One of my readers asked:
“Thanks for [your most recent post]. I aways love it.
I’m currently fascinated by the idea of confidence. I deal with a lot of musicians and singers and confidence is such a massive key to success, happiness and outcomes. I have a working theory which is - often those who do well are people that have TALENT - that leads to CONFIDENCE - that leads to BIG IDEAS - that leads to BIG RISK - that leads to BIG OUTCOMES. Assuming talent is there for a moment, some people still have all the talent but not the confidence and therefore everything after is smaller. But do you have any thoughts on confidence and how to create more of it for yourself and other people?xx” - Lou
First of all, thanks Lou for the question. My thoughts on talent -
It’s quite simple really:
Talent = Love (or a bit more than mild interest).
Developing talent requires you to do something often enough so that a skill develops. You have to love something in order to keep doing it over and over and over and over and over....! Everyone has the ability to develop talent but they often misinterpret talent as a fantastical whim. I’d like to pilot a helicopter, but I can’t just download the ability into my brain like in the film the Matrix (wouldn’t that be cool though?)! I also don’t love mathematics, engineering, aeronautics, heights, loud noises or even actual helicopters enough to start developing my inert piloting talent!
So everyone can develop one or even many talents if they love them enough. In fact, this is what I believe life is all about.
I also think that study doesn’t always have to be practical. I don’t play my musical instruments all the time but I often think about music. It’s in my head all the time. It drives my wife crazy! Was I born with this talent? Probably not. Is my brain hard wired to work this way? Yes, but only because I have reinforced my neurological pathways to make this thinking more efficient. If I fell out of love with Music then I could slowly rebuild my brain to replace my passion with something else. There could be a genetic argument for my skill but this is usually reserved for more physical activities - Sports etc. It’s also not 100% necessary to have the right genes for the right passion, it just helps.
Now to my thoughts on confidence. I am also in a quandary about this topic, as I had my naive approach to confidence completely shattered and I've had to start again.
Here are my opinions about the categories of confident people. Hopefully you will see the pro's and con's of each type and select a balance between several.
One of the easiest ways to gain confidence is through repetition and exposure. The practiced musician is highly trained and has an assured approach due to thousands of hours of training. The military precision and meticulous detail of planning leads to lack of anxiety. Problems tend to occur when tasks and situations lead to the need for improvisation. Whilst it is easy to practice techniques, practicing flexibility is far more difficult.
Ignorance is bliss. It’s easy to envy people who have a blatant disregard for categorising their abilities or comparing themselves with others. These people are unaware of their skills (or lack of them) and joyfully play music day to day without a care in the world. Children are the best examples of this trait, as they tend not to burden themselves with the stress of expectations or mental assumptions; these thought barriers usually come later (by the bucket load).
The need to be centre of attention can get you a long way. It’s frustrating to me that in order to be “successful”, you often have to promote ego driven thought processes. Many artists take this route and it can often lead to huge rewards but it can also be a dangerous path. Not everyone’s looks last forever, fashions change, “what comes up must come down” and putting ego first can lead to health problems and social rejection.
Having faith in an external source. For me, this is a philosophical conundrum as we are unable to describe the single entity. Most people call it God and that’s fine. If you can trust that this power will see you through, then it can give you a miraculous amount of confidence. What I wouldn’t recommend is putting faith in a tour manager, a lover, a parent or any other unscrupulous person!
Coping with adversity can give you a huge amount of confidence. Many artists have faced up to demons and survived. Having an inner strength to keep going and coping day to day may seem like a flimsy foundation but over time you can build yourself up to be a thick skinned badass. Sometimes the defensive confidence gets a bit too strong though and it’s easy to become isolated and avoid trusting people.
Perfectionism comes at a prise. For those people who gain confidence from their passion for the arts, it can be a successful but incredibly frustrating journey. Purists often battle with procrastination and avoid situations until exactly the “right moment”. However, their belief in the art becomes their soul purpose and it can be a powerful driving force.