The power of belief — and how it differs from arrogance

Hosted by Neil Amato

"If anybody wants to accomplish anything, at some point, they have to believe it's possible." Those are the words of this episode's guest, mental performance coach Chris Palmer. He discusses why belief is important, how it can be confused at times with arrogance, and why growing a sense of belief in ourselves can be done.

Also, get an update on several IRS-related issues, including an update to Schedule K-2 and Schedule K-3 FAQs and news of a Government Accountability Office report on the 2021 tax filing season.

What you'll learn from this episode:

  • Why belief can be so important in our lives.
  • How arrogance is different from belief.
  • Why Palmer says the malleability of our brains is important.
  • What he means when talking about "creating new pathways."
  • More detail on his statement, "Growth mindset is the truth."
  • Several examples of how creating a sense of belief made a difference.

Play the episode below or read the edited transcript:

— To comment on this episode or to suggest an idea for another episode, contact Neil Amato at


Neil Amato: Hi, this is Neil Amato. Welcome back to the Journal of Accountancy podcast. This episode's main conversation is with a mental performance coach on the power of belief, the difference between belief and arrogance, and how we can better deal with self-doubt. Plus, get a summary of recent JofA news coverage on several topics. That's coming up after this brief sponsor message.

Amato: Joining the podcast for this segment is mental performance coach Chris Palmer. His niche is the sport of hockey, but he's got lessons that apply to our lives, work life, personal life — whether we know how to skate on the ice or not. Chris, I first want to focus on a single word that you emphasize, I believe, with your clients — belief. What to you makes belief so important?

Chris Palmer: I think it's the center of anything. If anybody wants to accomplish anything, at some point, they have to believe it's possible. I don't know how many times I've seen people being forced into things. You'll have people trying to please others. Whether you're pleasing your boss, or pleasing your coach, or pleasing your parents, whatever it is, you can do things, but you're never fully in unless you believe. Because the problem is at some point, if there's this what I call chatter in your head, this is going to keep spinning, this self-doubt.

In the end, if you find somebody who genuinely believes something is possible, then everything changes. At any moment, they can put an effort in because they know there's the possibility of an outcome of what they want.

I do these trainings with people all the time of NHL athletes. I'll put them in these unbelievable, physical, demanding types of workouts, and in these workouts, I'll put them in a position where they're going to fail. Then after that, I have them come back after I talked to them for a little bit and tell them that this other thing is possible. In every case, they'll do more.

So I've I had people do something that's really painful for three minutes, and then they come back, and they do it for an hour. It's incredible.

Amato: What to you is the difference between belief and arrogance? I've certainly seen people exhibit both of those things.

Palmer: I think it's easy to misinterpret really confident belief as arrogance, but it's also possible to misinterpret arrogance for genuine belief because I think a lot of times arrogance is this thing people put on to make up for the fact that, at their core, they don't believe.

Whether it's cockiness or walking around like you feel like you're better than other people, you can feel it, you can see it a mile away, but I think ultimately the truth is that belief is this real level thing, this human thing, where you've determined somewhere in your brain that you've decided this is something that's actually possible.

I believe this can be done, whereas arrogance tends to either be such a more self-oriented overinflation of that, that it just repels other people. It's a cancer to a team, it's a cancer to a workplace, and it's almost always based in insecurity. So belief is the real thing. Whenever you can get to that, everything changes.

Amato: How can professionals, whether in accounting or other fields, apply some of these concepts around belief?

Palmer: There's this thing I talk about with hockey players all the time, that you can't take the person out of the hockey player. It is true because I spend the majority of my time talking about very human things with people. I'd say that they're very similar. I think in the workplace, the same lessons are true.

You ultimately have to find some way for each human being to deal with all their doubts, insecurities, the things they are confident about, the things they believe in, the things they wish would happen, their preferences, their ability to deal with reality or not deal with reality.

All these things together, they've got to find some way to make those things intersect in some harmonious way with their co-workers, just like the teammates on these teams. Over and over again, this is where people butt heads because every belief we have, everything we think should be a certain way, this sets us up for disappointment and conflict.

