Tim Brown on How to Build Confidence

Tim BrownTim Brown is a nine-time pro bowler, a member of both the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he has the fifth most all-purpose yards in the history of the NFL.

With those incredible credentials it’s hard to believe that halfway through college at Notre Dame, Brown seemed to be on the path to a very average football career. He was seeing limited playing time and had even questioned whether he was on the right path as a football player.

That’s when Lou Holtz stepped in. Shortly after he was hired as Notre Dame’s new head coach, Holtz told Brown he thought he could be the best player in the country. Such an idea sounded crazy to Tim Brown, but Holtz didn’t back down…


Lou Holtz pulled me aside every day to talk about my ability and my potential. He repeatedly had me watch film of myself to remind me of what I’d already done when I had the chance. After two weeks of his constant attention and positive message, I began to think, Hey, maybe I can do something big here.

For the first time since I’d come to Notre Dame, I started to truly believe in myself. I kept listening to Coach Holtz, watching film, and working hard in practice. By the end of that spring, I believed no one could touch me on the football field.

Confidence is critical to success in life. An athlete can have incredible talent, but it’s the mind that tells the body what to do. When you’re playing in a stadium filled with 80,000 people, with millions more watching on television, talent isn’t enough.

You have to be mentally strong or the pressure will get to you. A little self-confidence shortage will suddenly turn into a big problem.

Some guys are born with overflowing assurance, but the rest of us have to cultivate it.

So how does a man develop confidence? By being persistent.

We must persistently work on our skills in our chosen profession. We have to persistently maintain and improve our important relationships. We must persistently seek to be the best friends, husbands, and fathers we can be. If we’re people of faith, we need to persistently pursue God.

Halfhearted, temporary efforts won’t cut it. Deep down, we’ll know we haven’t given it our all. When the pressure’s on, we won’t have the confidence we need to carry us.


— Tim Brown, from his book The Making of a Man

As a senior at Notre Dame, Tim Brown proved Holtz right. He won the Heisman Trophy, which goes to the best college football player in the country. Brown became the first wide receiver ever to win the prestigious award.

The above story is an example of how performance follows confidence. Once Tim Brown built up his self-confidence, his performance on the field reached a new level.

Notice that Lou Holtz didn’t give Tim Brown a one-time pep talk and leave it at that. Instead, he spent months persistently repeating his positive message until Brown started believing him.

Brown had moments when he questioned if he was on the right path as a football player. He thought about taking himself out of games following a mistake or even leaving college altogether. But he stuck with it. He persisted. He kept forcing himself back into high-pressure situations. Eventually, confidence followed this persistence.

Confidence doesn’t happen overnight. It takes discipline and persistence.

Pay close attention to your self-talk. Make sure you’re always talking yourself up and never cutting yourself down. Feed yourself positive messages over and over again.

Want to get more confident with a specific task? Do that task again and again and again. Whether it’s public speaking, making sales calls, studying, writing, or playing wide receiver; you have to do these tasks over and over to develop confidence in your ability. Every time you do it, you’ll gain more confidence for the next time.

Persistence is the secret to confidence.