Hi friends! This is silly and embarrassing, but what the heck. Today I’m writing about how, sometimes, the littlest thing can give you courage. I like tips about how to be more confident, so I figured you might like mine, too!

When I moved from Kansas City and started my new job in Los Angeles last year, I noticed on my first day at the office that the kitchen was stocked with free tea bags—including my favorite, Earl Grey. What a nice perk, right? I know. I’m spoiled.

 

 

I brought in a teacup and saucer from home, because I don’t enjoy drinking out of paper cups as much and I hate to create unnecessary waste. I’d always drank out of a proper teacup at my last job, and I don’t think anyone thought that much of it, but when I went to one of my first meetings with my cup of tea, people commented on it.

“Wow, look at your fancy teacup.”

“You’re so sophisticated!”

My boss joked, “That’s how they do things in Kansas City!” The whole thing was a fun icebreaker.

 

a teacup and saucer with bookshelves in the background

 

Not that long ago at work, I was about to go to a pitch meeting. Here’s what a pitch meeting is: I bring proposals for books to the senior programming execs at my company, and they critique them. All book deals we make on proposal only get greenlighted by them.

These meetings have taught me so much about storytelling and plotting, because the execs are brilliant. If there’s a little fudging with a character’s motivation, they catch it. If a main character’s arc—in other words, the way the main character grows and changes over the course of the story—isn’t clear or satisfying, they point that out. If something doesn’t quite make sense logically, or is just a little too convenient, or if a main character overreacts or is a bit of a jerk…well, you get the idea. It’s an incredible experience for me to get to learn from them.

And also, as you can imagine, I always feel a little anxious before pitch meetings.

Now, it’s not like when I did my stint in retail advertising, and I ran the risk of being personally insulted or straight-up yelled at if a higher-up didn’t like my campaign. (I’m not sorry I had that experience, either…I learned a lot and it toughened me up like nobody’s business, haha.)

Everybody at my company is super nice! They’re professional and courteous, and they’re hard on the work, not the people, which is exactly as it should be. And I am pretty good at not taking critique personally. I’m almost always really glad to get it because it makes the end result better.

But I get a little anxious anyway, because I’m often representing an idea that an author has put their heart and soul into, and that I like very much. And because I’m human.

So right before I went to this pitch meeting, I thought: I should bring a cup of tea.

 

 

I made a nice cup of Earl Grey and went to the meeting with my book proposals, and the programming exec commented jokingly about my impressive teacup.

Just a simple prop gave me more confidence. It was a subtle statement to myself as well as to others: I am an individual. I am more than this job. I am somebody.

I can imagine a lot of things might serve the same purpose. I once worked with a woman who wore some kind of silk flower pin every day. She had a collection of them, and they were her trademark. The late writer Tom Wolfe had a very obvious bit: he always wore a white suit, and although I really know nothing about him, I can imagine that sometimes it might’ve been a little like putting on a suit of armor.

A piece of jewelry or a watch, a signature nail polish color, a high-quality pen or a particular kind of notebook, a hard-to-get brand of soda…I can imagine a lot of things feeling like good-luck charms or quiet statements of individuality. If you have business or social situations that cause you anxiety, you might consider trying one out!

Do you have props or quirks that you’re known for, or objects that make you feel lucky? Do you know someone else who does? Let me know in the comments! Thanks so much for reading, and have a great week!