Walt Disney used to talk about the four Cs to success: curiosity, confidence, courage and consistency. He believed that if you applied these four Cs to your life, you could accomplish practically anything.

But there was one C that Walt said was the greatest of all — confidence. He said, "When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably."

No one is more emblematic of massive success than Walt Disney. But that wasn't the case for Walt early on. He was anything but successful. He had several business failures and was told by an editor at the Kansas City Star newspaper that he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas."

Maybe that's why confidence was so important to him. He certainly was no quitter.

Self-confidence is extremely important in almost every aspect of our lives, yet many people don't believe in themselves as they should, and they find it difficult to become successful.

Would you buy a product from someone who is nervous, fumbling or overly apologetic? No. You would be suspicious of their product, their trustworthiness and their ability to provide follow-up service. You would prefer someone who is confident and speaks clearly and knows his or her stuff. Confidence enables you to perform to the best of your abilities, without the fear of failure holding you back. It starts with believing in yourself.

As one of my favorite motivational authors, Norman Vincent Peale, said, "Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers, you cannot be successful or happy." One word in particular in the above quote stands out: humble. Confidence does not mean arrogance, in fact, quite the opposite. Humility is a quality that must accompany confidence in order to instill trust.

You don't acquire confidence overnight. You can't wake up one day and think you are good. You have to work at it. You have to practice the right concepts, get the best coaching you can and develop mental toughness. You have to think like a winner.

Coaches and managers can tell their players and employees to be more confident, but if they don't prepare and work hard enough, confidence will always be lacking. It's easy to fire people up, but they also have to be willing to prepare and pay the price to achieve a high level of confidence.

My friend the late Jack Kemp told me the story of how his coach motivated him when he played quarterback at Occidental College.

Before the football season started, the coach called Kemp into his office for a private meeting. He said, "Jack, you are my guy. You are the leader on this team. You are the one I can count on. Every year I pick just one player, and you are that player. If you live up to your potential, you have what it takes to achieve greatness. But it's important that you don't tell anyone else."

Jack told me that when he left that room he was ready to run through a brick wall for that guy. What he didn't know until after the season was that his coach said the same thing to 11 other players.

Kemp went on to play pro football for 13 years, served nine terms in Congress representing Western New York and was Republican nominee Bob Dole's vice-presidential running mate in the 1996 presidential election.

A wonderful complement to confidence is a sense of humor. Being able to laugh at yourself is the ultimate demonstration of confidence.

Mackay's Moral: Confidence is keeping your chin up. Overconfidence is sticking your neck out.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.