“Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son
And where have you been, my darling young one
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways…”
Key Point: Confidence is a vital emotion and mindset in business and all parts of our life. I believe that learning how to navigate our personal failures and frequent stumbles is an important skill in building that confidence. Somewhat paradoxically, if we learn how to honestly accept these imperfect moments with humility and curiosity (minus wasteful self-blame), it will help us thrive, build an authentic confidence that will further attract us to others, and help us do better work.
The following is from one of The New Yorker’s most popular blogs of 2016. It is by the famous, now 70-year-old punk rocker Patti Smith; a self-reflection on her “failed” performance at the very prestigious 2016 Nobel Prize ceremony. Smith accepted the Nobel Laureate in Literature on behalf of Bob Dylan, by singing one of his most iconic songs.
“’A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ is a song that resonates particularly strongly in—as chairman of the board of the Nobel Foundation Carl-Henrik Heldin said during the Nobel ceremony—‘times like these.’” That was the introduction to Patti Smith. Next is the excerpt from her New Yorker blog:
“And then suddenly it was time. The orchestra was arranged on the balcony overlooking the stage, where the King, the royal family, and the laureates were seated. I sat next to the conductor… Then Bob Dylan was announced as the Nobel Laureate in Literature, and I felt my heart pounding. After a moving speech dedicated to him was read, I heard my name spoken and I rose. As if in a fairy tale, I stood before the Swedish King and Queen and some of the great minds of the world, armed with a song in which every line encoded the experience and resilience of the poet who penned them. The opening chords of the song were introduced, and I heard myself singing. The first verse was passable, a bit shaky, but I was certain I would settle. But instead I was struck with a plethora of emotions, avalanching with such intensity that I was unable to negotiate them… Unaccustomed to such an overwhelming case of nerves, I was unable to continue. I hadn’t forgotten the words that were now a part of me. I was simply unable to draw them out.”
I’d encourage you to watch Smith’s performance in the attached video. This is the moment that poignantly demonstrates how stumbling eventually, although somewhat painfully, contributes to a more confident and authentic stride.
Smith goes on saying, “When I arose the next morning, it was snowing. In the breakfast room, I was greeted by many of the Nobel scientists. They showed appreciation for my very public struggle. They told me I did a good job. ‘I wish I would have done better,’ I said. ‘No, no,’ they replied, ‘none of us wish that.’ For us, your performance seemed a metaphor for our own struggles. Words of kindness continued through the day, and in the end I had to come to terms with the truer nature of my duty. Why do we commit our work? Why do we perform? It is above all for the entertainment and transformation of the people. It is all for them. The song asked for nothing. The creator of the song asked for nothing. So why should I ask for anything?”
And this is my bridge to the previous “New Years” blog on risk taking, moving forward and creating your own path. Take that stage. Sing that song.
- In 2017, perhaps the same day you read this blog, there will be a personal, imperfect stumbling. We are all very likely to have our “Patti Smith” moments, (although probably not in the same spectacular fashion). If we accept and have the ability with humility to be curious about what happened, we will develop more genuine confidence.
- The “patina” from scars, scratches, and nicks makes us more interesting and frankly even beautiful. Why rob ourselves of those moments? We need to put ourselves out there on the stage. As Smith says, it’s the true nature of our work. We all struggle. “Why should we ask for more?”
- I believe confidence is most reflected in the tree trunk, branches, leaves and all that’s above the ground. The strength and depth of the roots, however, comes from the learning, curiosity and self-understanding from our struggles, failures and imperfection. And all that’s above and below the ground needs some of that hard rain.
Lovin’ The Hard Rain in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: Patti Smith, Mariah Carey, Ronda Rousey… Just three giant names that come to mind with headline making “fails” in the days before 2017. As terrible as the backlashes may be, hopefully they can have the confidence to remember that they accomplished climbing on stages a lot taller than most of their critics’ soapboxes.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis