The James Bond Guide To Ultimate Confidence

By David

September 4, 2013   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

James Bond is confident, nay, he is confidence incarnate.

Ian Fleming created British Secret Service agent James Bond (aka “007″) in his 1953 novel, Casino Royale. He went on to write 11 more James Bond novels and two short stories. Subsequently, 23 films based on the classic character have grossed a staggering $6 billion worldwide.

In each James Bond story, powerful men aim to destroy him and they always come close, but Bond remains calm and confident until victory, and always gets the girl to boot. What are his secrets to ultimate confidence? Let’s dissect some classic Bond film moments to find out. It will be fun. Very fun.

Hugo Drax: “Look after Mr. Bond. See that some harm comes to him.” (1979’s Moonraker)

Step One: James Bond Gets Intimate With Fear

No, I’m not talking about 1965’s Thunderball, where Bond gets intimate with a woman named Pat Fearing. I mean the common noun below.

Fear (n): “An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”

Common advice says we should face our fears, but it falls short. To overcome fear, you can’t merely face it, you must get intimate with it, like James Bond has.

Sévérine: “What do you know about fear?”
Bond: “All there is.” (2012’s Skyfall)

The many dangerous situations Bond has faced have made him less fearful of everything. A loaded revolver in his face is just like any other Thursday. In the following scene from Goldeneye, Bond is at the mercy of the enemy; yet, look at how he greets imminent death like an old friend…

Dimitri Mishkin: “Good morning, Mr. Bond. Sit. I’m Defense Minister Dimitri Mishkin. So, by what means shall we execute you, Commander Bond?”
Bond: “What, no small-talk? No chit-chat? That’s the trouble with the world today. No one takes the time to do a really sinister interrogation anymore. It’s a lost art.” (1995’s Goldeneye)

Bond is calm, he’s making jokes, and like usual, he’s taunting his enemy. This is a man unafraid – a man with unrivaled confidence. James Bond’s only fear appears to be committing to one woman.

Honey Ryder: “Are you looking for shells too?”
Bond: “No, I’m just looking.” (1962’s Dr. No – the first Bond film)

Bond: “Miss Anders! I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.” (1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun)

Fear is the primary enemy of confidence. Are you afraid that the girl won’t like you? Are you afraid that the job is above your qualifications or ability? Are you afraid that you’re not good enough? When you’re afraid, your confidence plummets.

To conquer fear and bolster your confidence, immerse yourself in your fears until it’s no longer scary. Ask 50 girls to dance with you in one day. Cold call a thousand companies asking for a job. Get rejected. Fear can’t hold up to the comfort gained through experience, so jump into the waters that frighten you most; with each iteration, your fear will decrease and your confidence will increase.

But if your fear grabs a hold of you and you can’t shake it in the moment, is confidence lost then? Not quite. Let’s take a look at plan B from Bond’s Confidence Playbook.

Step Two: James Bond Maintains The Appearance Of Confidence, Even When He’s Fearful

James Bond’s unassailable confidence in dire circumstances often baffles his enemies into being cloudy-minded, so it’s important for him to keep up the appearance, even if he’s in trouble and knows it. Plus, there could be women watching.

One of my favorite Bond sequences of confidence was in Casino Royale. He was playing a multi-million dollar poker game against Le Chiffre (the bad guy). Problem: Bond’s drink was spiked with poison. After he had a drink and felt the first effects, he knew he was poisoned. His response?

He calmly told the dealer to deal him in and excused himself. People interpret this type of steady-minded behavior as confident, while loud, rash, or hesitant behavior suggest insecurity and fear. Bond expected death at this point, but instead of making a big scene, he maintained his confident appearance.

Then it really hit him. Sweat draped his face as his heart struggled against the poison. He went into cardiac arrest and his pulse flatlined for several seconds, but Vesper (the bond girl of the film) resuscitated him. Bond came back to the table, sat down and with a straight face, delivered this great line to Le Chiffre,

“I’m sorry, that last hand… nearly killed me.”

He went on to win the pot of $150 million. Nice.

Not long after that, he and Vesper crashed their car and were captured by Le Chiffre and his men. Bond was stripped naked and tied to a chair, and Vesper was taken to another room. Bond, as confident as he is, was very scared (seemingly for Vesper). The fear on his face in this scene was palpable. But when Le Chiffre approached the chair to which Bond was confined, fear left Bond’s face.

Le Chiffre tortured Bond by swinging a heavy knotted rope into Bond’s testicles (being James Bond isn’t all fun, huh?). Le Chiffre wanted the account password to get the $150 million he had lost in the poker game. But Bond remained silent, aside from the involuntary reactions from being tortured. And when Le Chiffre asked again for the password, Bond, completely vulnerable, naked, and tied to a chair, had the… balls to taunt him.

Bond: “I’ve got a little itch… down there. Would you mind?”

