In complex and testing situations, we tend to follow the lead of a competent person (the one who knows what to do ) or the guidance of a confident one (a person who believes they can do it).
This connection is known as the competence/confidence loop: “If we believe we can do something, we’ll act to do it, which increases our competence, which then increases our confidence, which allows us to take more action.”
It seems logical, believable and verifiable, but the loop is based on the debatable assumption that action can, per se, generate competence. Furthermore, the loop theory seems to ignore the reality of over-confidence (bravery) or under-competence (ignorance).
The saddle of a motorcycle is an excellent platform to examine competence and confidence and explore the actual connection between the two. One element immediately emerges as shared by the two personal qualities: TRUST.
Considering how competence starts in our early years, we must recognise that trust is necessary to build competence (the quality or state of having sufficient knowledge, judgment, and skill). We trust our parents when they start our educational process. We trust our teachers to introduce us to the world of culture. We trust the books and manuals we study and apply. We trust advice from friends, peers, experts and so on.
“I trust nobody ” is often the statement of macho humans, semi-heroes of Hollywood. We know it is a lie: without trust, we would be pinned in our bed, without any possibility of leaving home and starting a working day.
Our whole life is based on trust, on trusting the rest of the humans. We also trust the findings we extract from experience: the considerations and lessons we generate when examining and meditating on the consequences of our actions.
Trust is at the core of acquiring knowledge and building competence.
Trust is literally written inside the word “confidence”: from the Latin “confidentia, to have full trust, faith or reliance.” When we mention “faith”, we enter the domain of human virtues. I can trust the driver piloting the car coming from the opposite lane: I trust he will not swerve at the last minute to crash me and my vehicle. But I have no faith in him.
Faith only recently assumed the meaning of believing something for which there is incomplete evidence; in the original and proper sense, faith indicates faithfulness to a trust or promise, loyalty to a person, honesty, and truthfulness.
Trust is the spirit of life, while we reserve faith for a more important connection: faith has to do with our destiny and the people who help us reach it.
Competence directs and augments trust as our life experience progresses: with time and intelligence, knowledge turns into wisdom. This process of including the personal dimension, values and virtues within the process of learning is not easy:
“Scientific and technological progress massively increase our power to act: in the absence of wisdom, this will have beneficial consequences, but will also have harmful ones, whether intended, as in war or unforeseen and unintended (initially at least), as in environmental degradation. As long as we lacked modern science, lack of wisdom did not matter much: our power to wreak havoc on the planet and each other was limited. Now that our power to act has been massively enhanced by modern science and technology, global wisdom has become not a luxury but a necessity. The crisis of our times – the crisis behind all the others – is the crisis of science without wisdom.”
Competence and wisdom generate confidence: confidence by knowing how to complete a task and, more importantly, confidence/trust in the self, understanding the capabilities and the limits. This self-confidence comes from the commitment that the confident person has to be the best.
“I am the best” could be a presumptuous declaration, an empty, dangerous attitude if not supported by knowledge and the sense of limits.
“I am the Best” is a confidence-building statement when is taken as a commitment to permanent improvement and dedication to excellence in knowledge, wisdom, morality and behaviour.
Only “the best” is always dedicated to improving, gaining from experience, learning from others, and humbly adopting new practices, methods, and systems. Only the “best” is always building self-awareness, knowing simultaneously the power of wisdom and the limits of ignorance.
From the saddle, it becomes evident that only a commitment to excellence (to be the Best) and a knowledge of limits and capabilities can transform a ride into a moment of joy. Without the desire to ride well and without awareness of our position on the road to excellence, we may take challenging risks or miss the opportunity to refine techniques and perceptions.
“Curiosity and sense of limit are the source of our desire for knowledge.”