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James Feudo

Overconfidence - It Hurt Hillary and It Can Hurt You
Feb 29, 2008 - 4:53:04 PM

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In one of the most exciting and interesting primary contests in recent memories, there have been many surprises but also several mistakes. Fred Thompson showed us that being fashionably late doesn't bode well with voters. John Edwards showed us that claiming to fight for the poor while living in a house with nearly three quarters of an acre of living space won't get you elected. Rudy Giuliani showed us that you have to actually compete to get elected. Even frontrunners John McCain and Barack Obama made some mistakes, but they were able to overcome them.  The big question is whether or not Hillary Clinton can overcome her big mistake: overconfidence.

Back in the fall, Hillary was not only the inevitable nominee for the democrats, but most people believed that she was going to be the next President. Even Newt Gingrich said in September that there was an 80% chance that the Clintons would be spending at least four more years at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  The general consensus among those that avidly follow politics was that the primary was just a formality to give the inevitable nominee, Mrs. Clinton, the nomination. Well, things have certainly changed.

Overconfidence has been a problem throughout history. Yet even though most of us are taught Aesop's fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, as youngsters, the lesson obviously doesn't resonate. We see it in wars, elections, business and even our personal lives. I was fortunately reminded of this while in college. I was interviewing for a position which I more than qualified for and was the favorite to win. I waltzed into the interview with an attitude that wasn't much different from what many people believe the former First Lady and her campaign advisors had in the fall. When I sat down with my interviewers, I expected it to be more along the lines of talking about the plans I had for when I took the position, so imagine my surprise when they started asking me actual interview questions. After the interview, it wasn't a surprise to me that I didn't get the position. I made sure never to make that mistake again.

One can debate for weeks about the mistakes the Clinton campaign has made, but it all boils down to overconfidence. Overconfidence in her abilities to face a competitive challenger, overconfidence in her husband's support within their party and key demographics and overconfidence in the buzz that the media would generate over the prospect of the first female President are some examples, but there's many more. Someone once said that it's better to be in the number two position than the number one - everybody is trying to knock down number one and some are even willing to help out number two, if it knocks out number one. Look at how everyone ganged up in the debates on Hillary, Mitt Romney during the GOP race and Howard Dean during the 2004 debates.

As the mainstream media focuses on the politics of this historic campaign, I invite you to also take a look at it in from a different perspective. Learn from the mistakes as well as the successes of all candidates. Don't assume that because a client has been with you for years, that he or she won't move on to a lower cost competitor of yours. Don't assume that because your clients are happy with you, that they'll tolerate mistakes and oversights on your part. And, most importantly, don't think that because you know in your heart that you're the best candidate for a position and it's yours for the taking, that people will bow down and give it to you. Hillary’s Presidential hopes could end in a few days, but you still have a chance.

© 2008 James Feudo

James Feudo is a speaker, author and trainer specializing in communication skills. James has developed a series of programs to help people improve how they communicate with themselves, others and to groups. You can learn more about James at and visit his blog at where you can sign up for free tips delivered to your email inbox.

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