blog as “The Best Blog Of All Time.” Do I believe this? Sophia believes it. She was the one who nominated me. And I think that she will appreciate this unusual gesture of me posting it on my blog, knowing that she is the one who has always has been my strongest ally in anything I pursued. I would have never had the guts to put that up there if I had never met Sophia. Being married to her has given me strength in many areas of my life. Some cojones. And being a little arrogant every once in a while is good for a man. Even sexy. Why should I be afraid of saying that this is the best blog of all time?! Or that I you should hire me above all others because I am more talented. Or that you should date me because my singing will make you swoon?

Now I need to deal with some other issues in my life with the same confidence.

Happy Anniversary, Sophia, and thank you for helping to make me fearless. Well, maybe I shouldn’t get too arrogant. Let’s just say that I’m working on it.

Note: Just to show you how hard it is to change, Return to Rural called me out with the truth — I didn’t actually link to the award site because… well, that would be too arrogant. I wimped out. But I just changed that and added the link.

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