When I was starting out as a photographer, I would always look up to the leaders of our field – not just for their mad technical mastery and fine artistic eye. Many of them are also educators, giving frequent talks and seminars, helping others to gain invaluable insights into their work and process. I thought then, what gave them the confidence to speak to hundreds, sometimes even thousands? Over the years, after having enjoyed speaking at many seminars, I’ve come to the same realization that stand-up comedian Chris Hardwick – also actor, writer, musician, podcaster and founder of The Nerdist blog. To have confidence, you have to do what you love – and sharing insights into something I love – photography – comes easily to me. Don’t forget to check out Chris’ other sharp-witted articles.
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Post by Chris Hardwick
I’ve been traveling an ungodly amount lately and when I’m unable to affix myself to the Webs I just drift off into random thought. Sometimes I think about things I have to do, other times I’ll re-live frustrating situations and get re-pissed about them and still other times I create fractious, hypothetical situations out of thin air wherein I mentally argue with made up people in public settings. Recently, however, I somehow fell into a constructive thought-river and started contemplating the concept of confidence. What is it REALLY? How do people get it? Why do some people crumble so easily while others persevere and succeed? Nothing original there, but I had an uncanny feeling that maybe there was more to it than what’s on the surface.
Then, while desperately trying to find a cab in another city, it hit me. Confidence in any scenario isn’t about trying to convince yourself, “Hey! I’m awesome-squared!” It’s about feeling like you have options. Whenever you have at least one other option in life, you feel relaxed, safe and cool because if the one thing doesn’t work out, you’re not going to die. Literally. It’s all that limbic system/survival mechanism shit. The brain is more like an onion than an apple. In other words, layers and layers of higher evolution still clamp down onto a primitive brain stem and the core of everything we do gets processed the way a lizard would.
Using the taxi example, if there were tons of them readily available I would take my time and casually grab whichever one happen to suit me. With only one or even an absence of them altogether, I feel desperate and needy. That one damned cab suddenly becomes very important because I believe it to be my only option for moving toward what I want. Next comes the “what if” game: What if I can’t find another one? What if I can’t get to where I’m going? The “what if” game is largely pointless and stems from panic & irrational fear, i.e., Lizard T. Brainworth. How many “what if” worst-case scenarios actually come true? My guess is almost none of them.
“Well how do I get options if they don’t seem apparent?” might be your next question if you bothered to read this far. It’s simple: Strive for excellence in something you love. When you commit yourself to a higher principle of excellence, that will always be at least one other option for you to fall back on. When you’re learning how to do something you enjoy and ultimately doing it well, that becomes mental currency that you can use as armor for a variety of seemingly unrelated situations, and therein lies the cool mind sorcery of it all: the options you create DO NOT have to relate to the situations in which you want to be confident. You don’t have to be an ace with the ladies to pick up more ladies—you can excel at something entirely different and still get the action you so richly deserve. The key is for you to feel safe and comfortable.
For me, when I have a run of particularly good stand-up shows I feel like I have that as a cushion no matter how else I get rejected anywhere else. The mere option of being able to do comedy fuels my confidence in virtually every other aspect of my life whether it be in professional or social situations.
Why is this important? Because the more confidence you are able to cram into your heart, the more you attract good stuff in life. It’s kind of a cold economy of Nature to reward those who don’t seem to need it. I think it stems from the idea that if an organism is strong, it’s worthy of passing on its genes. If said organism is desperate and needy, it must be flawed and its spreading must be limited.
So find a thing! Learn it, like it, live it. Give yourself the gift of options. Then bask in the warming cascade of feeling comfortable in your own skin and the good things that await you! Exclamation points!!!!