Know your values — Ponder what really matters to you. Not what you think you should care about, but what you genuinely care about. Let that be your compass. Then go for it.
Keep learning — Strive to be excellent at one thing. On your way there, pick up as many relevant competencies and skills as you can.
Enjoy the ride — Stay focused on your goals, but be patient, and take the scenic route once in a while.
As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex DiTullio.
Alex DiTullio is an owner of the mobile app “Confidently,” which teaches science-backed techniques to live a confident, successful life. Also a screenwriter, Alex was driven to lift the start-up after experiencing personal anxiety around pitching scripts to managers, producers, and studios. His mission is to help people who’ve experienced similar doubts and anxieties learn to be their most confident selves, even in the face of tremendous pressure.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?
I grew up in a pretty normal household in the pretty normal town of Middleton, Wisconsin (Money Magazine’s 2007 awardee of “best place to live” *woot woot*). I wanted to be a chef or an author when I was young. A cookbook would have been a nice compromise. Instead, I followed a tighter writing path, which eventually lead me to creative copywriting. I had a chronic “wandering mind” as a kid, to the point that I was downright TERRIBLE at recalling directions and details; that said, I’m convinced it’s helped my creative thinking and strategizing later in life. To this day, I don’t think there are many problems that can’t be cracked with 30 minutes, a quiet space and a notepad. And regarding my former culinary aspirations? Don’t worry, I still make a mean apple fritter on the weekends.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The dank, grungy basement of Villas Hall at the University of Wisconsin, otherwise known as The Daily Cardinal student newspaper. The Daily Cardinal was the first independent college newspaper in America, founded in 1892. I worked there as the campus editor, and later the managing editor. The Cardinal was the first time I felt involved with something that genuinely gelled with who I am, from nerding out over grammar to debating current events. But (and I know it’s cliché) I think resonated most with me were the people I met, both in The Cardinal and the community. From student leaders to business owners to activists, I got to know the city as a colorful, multi-dimensional being. It opened my eyes to many complex emotional, social and political issues facing our society that I continue to stay involved with today.
You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?
My company, Confidently, believes there is a confidence crisis. People often feel they lack self-confidence, wish they didn’t, and have no idea how to improve. Many of us view the people around us — from movie stars to radio personalities — and think to ourselves, “Man, I wish I was born with that confidence. That swagger.” The thing is, confidence isn’t something we’re born with, and looks different on each of us, depending on who we are, who we want to be, and what we’re trying to achieve. Most importantly, there are tangible skills and reflective exercises we can develop to live more confidently in our own unique ways.
Powered by a team of high-performance psychologists, our mission at Confidently is to teach these techniques to help people live their absolute best, most successful, most confident lives. That includes learning to talk kindly to ourselves; embrace challenges, set-backs, and failure; use emotional regulation techniques to curb anxiety; and forge more meaningful relationships with the people around us.
Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?
As I pursued my MFA in Screenwriting at UCLA, I was pitching scripts to producers, studios and managers. It was the same story every time — the night before my pitches, I’d cram as much film knowledge as I could into my brain, so I’d seem “smart” during my pitch. I’d enter the room sweating, with the mindset that my entire career depended on this pitch. I lacked confidence, and somewhere along the way, lost myself in the process. I wasn’t pitching “me” or my stories; I was trying to pitch the person I thought they wanted me to be. When I started to learn various “high-performance mindset” techniques, including visualization, motivational self-talk, and even “locking in” with music, it was a breakthrough in how I envisioned confidence. I knew I wanted to help bring those strategies to the larger public.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
When we began the company, everything about it was BIG. Our aspirations, our content, our breadth; we wanted to teach everything to everyone. Then COVID hit. Millions of people were suddenly out of work. The world plunged into an era of uncertainty. And we realized, people need these strategies now! So, we scrapped the big app, and built a lighter, leaner version, which we released this past summer. I guess that’s been the story of COVID, right? Businesses needing to pivot? Ironically enough, we have an entire sequence in our app dedicated to helping founders navigate rough waters with confidence, so it’s interesting to simultaneously be the teacher and the student, so to speak.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
We’ve worked with Olympic Sprinter Georganne Moline, who used to put so much pressure on herself before races, she’d create an environment of fear. She’d get stuck in her head, visualizing the worst case scenario. It’s something many of us do: raise the stakes to the point they feel like life or death. We’ve helped Georganne realize that what happens on the track doesn’t define who she is as a human being. She’s still a good friend, and a good daughter, and is worthy of love. Now, she uses a self-talk phrase before races: “I am worthy. I am enough. I am loved.” If you listen hard enough, you’ll be able to hear her say it out loud to herself at the Summer Olympics in 2021!
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Making A Difference means contributing to a collective current of positive energy. Yes, giving millions of dollars to charity makes a difference; so does one person smiling at a stranger who needs it. Kindness is a collective action, and being good to ourselves and one another in the smallest and simplest ways is how we keep the current running strong.
Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.
- Know your values — Ponder what really matters to you. Not what you think you should care about, but what you genuinely care about. Let that be your compass. Then go for it.
- Keep learning — Strive to be excellent at one thing. On your way there, pick up as many relevant competencies and skills as you can.
- Get up early — You’d be surprised how successful you feel starting the day with a 6 a.m. run.
- Be a team player — Toxicity is the quickest way to block your own path.
- Enjoy the ride — Stay focused on your goals, but be patient, and take the scenic route once in a while.
What are the values that drive your work?
I think I’ll always want to make my parents proud, even when I’m their age, because I so respect the values they raised me with. Those include working hard, following your passions, and being an active member in bettering your community.
Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centred in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?
Listen to those emotional cues where your gut says “HEY! I’m inspired!” — whether it’s from a speaker, a movie, or an eye-opening book. Those little shivers we get when we feel inspired are our sixth sense telling us “this matters to me!” When that happens, write down how it makes you feel and why. In other words, learn from the people around you and align with the ones who inspire you.
In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!
Everyone congregates around a big dinner table, with colorful food trucks and music from of cultures across the globe. We revel in our similarities, embrace our differences, and challenge each other without hostility. As Anthony Bourdain once said, “Food may not be the answer to world peace, but it’s a start.”
We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?
Well jeez, I’d need a very large field, a lot of food trucks, and some really inspiring Influencers. So basically, Fyre festival but for world peace… and real. Let’s make this happen!
I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?
Well, in an ideal world where everyone has an equal opportunity for a great education, I’d like to see more emphasis on “values.” As it stands, education takes us through the motions of core curriculums, which I think lacks strong real-world or personalized application. I’d like to see more emphasis put on thinking, philosophy and writing. Less multiple choice, please. More essays, for better assessments of how we process and express ourselves.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Older folks say nothing is worse than looking back in regret. I can’t vouch for that yet, but I’m listening.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Rob McElhenney — creator of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” He’s outrageously funny, and based on the social themes in his show, clearly has a unique perspective on the world. Most importantly though, from interviews I’ve seen, he just seems like a genuine dude. I’d love to have coffee with him and talk about everything and nothing.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Visit getconfidently.com for product updates and information! We’ve got a lot of cool apps releasing in the new year, including a sports motivation app, and a social motivation app that lets you set challenges, invite friends, and select a funny penalty for whomever doesn’t finish. It effectively turns motivation into a game!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!