The workplace is really no different than the ice. Everyone has to find a way to work out with everybody and find some way to find the common ground so that there can be enough peace, but also enough interaction that we all grow in a direction. It's hard to get everybody on that same spot.

Amato: Is this concept of helping people build their belief or mental performance training something that organizations should be investigating more for their employees? Or do you think it's more of something that's up to an individual to work on?

Palmer: I think it's both. I think there are some things that you just wouldn't say in a workplace. Unfortunately, the workplace is built, very often, around fear. It's a structure, it's a power structure. And you know that sometimes when you say things, you can have your hand bitten.

A really good CEO wound up telling me something really valuable years ago. And that's that, in the beginning when you're in an organization, they don't necessarily want your ideas. There certainly are some that would, but mostly, they have their own ideas.

Those who execute well earn the right to be heard. As painful as that was to hear back in my early days when I was a little more idealistic and a little less realistic, it was a great lesson. I think that, as organizations grow in their ability to really want feedback, like, you'll hear Elon Musk talk about the idea that there's zero tolerance for treating people with disrespect. They want to have ideas. They want to have things changed. If there's even a hint of that, a person is just gone.

I think that, yes, absolutely, I think this working on belief, working on mental performance, finding a way to really decide inside of you, what are you capable of, what are your gifts, what are your talents, how do they work harmoniously with other people? Those are gigantic things for corporations, but I think it really has to become a value of the corporation before it can ever be implemented.

Amato: Do you have examples, either for you personally or someone close to you, where you have seen belief make all the difference?

Palmer: Absolutely. I can tell you, personally, probably the most compelling story from my own life is, the first 13 years of my life, I thought I was virtually worthless. I could elaborate, but you get the point. Imagine going through life feeling like for whatever reason, you don't have any real value because of the experiences you've had and how you've interpreted those.

I met a great coach when I was 13 years old in high school. I started a year early in high school. He told me I could be something because I already was something, and one day by one day, one mile after one mile, he showed me that that was true.

If you invest yourself into something, if you truly try every single day, that you can see improvements. And not only see improvements, but see great things. He didn't lie. We were state champions three of the four years, runner-up the other year.

Eventually, it ran into being a scholarship situation to college and even wound up getting a really cool job at Nike. There's more things than that. But in the end, I could've been a guy who just fell off the planet. But one person showing me a way to believe in myself, and not lying, and not fluffing me up with platitudes, but really telling me that, "Hey, put in this work, good things happen." I think belief is everything.

I can give you countless examples. I'll give you one more quick one. I've got an NHL guy who was ready to quit last summer. He's got a great job, right? Everybody would think, "You're in the NHL. It's the best thing ever." But for him, it was nothing but emptiness because he had never decided what he believed about life.

I remember asking him what he really wanted, and he said, "I don't know" because he didn't know what he believed. For him, over the last several months, he had a chance to talk with me extensively. We probably spent a hundred hours talking together and texting and calling.

He got to decide what he really wanted for his life. He figured out what he believed and that included belief in himself. Now, he's got three teams jumping on him. He's trying to decide which one he's going to go to instead of what do I want to do? It's an awesome position, and it really is all based, again, in that almost miraculous word belief.

Amato: Is belief in yourself something that you can learn later in life?

Palmer: Absolutely. See, the great thing about our minds is that they're so malleable. I mean, there's proof in so much scientific research that we create new pathways all the time — anytime we introduce new thoughts, new ideas, new ways to look at things.

Whether you're a hockey player on the ice trying to get a better contract or do something better so that you're more resilient, or whether you're someone in corporate America trying to figure things out, over and over again, what we decide to think about creates new pathways all the time.

If we start to think about what's possible, if we start to think about believing truly that something is possible, whether it's expanding a corporation, expanding your reach within your team, finding a way to deal with disappointment, becoming more efficient, finding a way to get better work/life balance, whatever those things are, anything we bring up to our brains, it finds a way to build these pathways.

