the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

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.


  1. Shannon akaMonty

    HA! I knew it was the naked one doing the talking as soon as I saw the picture. 😉
    This is a great story – I loved it. It made me laugh.

  2. Ms. Moon

    Nice, Neil. And dogs do have the most confidence, don’t they? And roosters.
    Let’s all be dogs and roosters! They don’t wear clothes and they don’t care!
    (Ted Talks sometimes make me want to gag.)

  3. The Animated Woman

    Aaaah, I was wondering how you were going to wrap this up Neil. Well done.

  4. Kizz

    I’m so glad it didn’t turn out like Dallas where the whole thing was a dream.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial