Tag Archives: backup plan

Two Kinds of Confidence

Five bucks is not much. But it’s apparently just enough.

One of the music services I use, TAXI, works sort of like a “want ads” listing the various types of music currently needed for TV and film projects. It charges a nominal annual membership fee (about the same as a Sunday subscription to the NY Times) and $5 each time you submit a piece of music in response to one of those “want ads.” In exchange, they create and maintain the industry connections and secure the opportunities, and much of the time they also critique the music you’ve submitted with respect to the target use.

When I quit
my primary job,
I cut my reliable
income by 7/8.
Yeah, ouch.

When I was earning more money than we needed to get by, I banged out those $5 submissions like nobody’s business. (In calendar 2010, because I was trying to get established with a specific client, I submitted more than 70 times.) The $5 seemed negligible, and I was targeting my music carefully. I wasn’t squandering money or effort.

But when I quit my primary job, I cut my reliable income by 7/8. Yeah, ouch. Still, though… $5? Big deal.

Then something weird happened. The first time I went to submit something after quitting my day job, I was filled with more insecurity and self-doubt than I’ve experienced in ages. Am I going to come up with anything? What if it sucks?  What if I write a part that I can’t play well enough? What if I can’t get the mix right? Whatifwhatifwhatif?

I’d always been a little nervous before. But this was a crazy new level of horror. Was it actually about the $5 on the line?

I thought about it for some time… and then it dawned on me: there are two kinds of confidence, and I’m transitioning from one to the other.

I’ll be blunt: the first kind of confidence is cheap and sorry, now that I see it for what it is. In retrospect, it’s so obvious: When the stakes are low or nil, that can feel like confidence. But it’s not.

The first kind
of confidence is
cheap — made for
shuffleboard
matches, not
your career.

When I was earning a lot more, the $5 was nothing to me — but more to the point, I had my day job to go back to if my piece was rejected. I had a safety net. That felt like confidence, and I’d been relying on it for years without acknowledging it. But now I know differently: that’s crap confidence, made for cruise-ship shuffleboard matches, not my career.

What’s real confidence? That’s what I’m building every minute that I spend in my studio, every time I re-record the less-than-inspired guitar passage; rework the melody til it really, truly sings; tweak and learn and research and try again until that muddy section of the mix sparkles; and generally refuse to settle for less than my best, every time.

This distinction is a good, good thing! Everything I learn adds to my confidence, kind of like Pee Wee’s ginormous foil ball. And guess what? This new, growing confidence is in my ability, not my safety net. Life shouldn’t be about the backup plan.

Day by day, every new little scrap of confidence I’ve fought for will make it easier to walk back into the studio and know that I will come up with something good.

How about you? Is there a part of your life in which you’re mistaking low stakes for confidence?

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