In the face of agonizing torture and sure death, and being unable to protect a woman he cared for, Bond had doubts, and we saw his fear before Le Chiffre arrived. But he remained confident. It turns out that Bond is on to something here.

Acting confidently despite feeling otherwise isn’t a gimmick that only works in the movies. It’s a scientifically-supported way to be more confident. 

In an experiment by social psychologist Amy Cuddy, one group was instructed to assume a high-power pose and another a low-power pose, both for two minutes. The high-power pose group stood tall and placed their hands on their hips or held their arms out (open, wide, and taking up space). The low-power pose group folded their arms inward and slouched (closed, confined, and taking up less space).

After just two minutes, the high-power pose group’s testosterone levels increased 20% and their cortisol levels decreased 25%. In addition, the high-power group was far more willing to take risks than the low-power posers. As for the low-power pose group results, their pose had the inverse effect – testosterone dropped 10% and cortisol increased 15%.

But what do these results mean? I’ll tell you, and it’s pretty cool.

The high-power pose group became more like James Bond!

James Bond is fictional (right!?), but if he were real, we would find that he has low cortisol and high testosterone levels. Bond’s low cortisol levels are what allow him to remain calm when he looks death in the eye. His high testosterone levels are what make him confident, aggressive, and willing to take risks.

Amy Cuddy: “Two minutes led to these hormonal changes that configure your brain to basically be either assertive, confident, and comfortable, or really stress-reactive and feeling kind of shut down.”
Think of your mind and body as teammates that always want to be on the same page. When you body acts confidently, your mind will try to match it, chemically. It works the other way too.

Jessica Tracy, PhD, found that blind and seeing people do the same thing when they win at a physical competition. They will lift their chin slightly and raise their hands to the sky. In this moment, a winner’s brain releases chemicals that causes a physical reaction. This is very interesting because blind people have never seen the classic victory pose to know to imitate it – it’s instinct.

Faking confidence sounds bad because nobody wants to be a phony, but this technique is more like practicing confidence. If you’ve never been confident before, you’re most comfortable being unconfident. You might feel like you don’t have the right to be confident, which is ridiculous. So you can practice being confident to get comfortable with it, and the easiest way to start is with your body language.

Confident body language generally takes up more space and is open. Low confidence body language is constricted and closed off. Stretching your arms out wide is a very confident gesture, while folding them against your chest suggests lower confidence.

Two components of confidence are feeling and appearance. In reality, they are not very different. When you feel confident, you will also look confident, and when you look confident, the science says it will then make you feel more confident.

Like James Bond, do your best to appear confident even if you aren’t feeling it.

Step Three: James Bond Portrays Confidence In The Details

James Bond wears nice, fitted, high-quality suits. Wrinkles and stains run away at the sound of his name. He’s always well-groomed and I imagine he smells good too (there is a 007 cologne line, anyway). These finely-tuned details make him feel and appear confident.

This doesn’t mean every man should wear a suit all the time, but it does mean you should consider the message your outfit is sending to people, including yourself. I can feel a positive difference in my confidence when I dress nicely (or shave for once, haha). Clothes and accessories don’t define you, but they are an extension of you.

Confidence is calm, yet bold, aggressive, yet controlled; it’s more complex than daring, grand gestures. Confidence is seen in a pressed shirt, a subtle smile, a powerful stance, and a martini decidedly ordered shaken, not stirred.

Bond’s famous martini preference isn’t objectively “a confident drink.” His confidence shows in his distinct preference and how he requests it precisely, and without hesitation. People who know what they want – immediately and exactly – will appear far more confident than those still deciding.

Deciding slowly is one small detail that can single-handedly ruin your goal of appearing confident. Imagine you’re out at a restaurant with a group, and the waitress asks you what you’d like to drink.


Just like that, you appear weak, indecisive, and unconfident. In fact, one meaning of the word “unconfident” is “hesitant.” Bond is drinking his martini in style while you’re still trying to decide between a Shirley Temple and a Strawberry Daiquiri. You can do better.

Deciding what you want in life is important anyway, so at least know the basics – favorite drink, favorite activities, life’s purpose, etc. Knowing information in advance and stating it on demand makes you look and feel sharp. Let’s see how Bond orders his drink; note the precision of the order and the effect it has on the other poker players in 2006’s Casino Royale.

James Bond: “Dry Martini.”
Bartender: “Oui, monsieur.”
James Bond: “Wait. Three measures of Gordon’s; one of vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice, and add a thin slice of lemon peel.”
Bartender: “Yes, sir.”
Tomelli: “You know, I’ll have one of those.”
Infante: “So will I.”
Bartender: “Certainly.”
Felix Leiter: “My friend, bring me one as well, keep the fruit.”
Le Chiffre: “That’s it? Hm? Anyone want to play poker now?”

The other players are thinking, “Wow, this guy really knows what he’s doing. That must be a great drink.” Confidence attracts followers, as you can see, and the shift in power at the table ruffled Le Chiffre’s feathers.

