The Power of Starting Small
Confidence is like the snowball that you decided to pound up into a respectable size, and then some more. But even then it wasn’t enough, so you grabbed more snow and cupped it on the sides, smoothing out the lumpy parts to make sure that it stays round with the added bits. It grows slowly but surely. Finally, it reaches a more-than-respectable size, and you step back, eying it with pride. You decide that it’s time to set it off on a Journey that it was destined for. You roll it up to a ledge of sorts, where the descent is steep and the path is quite clear, devoid of trees. It’s time for goodbyes and last words. You tip your Creation off the edge with the toe of your shoe, gently enough to set it rolling down, but strong enough for it to really go.There are days when the sky is gray outside, and I feel too sluggish to even get out of bed and make breakfast. My alarm rings, I drag myself out and start with the daily routine: 2 soft-boiled eggs, a mug of ice water, and a hot-turned-cold bath. Usually, by the time the cold water splashes against my sleep-fatigued body, I’m already revving up and excited to get the day started. It’s a new day! Time to slay dragons and save the kingdom! Confidence works in the same way. First we slay the rats in our cellar, then we graduate to ogres in caves, and working our way up, we finally get to decapitate dragons that horde our share of gold and princesses. Perhaps someone’s been unfairly mean to you the past few days, or lady luck hasn’t been shining on your risk-taking ventures. We all need to start small. Reach for the cookies that don’t need too much climbing. Pick off the lowest hanging fruit. Everyone, including the greatest of the great, started somewhere small. So when we’ve fallen down, don’t be afraid of starting somewhere small again. The snowball needs to start rolling.
Your little Snow Child rolls gently down the slope, folding more size into its weeny structure as it goes. Oh no, there is a bump up ahead! You hold your breath as your tiny Champion slows down, and just barely overcoming gravity, tumbles awkwardly over the bump, and continues its pilgrimage to the Bottom. You heave a sigh for now, although its perils have only just begun. There is a tree root sticking out up ahead, and if Snowball doesn’t swerve around it quickly, its journey may end prematurely…
The temptation that comes with seeing success so early on is that you may want to amp up the challenge quickly just to test your potential. Those easy goals and simple tasks were struck off your list like flies. No challenge here, nothing to see. But then a nagging thought creeps up your spine and tugs at the sleeve of your brain, “Hear me out! If you do this you’ll be super cool! No one has done it before! Not this early!” Now, don’t give in to that voice so soon. It is not yet your time yet, trust me. The snowball is unable to get across the tree root now, but if it swerves away, rolls steadily and gathers mass, it will be able to steamroll across more than just tree roots. At this stage, patience is the name of the game. Stick to the basics, and make sure that you are concentrating on the simple tasks that are set before you. Confidence takes time to build, so don’t go chasing every single risky inspiration when they reveal themselves to you. But at the same time, do open up a notebook and jot (or type) down those ideas you’re getting. That little nagging voice is an imp at this stage, but later on, you’ll see it for what it really is: your Special Muse. Treasure these ideas like gems. Right now, they’re a dime a dozen, but later on when you are looking for one, they stay well-hidden. Even so, never forget the basic precept: you can chase those ideas only after the basics are laid down in stone, because the basics are what keeps you rolling later on. They empower you to keep going on even if you make a mistake. Right now, since you just got out of a low-confidence pit, you don’t want to put yourself in a perilous position where you may fall back in again. It is at this stage where you develop the habit of finishing. Finish the little things that you’ve started and you’re on your way to building an unstoppable Snowball of Success.
Grow, Grow, Grow
You’re now rolling like a medium-sized snowball, and your ability to finish stuff is leveling up like a boss. Congratulations, but don’t you even think about kicking back and retiring at this stage of growth! Now that you’re finally growing steadily in your level of confidence, it’s time for you to stretch yourself like how you’ve always wanted to. The tendency for most people is to to keep riding on the simple stuff all the way to destination Mediocrity. It’s too easy for anyone who is doing well to just turn-off the creative engine and coast lazily along. Don’t stop at well, reach for excellent. Go back to your little notebook and pry through that handwriting (or font, you lazy technologist) to uncover the shiny gems of ages past. Those magical ideas should produce a primal thirst in you to keep pushing the limits. You’re where you’ve always wanted to be, and your Confidence Snowball should be huge enough to steamroll some logs even! Go test the limits. At this stage, the only way to grow is to keep rolling.
Don’t Let Setbacks Stop You
As Churchhill advises, “Never, never, never give up.” Don’t stop until you are able to translate your dreams into reality. Confidence is the substance of that very moment when you believe that the special inspiration which was breathed into you by your Special Muse, an essential idea that for now only exists in your head but burns fervently in your heart, can be ultimately extracted through that stubborn, unyielding, soul-wrenching dedication to the sacred craft of your calling, and then poured out into this real, touch-and-feel world to be shared, nay, experienced, nay, consumed by other very real, touch-and-feel dreamers like yourself. The belief that a dream, no matter how complex, how impossible, how crazy, can be forged, brick by brick into reality, and the conviction that it is worth it, simply because it is beautiful – that is confidence. At this stage, you may have tried something big and failed, but somehow you know deep inside of you that you need to press on. You can brush away the failure, the humiliation, and the naysayers’ criticisms like drops off water off a duck’s feather. You’re literally unstoppable. Your Snowball is now a giant, and it’s eating logs, rocks, trees, and every other obstacle in the way…
… and it reaches the end of its Pilgrimage at the bottom of the hill. You are at a place where confidence is no longer something that you need to “grow”. There are other things you may be preoccupied with now, like how to help others achieve the same level of confidence that you have had the privilege to enjoy. You’re looking for other Seekers, people who may have fallen too far (like how you did at the start), or are just looking to start something new, people who wish to begin again. You see it in their eyes as they pound up the snow into a respectable size, and then some more. You direct them to your very own successful Champion Pilgrim who has made it all the way, and offer them a head start, an inspiration, a spirit of hope, a ball of snow. With the joy of a little child, you pound your own little ball of snow from the retired Giant of yours, follow the group of Seekers up the hill, and start again.