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The Golden Rule of Confidence

In his great book “The Confidence Gap,” author Russ Harris describes his golden rule of confidence as follows:

“The actions of confidence come first; the feelings of confidence come later.”

It reminded me of another quote I love: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working,” by Pablo Picasso.

The idea is that confidence and creativity are actions that we can take every day if we choose to, instead of states of mind that we need to wait for. Yet it’s so easy to feel less than confident in today’s onslaught of information, technology, and experts claiming to know what you need to buy next.

This can lead to the endless pursuit of the best method, the ideal workflow, the optimal routine, the best gear, or the best technique for instant results. Yet if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past 30+ years as a creative artist is that there are no such things.

What you must focus on is yourself; a unique individual with strengths and flaws, and a particular way of thinking, learning, and seeing.

You must adopt a tool or technique to your circumstances or goals, because no two people are alike. And while you can start with general principles, you must internalize them in a way that is both beneficial and healthy.

For this to happen, you need to focus on what provides true value: practicing confidence . The opposite of that is looking for the next method or technique that promises to shortcut the hard work of becoming more confident.

For me, that means avoiding the superficial knowledge that is abundant online, and instead going deep into specific areas of study. It also means dedicating large chunks of time to practice the principles and methods that will add to my creative skill set.

Some of my favorite sources include trusted mentors, books, and practical experience.

This is hard work. But the long term benefits are numerous and healthy. Let me list a few:

These only come with time and effort. Not only have I experienced growth in each of these areas, I remain extremely excited about future possibilities. I also realize how much more I have to learn, and that makes every day new and exciting.

However, it’s the generosity that’s the game changer for me, because by sharing I know others can achieve similar or greater results.

Inspiring someone else to pursue their own creative path with confidence makes the effort worthwhile, more so than any benefit I might experience. I know that simply from observing my own feelings. For me there’s no greater sense of satisfaction than seeing someone eyes light up with the energy of creative possibility. Whether my own kids, a student on a workshop, or someone I just met.

In sharing what I’ve learned and continue to learn about creativity, I hope that you too can see how important it is to practice confidently. The key is to focus on small gains everyday and forget about the end result.

If you get one percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Ponder that for a while…

Being prepared is an illusion. We become prepared by gaining the necessary skills and experience in the thing we want to excel at or achieve. Waiting for the opportune time is akin to waiting for the absolute perfect sunrise from your living room window. By the time it arrives it’s too late, and you’ve gained nothing in terms of dealing with the inevitable obstacles and challenges that every outing in nature presents.

How are you going to practice confidence today?

PS – In my next article I’ll share some actionable tips you can use right away to improve your creativity.

This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. This is fantastic & thank you so much, Robert. Your photography work, teaching philosophies & vision for & toward our craft is such a refreshing change from the current formulaic approach to landscape photography. Your work, thinking & actions are truly yours & authentic in ways I haven’t really found in trying to learn about photography in our current, internet age. Other educators easily found online have a path to success laid out & if you just follow these steps, you too can be a landscape photographer. But you point us toward the tools for us to follow our own path & inform us of the struggles we may encounter. Your knowledge of “the hero’s journey” is welcomed, appreciated & respected. Keep,up the great work!

    1. Thanks Kristopher for your very kind and generous words—I will continue to share whatever I can to help your creative aspirations…thanks for the support!

  2. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom very much appreciated! Also can I thank you for all your information you have shared on printing and paper choices. Coming from a wet darkroom background your teaching has allowed me to start printing my work, understanding the creative and technical decisions and all in a way that does justice to the initial ‘Vision’. As I said, thank you!

  3. Once again, Robert… Wisdom that I needed this very day. Especially the fallacy of looking for the next gear or next technique! I hope to join one of your workshops again, it was the most exciting, refreshing and enlightening of all my years of gaining knowledge.

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