The Arena

The Arena

A recurring theme in our weekly Family Deep Dive hangouts is confidence. (Wait, you're not a part of that yet, don’t be silly—come join us!) Specifically, how can we gain confidence as a creative artist and performer? While we're tempted to sell you on a 12-step self-improvement course, we figure the direct answer is better. (No, it has nothing to do with the fact we're busy printing up a shiny new book.) So, here's what it all boils down to:

Confidence is earned. It only comes after you have tirelessly outworked your self-doubt through repeated triumphs over fear. You don’t start with confidence, you start with bravery.

We all experience fear when showing our hard-earned work to others. Intellectually, it's easy to say we know everything will be okay in the end; it's another matter to feel and accept it. This fear is good as it means you care about your work and what others think of it. 

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." Theodore Roosevelt, The Man in the Arena.

Bravery embraces fear. It's about being scared and doing it anyway. Repeated enough times, you'll learn not to fear anymore and no longer need to be brave. Slowly but surely bravery gives way to a different feeling, one more assured, more deliberate and more engaged. Bravery becomes confidence. 

Putting yourself out of your depth will teach you lessons you otherwise wouldn't have. You are the most ‘you’ when responding in these situations. Embrace being uncomfortable! Push yourself to the edge of what you can do. That's where real growth and learning happens. It's not easy, but it's one of the most real things humans can do. Ben talks about his experience on the pilot of Fool Us in Episode 15 of the M-Word and the immense value he gained in the face of walking into the unknown. 

These thoughts are best summarised in a forgotten post from Ben in The Family Forum:

There is no method, no secret, no strategy, no tactic or special skill that will make the process ‘easier’. The mere search for these things will send you further away from the answer. The answer is (and always will be): just do it, experience the pitfalls and figure it out over time. Every person who has ‘figured it out’ did it this way (and it's different for every person). Your personal experience over time is the key. Scary? Yep, sure is—but it's the only way.

Bravery is the spark, confidence is the fire. Be brave… or spend a lifetime searching for something that will never be found. 

Remain on the outside looking in, or step into the fray. Become the man (or woman) in the arena.

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