mai 30, 2014

Maybe I don’t have what it takes

Let’s talk about confidence, Wonder.

This morning I was lying in bed when I thought… “Why am I having such trouble writing this letter? My ideas aren’t clear, the words don’t come. I’m tired. It takes too long — and why so much effort? I must not have what it takes.”

I'm the one standing.

I’m the one standing.

Last week, I was speaking with a young designer. He started a business, founded on his talent at combining beauty and simplicity. His clients hope to keep him to themselves. He has an MBA and works from an airy loft in downtown Montreal. He’s hiring. Things are going well.

But, lowering his head, he said to me:

« I’m no good at sales. Actually I don’t have confidence in myself. I’m not sure I have what it takes. »

I hear words like this almost every day. Accompanied by the same sense of defeat. And, always, very good reasons.

Maybe that tells you something. You might have days where you feel deflated, drained of your energy, vaguely depressed without knowing quite why — and then you realize that it all started with the comment Mimi made three days ago about this person that everybody’s talking about who’s in demand everywhere, and who’s making a great success out of this “thing” that’s so close to what you’d like to do yourself if only… and if only…

You suddenly realize that your vertebrae started sinking at this moment when envy captured you. And that when envy gave way to shame — shame at not having what it takes — your chest collapsed.

Cars have air bags; we have similar bags tucked inside our chests, except they’re deflatable. One small shock in the wrong place and, poof, it deflates.

On the bag is written:

Self-acquired helplessness syndrome

Self-acquired by virtue of wanting something and thinking that’s it out of reach.

« I can’t do that, I’ll never make it. »

One step more, and the thinking becomes: “There’s something defective about me. I don’t know what the hell my problem is. I must not have what it takes.”

From here on we dare not want too hard, project too much. We shoot for a semblance of peace, a sort of contentment in which the main strategy is looking the other way… Until we see somebody on TV — and it’s all back again. Here’s someone who, in his own way, is a living example of what we would like to accomplish. What will never be.

When we were young and naive, seeing somebody like that served as an inspiration. We told ourselves, “I can do that too! Look at me, here I come!”

That was before encountering obstacles.

Behind every adult who lacks confidence, there’s a child who dreamed of being superman and one day crashed painfully. Who was eager to see his particular genius recognized, celebrated, and who never received that. Or, perhaps worse yet, who was led to believe that his talent would save him — until one day, sooner or later, he realized it would be far, far from enough.

The good news

The good news is that the problem, widespread as it is, is merely a thought. It’s just a belief.

This means it can leave as easily as it arrived. It exists nowhere but inside our own minds. And though we may have no control over when it chooses to visit us, we remain free to feed it or to neglect it.

In its place — at risk of relying on cliches, or sounding paternalistic (it’s not the case: what follows is above all a memory aid):

We want what we want. Whether we think we can get it, or not. What’s left is to distinguish between what would be nice — but that we’re not prepared to suffer or take risks to obtain — and that which constitutes a true calling and/or responds to a vision that reaches beyond us.

Obstacles don’t make the adventure impossible. They allow for it. An adventure without seemingly insurmountable obstacles isn’t really an adventure.

Everything can be learned. Even those things that “can’t be learned”. Fortunately so, because any true accomplishment rests on one’s capacity to be at least functional in all of the main areas of life. Making a difference in the world by one’s contribution, one’s art, one’s enterprise, is a bold invitation to grow far beyond what one believed possible.

And learn to make money, if that’s what’s missing. Learn to remain open in front of another human being. To reveal yourself. To offer your gift. To speak in public. Learn to say no. Learn to say yes. Learn to stay calm in the midst of chaos. To think. To follow your intuition. To start. To finish. To reign over your kingdom. To master your art. To go away from the internet. To create instead of react.

All this can be learned. Because:

« Incapable » and « lacking confidence » really mean « not enough practice ». (The father in me is speaking now. :))

In short: You don’t have what it takes? Learn it. Acquire it. Become it.

As for me, I’m finished for today. Hope it helps. It’s nice outside again, I’m going to go take a walk in the sun. I’ve got enough practice with walking to trust that, as a walker, I should have what it takes.

Your friend,


photo: bass nroll