The Work of Confidence

People are rewarded in public for what they practice for years in private.
– Tony Robbins

In an interview, Jake Gyllenhall once described his acting preparation as accessing a parallel world through grinding determination and hard work. For example, to prepare for the movie Southpaw, he spent five months at boxing clubs, talking to boxers, watching boxing matches, training with boxers. Not so he could understand them, but so he could become them.

He described these parallel lives as simply different rivers of energy, and that if we give enough time and enough focus and enough belief in those worlds, we can slowly abandon our usual lives, and adopt an entirely new consciousness. In his words we can access “an entirely different molecular structure”. But it takes work and determination to leave the comfort of our habits.

Not all of us are willing to abandon our comfortable habits and pick up activities so far removed from our understanding. But remarkable things can happen when we try. And who knows about accessing parallel rivers of consciousness. But I do know this: Nothing builds confidence quite as quickly and powerfully as building competence. Competence begets confidence.

As the legend goes, in 1937, on stage at the Cutting Room in NYC, the drummer Jo Jones threw a cymbal at Charlie Parker’s feet. The gesture was clear. It means “You don’t have what it takes. Get out of here.” Humiliated, Parker worked even harder at the instrument and famously secluded himself that summer at a resort in the Ozark Mountains to work on his playing. He emerged from that self-imposed seclusion to introduce an entirely new and rarified version of jazz known as be-bop.

The interesting thing about the story is that it wasn’t Charlie Parker’s first impulse. A couple years earlier the same incident had happened to him on stage at the Cutting Room. He was asked to leave the stage because he didn’t have the chops. When it happened the first time Parker felt not only humiliated, but also incompetent. He threw his horn in a closet and refused to play for a month.

When it happened the second time, he rose to the challenge. Known in jazz circles as “going to the woodshed” or “woodshedding,” the term means secluding oneself to develop virtuosity through practice and hard work. It’s the path to innovation, and it’s the path to confidence.


Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 2.45.37 PMShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful elearning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Bibliomotion) will be out in October but you can pre-order a copy now.

Twitter: @gshunter
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