The more we work on those, the stronger it gets. It's like any other kind of training. So it's exciting to see that, it's not something there you're just set. In fact, you'll hear a lot about growth mindset versus fixed mindset. The growth mindset is the truth. That's where all the good stuff is.

It's really believing that your brain has the ability to grow, that your life has the ability to flourish, corporately, sport-wise, it doesn't matter. It's incredible because failure becomes such a nauseating part of that. It's such a limiter. We learn our whole lives that failure is this awful thing.

Yet the world teaches us, in reality, if we really look at it that, yes, you might get some negativity from people about failure. You may get yelled at, you may be written up because of a failure, but these failures are always an opportunity to grow to this next level.

There's an example. Just look at Elon Musk. We've got Musk who failed — three rockets blew up and virtually his entire wealth gone. And his belief about trying to learn from these failures, and move forward, and make changes, and stand by the ideas and grow, have that growth mindset — look what he did with that failure. His fourth rocket was an amazing success. The idea that somehow rockets could be reusable, and the main part of the rocket lands by itself somewhere safely to be reused is really an incredible innovation, along with all the other things he's done.

But I'd argue that whether it was Musk, or a hockey player, or someone in your firms, we all have an opportunity every day to change how we think, and change our belief, and grow our belief.

We do it sometimes by scraping our knees over and over again, by feeling the awful, nauseating pain of screwing up somewhere, and then figuring out some idea, some innovation, some thing that we can use to move forward so that we have something that's not only avoiding that failure, it's actually helping us grow in some new way, and often an innovative way, that could change an industry and change the lives of millions of people.

It's incredible. You never know where these things will come out, but it's something you can develop your whole life. It's one of those exciting subjects for me to talk about.

Amato: Chris, anything you'd like to add as a closing thought?

Palmer: I guess just that my big drive for all of this is all I've ever cared about because I'm this guy who started out my life thinking I was nothing and realizing that it was all about what I think. It's all about what I choose. I just want people to know that wherever they're at, it's a choice.

It may not feel like that, but we have choices every single day to stay, to go, to resign, to dig in harder. Whatever we're going to do, we have these choices over and over again.

Once we realize we have these choices, once we realize that failure is part of getting everything we want, once we realize that belief is the center of everything and that everybody has a hard time with all of this, and developing some kind of empathy toward others, and realizing that we're all in this same mix of dealing with what we've learned growing up, and trying to find a way to get along, once you have that mindset, that mental viewpoint of everything, you have a chance to see life as it is, then you can grow.

Then you can really make something of it. I never felt more alive than when I coach. It's always because it's unlocking these doors that we all have because when we're growing up, as we develop even well through college, we all had these things placed on us that make us think that belief isn't really something to be talked about very often, that failure is horrific, and that perfection is the only thing acceptable.

All of that is incorrect. We've got a lot of power. I think if I want to leave you with anything, it's the idea that it doesn't matter how bad things are, we've got a choice every single day. That makes me incredibly driven and happy to do the things I do.

Amato: Again, that was Chris Palmer with Piranha Training. Thanks to Chris for his time. I mentioned in the introduction we'd highlight the topics that matter for our accounting and finance audience. This week, it's mainly tax news, and the Journal of Accountancy's Paul Bonner is covering it on multiple fronts.

First, the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, has a new report about the Internal Revenue Service and its inefficiencies, a well-documented topic to be sure, but the info this week is that the GAO report said the 2021 tax filing season featured unprecedented IRS administrative challenges.

While COVID-19 was a contributing factor, the GAO report said such issues will persist if changes aren't made, and the GAO made recommendations, which you can read about in the article on

Also, the IRS has new FAQs, or frequently asked questions, for Schedules K-2 and K-3. We have the news of those FAQs, along with other tax-related coverage. We will link to the articles mentioned in the show notes for this episode, or you can visit for the latest tax and other news.

Thanks for listening to the JofA podcast.