The confident, attractive appearance of quick decision-making is psychological. In emergency situations – which are critically important events that have existed for as long as humanity has – people want someone who can take charge and make fast, smart decisions to resolve the problem. This positive association of being capable in emergencies bonds to those who make fast and firm decisions with smaller choices. The association makes everyone feel a little bit more comfortable when the person is around.

Yes, the “bond pun” in the previous paragraph was intended. James Bond is the pun master, after all.

[After he spears a man with a harpoon…]

Bond: “I think he got the point.” (1965’s Thunderball)

James Bond appears confident down to the smallest detail, because that’s where it’s found. Confidence isn’t a boisterous display of how great you are – that’s arrogance and likely insecurity. Confident people don’t “fish” for compliments or attention, they show confidence in details like body language and decisiveness.

The next time you’re out in public, look at the body language of the people you see. If you pay close attention, you’ll pick up confidence clues about each person. Take note of posture, facial expression, stance, gait, and arm positioning.

If you want to be confident like James Bond, know what you want, dress well, and be decisive.

Step Four: James Bond Conquers Uncertainty By Trusting Himself

M: “You don’t trust anyone, do you?”
James Bond: “No.”
M: “Then you’ve learned your lesson.” (2006’s Casino Royale)

When you boil it down, confidence is expecting a positive result, while fear is anticipating a possibly negative result. For the average person, confidence is inherently challenging because many aspects of life are uncontrollable. How can one be confident in a positive outcome when there are so many unknowns?

James Bond, though, is not an average man. Bond embraces the unknown because his confidence is fully in himself, and he believes he can adjust successfully to the unpredictable events that will occur. He expects to win, and it’s his experience and resourcefulness in unplanned situations that set him apart from his enemies. Considering the nature of his job, this requires that he has ultimate trust in his judgment and abilities, which leads to the next, and perhaps most important step to increasing your confidence the James Bond way.

Maximilian Largo: “Do you lose as gracefully as you win?”
James Bond: “I don’t know, I’ve never lost.” (1983’s Never Say Never Again)

Step Five: James Bond Develops The Most Important Skills

If James Bond were a bumbling fool, he wouldn’t just be unconfident, he’d be dead! Bond has honed his skills to be the best overall agent on Earth, and it’s why he survives. He can match physicality with nearly any man, and can outwit those who can overpower him. Knowing this goes a long way toward making him confident.

Kamal Khan: “You seem to have this nasty habit of surviving.”
James Bond: “You know what they say about the fittest.” (1983’s Octopussy)

The engine that powers confidence is competence. Maybe you don’t need skills to fend off assassins like Bond does, but you do have to develop the right skills to measure up to your hopes and expectations. It is magnitudes easier to be confident in yourself when you know you have the relevant skills to back it up.

The most important skills to develop for general confidence – ones which James Bond is very adept with – are social skills. Even if you’re the most skilled person in the world in many ways, if you’re shy and awkward, you won’t come across as a confident person when communicating. To develop your social skills requires a basic level of confidence, and you can use some of these tips that were previously mentioned to get started.

James Bond’s Social Confidence Tips

1. Use confident body language before and during social situations to release the “confidence chemicals” in your brain. It really works.
2. Be decisive and know what you want ahead of time to feel and appear more confident.
3. Dress to impress. Care about the details. Go for quality over quantity.
4. Get intimate with the fear of social embarrassment – that means purposefully putting yourself in potentially embarrassing or intimidating situations until you’re familiar with them. Hey, if this were easy, all of us would be perfectly confident. And keep in mind, this step will be easier if you apply the first three tips correctly.

The interesting thing about social skills is how obtainable they are. Anyone can develop adequate (or better) social skills, which are foundational for confidence. And confidence is a core component of excellent social skills.

For all of his daring stunts and larger-than-life adventures, it may actually be his impeccable charm and endless suavity that keep us coming back to the theater to see him. Bond, that is. James Bond.

The positive effects of being confident will spill into all areas of your life – relationships, career, personal development, health, lifestyle, sports, and of course, espionage missions.

You can improve your confidence by focusing on these strategies, but be ruthless against distractions. Bruce Lee famously said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” I’m Stephen Guise from Deep Existence and I use behavioral science and psychology to help people do as Bruce Lee says and stay focused to maximize their lives. If you decide to sign up for my “Focus Tuesday” Newsletter, I’ll send you my eBook and 40 exclusive focus wallpapers for your computer, all free. If you’re interested, you can sign up here.

I can confidently say you won’t find better information elsewhere on how to stay focused, and that focusing is the best skill you can learn for personal development. And have you heard? There is a rumor going around that James Bond is a subscriber at Deep Existence.

Written on 9/4/2013 by Stephen Guise. Besides writing for his own blogs Stephen is a featured writer here at Dumb Little Man. Be sure to stop by Stephen’s ‘featured writer page‘ right here on Dumb Little Man to find links to more of his articles.

Photo Credit: Kmeron


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