May 27, 2023




The Evidence Framework

At a glance

Today’s Fast Summary:

  • Confidence is a feeling of certainty; evidence is proof you can do what you set your mind to.

  • Confidence is great, but unsubstantiated confidence is expensive.

  • When you collect evidence, you’re also collecting confidence in your ability to be successful. You’re assuring yourself that you have the necessary skills.

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Build Evidence, Not Confidence

Imagine you’re a detective: You’re sitting at your desk, drinking your morning coffee, when a new case hits your inbox. There was a murder last night, and your boss has decided that you’re the one to solve it.

This is what you know:

  • The crime occurred in an apartment off of a nearby freeway, and officers gathered little in the name of evidence.

  • They haven’t identified a subject and haven’t done any interviews to date.

  • Investigators were able to retrieve some security footage from both the apartment complex and the gas station next door.

You begin to wonder, “How could this have happened?” and the thought of who might’ve done it floods your mind.

You begin sifting through the gas station footage and notice a tall man lurking near the street lamp. He’s holding a backpack, but besides this, there’s nothing linking him to the crime.

But, when you see the figure, you jump, thinking, “He must’ve done it! There’s no one else!” You start to track the man as he enters and leaves the gas station, returning to his car. The car drives off toward the apartment complex, disappearing behind a hill.

You run to your boss and present him your findings, and he scoffs. “Come back when you have some actual evidence,” he says.

In the example, you had confidence, but not evidence. Detectives know they need more than a hunch to gain a conviction. You were thinking wishfully.

You can’t simply feel confident; you need something to back it up.

But what’s the difference between evidence and confidence?

Confidence is a feeling of certainty, specifically the certainty that something is or isn’t true.

But confidence is just that—a feeling—and feelings are often fleeting.

Evidence, on the other hand, refers to facts or information that prove something is or isn’t valid. Evidence can be anything, as long as it’s measurable and concrete.

Let’s say you’d like to write a bestselling novel. You have a great idea, plenty of time, and a laptop. If you don’t have a bestseller under your belt, it would be wishful thinking to believe that this book will make the New York Times list.

However, if you’re an established author, have previous publications, and have a killer idea, then your wishful thought wouldn’t be unsubstantiated. You’d have evidence, not just confidence.

Evidence is proof you can do something. Confidence is just the belief that you can.

Confidence Is Not Always Key

Confidence is powerful. Studies show a strong link between confidence and performance: Those who are confident in their ability to complete a task or achieve a goal are more likely to do so. 

But, while confidence is great, unsubstantiated confidence is expensive.

It would be silly to say, “I’m going to start a wildly successful business,” if you don’t have an idea, a business plan, funding, or experience doing so.

If you start a business with no funding, prior experience, or market knowledge, you’re all but setting yourself up for failure. And failure can cost both time and money.

Overestimating your skills, or overconfidence, can be dangerous. A normal amount of confidence, however, can be influential.

Confidence is a feeling and a belief, and beliefs and feelings are fallible.

Hence why evidence is more powerful: It is proof.

In this context, humility is key.

Humility isn’t a bad thing. Humility is realistic knowledge of what you can and cannot do. It’s about knowing and understanding your capabilities.

You don’t have to undermine your successes to be humble. Instead, you have to have a realistic interpretation of your own skills.

In the business example, humility might look like consulting industry experts, gaining input from others, and accurately pinpointing areas of your business in which you’re not confident.

To beat overconfidence, you have to be humble.

Collect Some Evidence

Well, how can I reach my goals without any evidence?

The answer is rather simple: Collect some.

If your goal is to write a bestselling book, start by collecting some small pieces of evidence. You could:

  • Join a writer’s group or workshop

  •  Listen to podcasts and do research on how to write a novel Listen to podcasts and do research on how to write a novel

  • Go back to school and earn a writing degree

  • Conduct market research to ensure your idea is viable

Each of these are pieces of evidence showing you that you can write the book you dream about.

You don’t need to have multiple bestsellers under your belt to have evidence that you can write one. Small pieces of evidence work just as well.

In the business example, you can:

  • Consult business professionals

  • Conduct market research

  • Take courses online

  • Get expert opinions on your business model

  • Gain funding

These smaller steps are evidence too.

Evidence can be built without completing the goal or task itself. These small steps aren’t just evidence—they’re strides in the right direction.

Evidence prepares you to be successful.

Collect your evidence in a mental bank account. Better yet—write down your evidence and use it when you feel stuck or lost.

The best part about collecting evidence? It’s transferable. If you’ve collected evidence in one area of life, transfer it to another area.

Let’s say you’ve written your book and it becomes a bestseller. You now know that you can do what you set your mind to. And better yet, you know that you can be successful.

Your drive and work ethic are evidence too.

Evidence Breeds Confidence

Confidence isn’t all you need: Evidence can become confidence.

In the context of success and motivation, evidence and confidence can be game changers: To be successful, you must have both evidence and confidence.

When you collect evidence, you’re also collecting confidence in your ability to be successful. The longer your evidence list, the better. And, more importantly, when you collect evidence, you’re assuring yourself that you have what it takes.

View your successes as functions of your own agency. You might not have the skills yet, but you will.

Over time, evidence turns into confidence.

Collect it.

Think back to the first example: After your boss shrugs you off, you return back to your desk and continue checking out the footage.

In the corner of your screen, you see the man’s car’s headlights turning into the apartment complex. And better yet, you catch a glimpse of his license plate.

You run the plate through the database, and, sure enough, there are warrants out for his arrest. You have enough to arrest him, so you and your team find him and do so.

Sure enough, while he’s being questioned, you get a confession. You charge him with the murder, he goes to trial, and you gain a conviction.

The small evidence you collected led to larger evidence, which ultimately, led to your own success. And, after it all, you get a pat on the back from your boss.

Evidence is better and more influential than confidence. Start collecting yours.

What’s your goal? This week, I ask you to consider a long-term goal you have: It can be anything from fitness, health, or relationships to professional or personal achievement. Your goal should be large; if it feels intangible, great! Keep the goal in mind while completing this exercise.

  1. Write down your goal.

    a. What’s drawing you to the goal? What about it feels out of reach? Why?

    b. Does the goal feel doable? Why?

  2. Collect your evidence. Write down your answers in list form.

    a. What previous intangible skills or qualities do you have that lend well to the goal? Hard work, willpower, strength, and resilience count. Think about how these might help you achieve your goal.

    b. Name some concrete steps you’ve already taken. What have you already done to achieve the goal? Have you taken any recent steps or done background research?

    c. Practice humility. Which skills are you lacking? Why might you be lacking them, and what is preventing you from gaining those skills and insight?

  3. How can you use this evidence to your advantage?

    a. Think about how this evidence lends well to the goal. Unlike the previous prompt, I ask you to write down your answers.

    b. How might your evidence be transferable to other goals and achievements? What might be influential?

    c. Where can you keep this list, and how can you use it to complete the next steps?

Confidence is great, but evidence is better. Build evidence, then confidence.


I’d love to hear from you:

  • What do you use as your evidence? Does it help?

  •  Where do you derive confidence?

Tweet at me (@_alexbrogan) or respond to this email — I’ll try to respond to everyone.

Have a wonderful, Wednesday all.

Until next time,


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