Confidence, to wit

The Book of Life’s post On the Origins of Confidence made me think about the subject in the context of my own life. In the last few years, I have increasingly felt the importance of confidence in my professional life. It’s not so much what you know, but what you project that matters. Perception is reality, as the phrase goes. Hence the interest in the subject. But before that, a detour.

As far back as I can remember, I have been under-confident. Some of my earliest memories are of stage fright, and since I was into things like singing, elocution etc that are particularly susceptible to this, I have many memories! Despite multiple rehearsals, and prizes that I got over the years, I could never be sure that I would remember the lyrics/lines.

I preferred spending my time reading, and was very comfortable being alone. Ironically though, my friends from my last years of school as well those from my grad and post grad days remember me for my sense of humour, specifically because it could help people laugh or at least smile even in the worst of times. But if you met me, you wouldn’t figure this. This persona is archived in my mind, but at a reunion last weekend, my schoolmate, who is now the funniest guy in our Whatsapp group, told the gathering how I was his benchmark for humour. Embarrassed me much, but we were all drunk, so that was fine! 😀 More

Master Classes

The last few episodes of Masterchef Australia Season 2, especially after it came down to the final four, were quite awesome. For me, it went beyond the cooking or even the amazing camaraderie between the participants and the judges. The final two turned out to be Adam and Callum, separated in age by more than a decade.

Adam, I thought, (thou shalt not dare to bring up the fact that I know zilch about cooking) was quite a genius. Though he was a bit too arrogant in the mid-episodes to be my favourite, his range and the thinking and creativity he brought into his cooking were nothing short of phenomenal. Meanwhile Callum’s level of cooking sometimes made you forget the age (and experience) difference between the two.

But something more than that made me identify with Callum. A very smart friend recently gave me a Master Class and pointed out to me a classification of personalities – askers and guessers. I belong to the latter, I do tons of calculations and thinking before I can ask something of someone, and I still wonder if I’m being presumptuous or inconveniencing them. The worse part, I’ve noticed that the shyness is mistaken for arrogance!!

In one episode, when Callum’s dish earns special praise from an external judge, he mumbles a ‘thank you’. Matt Preston admonishes him and reminds him of what he’s supposed to say when he’s praised. Callum then asks the judge whether he can do a stage, (“Staging is when a cook or chef works briefly, for free, in another chef’s kitchen to learn and be exposed to new techniques and cuisines”), and is promptly rewarded. I wonder how much ‘asking’ has to do with confidence and passion. Callum is fortunate to have discovered a passion early in life. I’m sure that his experiences will make him more confident.

I read this excerpt from a book, which talked about “young adults in America choosing to slow down their path to adulthood”. Probably a good move. (Generalising) By the time we go through the motions of education and work, the baggage and constraints start accumulating. The passion practically disappears, and the experience possibly does more harm than good. Rediscovering all of it is no easy process.

Perhaps, if we had an ‘education system’ that could help identify what we wanted+were good at+ could earn money with, we’d have more askers than guessers. Because then, we’d know our passion, and with that knowing would come a direction to seek our experience, with that would come confidence, and then all the world would actually be a stage – to learn and to perform.

until next time, youthopia indeed

Related Read: A toast to common genius

Lost Universes

Sometime back, I got an email forward – A Violinist in the Metro, about the world famous musician Joshua Bell, who, in 45 minutes, played 6 Bach pieces, with a violin worth $3.5 million, at a metro station in Washington, and collected $32 for the effort. A couple of days back, he had sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats had averaged $100. The incident was a social experiment by Washington Post to check out whether we perceive beauty in a commonplace environment and whether we stop to appreciate it. The findings are a testament of the fast paced life we live, and the things we miss out on.

But a few other facts in this incident interested me. For one, the crowd segment that paid the most attention to the musician were children. Their parents had to forcibly tug them away. Even if we are cynical and claim that its just curiosity, and not an appreciation of music, I still wonder about our life graph, and the part where we lose our innate curiosity. And its not just curiosity, its innocence, its a lot of other things that we lose on the way.

When I meet friends from school or college, I sense they’ve changed, and so have I. Attitudes,mindsets, behaviour, all transforming themselves according to the experiences that life throws at us. And because of this, I am not able to relate to them the way I used to at an earlier point in time. A part of me that is perhaps lost forever. Even if I tried to re create it, it would be resisted by the current me.

The other portion in the incident that interested me was that after the performance, there was no applause or recognition. People just moved on, oblivious to the phenomenon they didn’t perceive. I wonder if Joshua Bell was disappointed. Perhaps, if you’re a musician of that caliber, you would have passed the stage where you needed a stamp of approval. Or is he just like me? An unconfident performer of life, who looks around apologetically if he has upset any balance. Perhaps if i could perform like a carefree child, I could get back the curiosity and the other things that I’ve lost.

This stream of consciousness reminded me of something I’d read about in the novel Space – a space shuttle’s flight. As it ascends into space, at different levels it discards different parts, parts that were useful to get it to that point, but useless after they’ve served this utility. And after completing the mission that it was sent for, it blazes a path back through the atmosphere, burning all except its core. It lands in a place far away from the place of its origin, and time has passed while all this is happening. In a strange way, it reminded me of the way lives are lived – at massive speeds, too fast to notice the beauty of the vast expanses of space around, to achieve something which is relevant only in a very small context, burning up with the hope that all that is being done is worthwhile, and perhaps in a lost, melancholic way, deciding that since anyway the life is to be lived, might as well live it with a mission, however inadequate it seems.

until next time, touchdown