Lessons on Confidence from Dancers and POWs

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Amy Yakima & Travis Wall - choreographed by Travis Wall

So another thing about confidence: it won’t make your life easier.

In fact, it’ll probably make things a whole lot harder. Not that this is a bad thing. There’s a difference between easy and ease. Easy is skipping your workout, eating the stale doughnut, wearing sweatpants. Letting people walk over you at work. Lying instead of telling the hard truth. “Easy” sells out what could be a grand adventure for “meh, I don’t feel like it.”

Ease is something else entirely. It’s deceptive. Ease looks “easy,” but it’s built on time, energy, and devotion. It’s fluid, and powerful, and enchanting, and it doesn’t come cheap. It’s the strength that comes with working out every week. It’s the delectable care of making homemade doughnuts with your kids. It’s the self-respect to say “no” to the commitment you can’t keep.

This is “easy”:

Dansje doen @ Awakefest 2013 (Benny Hill) ORIGINAL

This is “ease”:

Amy and Travis Contemporary "Wicked Game" So You Think You Can Dance Season 10

What’s easy and comfortable now, today, this moment, is quite different from what builds you up into someone who finds ease in the flow of your life. You can’t build muscles without resistance. You can’t build bone mass without impact. You can’t build confidence without stretching yourself out of your comfort zone.

So if we want to be confident and powerful, we have to accept this idea: there’s hard work ahead.

In Jim Collins’ modern classic Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t, Collins talks about what he terms “the Stockdale paradox,” named after American military officer Jim Stockdale, who was held for eight years as a POW in Vietnam.

I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.

So far, simple enough; sounds like any number of positive-thinking mantras, right? But Stockdale observed a critical difference between his unshakable faith and “easy” optimism:

[The optimists] were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.

Let that sink in. Stockdale never despaired — and ultimately survived and thrived — precisely because he recognized how difficult the road would be. Hence the “paradox”:

You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

And this is our starting point: Looking. Calling a spade a spade. Because you can’t win at poker if you keep pretending that eights are Aces.

The Magic of Confidence

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The Magic of ConfidenceOur upcoming Chicks Who Kick Ass workshop will not give you confidence.

Confidence is not a commodity. Unlike food, clothing, shoes, makeup, yoga mats, Spanx — it can’t be bought or sold. We can sell you a space in the workshop, but we can’t sell you confidence. You know that, intellectually, but there’s a part of all of us that wants to believe that the right skirt, the right boot, the right mascara, the right workshop will be the magic spell. Will put us at ease in our own skin. Will soothe the constant chatter that tells us we’re not worthy.

The fact is, there are magic spells for confidence. But if you know your fantasy stories, you know something very important: magic never comes free. It requires knowledge, awareness, skill, and sacrifice. Not the sacrifice of a long-suffering martyr, but the sacrifice of a craftsman: the alchemist transforming lead into gold. The artist transforming pain into beauty. The warrior transforming fear into courageous action.

If you want confidence, you too will have to sacrifice. You’ll have to sacrifice skewed ideas about yourself and the world. You’ll have to sacrifice comforts that lull you into complacence. You’ll have to sacrifice your pain: touch it, handle it, allow it to soften and reshape into clarity and understanding. You’ll have to sacrifice your fear: find it, acknowledge it, allow it to drive you forward instead of holding you back.

We can’t give you confidence, but we’ll do what we can. We’ll give you tools, and information, and resources. The rest, as you already know, is up to you. And we need you to do the rest. We need you to do the hard work of claiming your power. It’s the only thing that will save us.

The world needs your magic.

The Fool of Infinite Possibilities

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The Fool - Paulina CassidyToday’s the day Americans nod to the Trickster gods, and Fools of every kind.

Most of us feel like fools, yes? Will someone pull one over on me? Will I get sucked in and be the fool?

In the Tarot deck, the Fool is “the card of infinite possibilities.”

The bag on the staff indicates that he has all he needs to do or be anything he wants, he has only to stop and unpack. He is on his way to a brand new beginning.

But the card carries a little bark of warning as well. While it’s wonderful to be enthralled with all around you, excited by all life has to offer, you still need to watch your step, lest you fall and end up looking the fool.

– Aeclectic Tarot

We all have infinite possibilities and we carry them with us. Like the fool, all we have to do is unpack them. So why don’t we? What are we afraid of? Failure? Success?

We spend so much time scurrying around looking for what’s missing, we easily forget that we really do have what we need. Like the characters in the Wizard of Oz, we’ve had it all along.

The Fool appears carefree. Is he not bright enough to know the dangers? Or is he smart enough to not let them worry him? So what if he looks foolish; he doesn’t care.

On the one hand: embracing the openness of beginner’s mind is so important. It allows us to continue to see the possibilities of the world around us and rejoice in those possibilities.

On the other: we can’t wander around bumping into walls. We’ve got to evolve past ignorance and sheer stupidity so we don’t fall off a cliff.

What kind of Fool are you?

(Image of “The Fool” is from Paulina Cassidy‘s Paulina Tarot deck.)

New Workshop: Chicks Who Kick Ass

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Chicks Who Kick Ass

We’ve finally chosen a date for the first Chicks Who Kick Ass workshop: Saturday, May 3.

As with all our materials, we’ll be fusing acting techniques, current neuroscience research, mystical traditions, and a smattering of other disciplines to help you connect with your inner kick-ass self.

Chicks Who Kick Ass: The Women’s Confidence Course

  • Saturday, May 3 (10am – 4pm)
  • $99 Advance Registration / $109 Same Day (if space allows)
  • Light lunch provided

Wear comfortable clothes; prepare to move around and get friendly with your classmates.

Register Online