Of the many things that strikes me about Lorde, the most impressive is how creative and expressive she is. For a 16-year-old, she sings and writes with a conviction that makes me feel rather bland.
One of the biggest determinants of success, in any endeavour, is an unwavering belief and confidence in what you’re doing. As a good mentor once said to me (when I was having a particularly flat day): how can you expect other people to believe in you when you don’t even belief in yourself?
The reality was that I probably didn’t believe in myself, and confidence is not something that comes naturally to me. I grew up with parents who believed in keeping your head down and working hard. Standing out by thinking differently was not something that was encouraged (although they didn’t necessarily discourage it), and I suspect that a Chinese upbringing entrenches a different kind of “tall poppy syndrome”, one that shoots down being different.
If my aspirations were only limited to certain pursuits, this philosophy probably would have worked out rather well. Unfortunately, I was a teenager who, after 10 years of classical training, wanted to play jazz. The thought of having to improvise and come up with something of my own, something that didn’t exist until I had thought to play it, was terrifying. I was a thinker, a planner; spontaneity was something I actively avoided. It took me a long time to start becoming comfortable with the idea of self-expression, which seemed (much to my envy) to come so naturally to so many others.
My brain was hard-wired with a view of the world where everything could be categorised as “right” and “wrong”, and my inner censure was fierce and unforgiving. Being different meant being vulnerable, and being vulnerable was something very, very far away from my comfort zone. Writing (honestly and about personal experiences) is also something that pushes me beyond what feels comfortable, and my inner-perfectionist hurts whenever I click the “Publish” button – something that I resolved to do within an hour of starting every new blog post.
Having confidence in creative endeavours is different to, but closely related to another kind of confidence, which is the one that I associate with our professional aspirations. I’ve been following the US Open recently, and one of the most addictive parts of tennis is the way the confidence of a player can completely dictate the momentum of the game. Tennis is, at it’s highest levels, a mental game, and it is those that are mentally tough (and who dare to take risks) who dominate.
[Although I’m still a Federer fan, you have to respect how incredibly kick-ass Djokovic is to save two match points in that fashion (and to later also win the match!)]
The last few weeks have been a bit of a struggle regaining momentum and getting myself back on track with the dreams and aspirations that I once pursued. There have been many personal hurdles that have made me doubt whether those dreams and aspirations are still worth pursuing.
Why risk a hard landing when you can choose to never take your feet off the ground?
Unfortunately for me, I was born with a rather stubborn and risk-seeking heart that is constantly at odds with my risk-averse mind. Will I ever build the mental resilience that is necessary to buffer the inevitable blows and falls? Who knows. But the fire still burns, and I will continue to marvel at the courage of others in the meantime.