image of woman in superhero costume and the caption "How to become a more confident musician"

Most of us don’t like to admit that we’re scared. But the truth is, we ALL have anxieties around performing, auditioning, public speaking, and/or interviewing. And then there’s networking and social interactions. To help, here are my best kept Secrets Revealed: How to Become a More Confident Musician.

To put this in perspective, it’s easy to look at other musicians and imagine they don’t experience fear—that they’re free from anxieties. That they were genetically endowed with all the confidence they need. (And we resent them for it!)

When that’s the story we believe, we may think we’re organically deficient in confidence. That this is simply a matter of our personality or our DNA, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

But what if confidence is NOT a matter of the genetic cards we’ve been dealt?

The veteran business coach Dan Sullivan offers relevant insights on confidence. Dan explains that confidence is not what you have going IN to an ambitious project or stressful situation. Instead, confidence is the outcome. Dan explains that confidence is the result of a PROCESS he describes as the 4 C’s.

Secret #1: Dan Sullivan’s 4 C’s of Confidence

I’m excerpting below a portion of his blog post on confidence. Though it’s intended for entrepreneurs, you can easily substitute “artist” or “musician” for the e-word, and it works just as well.

Dan Sullivan writes:

You don’t move forward because you don’t feel confident about achieving the result you’re looking for, but, in fact, the confidence doesn’t come until you’ve earned it by going through courage first.

This is the reality that most entrepreneurs face throughout their careers. In many cases, you have to take action despite not feeling certain, not feeling things are right, and certainly not feeling confident.”

Dan breaks confidence down into a process: he explains how the “4 C’s” work:

1. You Commit

to the challenge (the performance, audition, or speaking engagement).

2. You muster the Courage

to move forward, to prepare and perform despite the fear you experience. You need to expect the fear: it’s simply part of the package.

3. From this moving forward you develop the Capabilities needed.

Growth only comes from stepping into the arena itself. Practicing and planning won’t teach you what you’re capable of in performance. You need to get out there and do it. Again and again and again. Because this is the only way we can develop our performance skills.

4. When you complete your challenge, you’re rewarded with Confidence.

So you don’t start out with confidence. Confidence is the result of taking action, not a pre-requisite. And by growing your capabilities by getting out there and doing it, you earn your confidence.

Thank you, Dan! I don’t know about you, dear reader, but the first time I tried to take in this idea, it was a real brain twister because I was so entrenched in my own scarcity thinking when it came to confidence.

So to break this down a bit more, in case you’re wondering . . .

Does this mean that each performance and each presentation you care about is still going to make you nervous?


And that you need to get used to feeling the fear and taking action anyway?


Feeling the fear and moving into it is what we need to develop an appetite for.

So here’s what I’ve found helps:

Secret #2: The Tool for Courage

Phil Stutz and Barry Michels are the two LA therapists who wrote the excellent books The Tools and Coming Alive. They treat many of Hollywood’s A-list performers and writers and they offer what are essentially “Tools” for living and getting past creative blocks.

These tools are dynamic, results-oriented visualizations and interventions that shift your emotional state so you can choose how to move forward—even in the face of self-doubt or other stress. Barry Michels says,

“To leverage fear into courage, you’re going to have to be honest with yourself every time you’re afraid. Most of us hide our fears, keeping them secret even from ourselves . . . You may be afraid to ask for a promotion, or confront someone about something he or she did that hurt you. If you don’t admit these fears to yourself, you can’t leverage them into courage. Look for the points in your life where you’re afraid, and see them as opportunities to learn to deal with fear.”

Barry goes on,The tool that helps people deal with fear is called the Reversal of Desire. But to use the tool, you first have to let yourself be afraid—take the emotion and feel it, intensely, inside you.”

When You Face It and Move Through Your Fear, It Diminishes

Barry explains, “Have you ever had one of those dreams where a dark, scary figure is chasing you? If you run away, it always gets much more terrifying. If you turn around and face it, something good almost always happens. It’s the same with fears in your waking life. That’s what the Reversal of Desire tool is designed to do. It’s called the Reversal of Desire because our normal desire is to run away from fear; the tool reverses that desire and gets you to face fear and move through it.”

Now for some of you, The Tools may be a bit “woo-woo” because they include visualizations and some silent screaming. That can seem a little “out there.” But for those of us with any level of real anxiety, using the Tools is a walk in the park compared to what we normally put ourselves through. I’d much rather use the Tools regularly than be plagued by negative self-talk and the anxieties that are often running in the background as I prepare for anything stressful.

Do the Reversal of Desire

Here’s how Barry describes using the Tool: “Take your feelings of fear and push them out in front of you in the form of a big, dark cloud. Now that the feelings are separated from you, say to yourself: “I see how these feelings have held me back in many situations, not just this one, and I’m determined to move through them, instead of letting them stop me.” Then yell silently to yourself: ‘Bring it on!‘ Move into the cloud. Once you’re in the middle of it, scream silently again: ‘I love fear‘—meaning you are one with the fear, fully inside it. You can only let go of your fear after you’ve become one with it. Then the cloud spits you out, and you’ll find yourself soaring into a realm of pure light. Say to yourself: ‘Fear sets me free.'”

I know. It can seem wild, but try it. As Phil and Barry always say, you don’t need to believe in any of this. Just try it for a week and see what happens.

It’s a way to get yourself to take action—to feel the fear and move forward anyway. Try it right before taking on a task—I use it to get myself to write and send the scary emails I’ve been avoiding or to make the phone call I’m nervous about.

I’ve found the Reversal of Desire and Phil and Barry’s other Tools to be tremendously helpful for me and my clients.

Lessons learned: how my own fear has been playing out

Confession time: I left my day job at Manhattan School of Music June 30, 2016. So to come clean on my own experience with fear since then, I’m including this check-in report on how it has gone. Here’s my “interview” . . .

Was it scary leaving a secure job and going 100% freelance, running your own business?
HELL, YEAH. After a long career in academia, it was really scary—especially the first 3 years. I had regular waking nightmares of becoming a bag lady.

My fears it turns out, were unfounded. I’ve done fine, even in the early years. But that didn’t matter. Fears aren’t rational. So I needed to learn how to counteract them with something stronger than logic.

Do you still find yourself dealing with fear?
YES. And that’s why I’m so thankful to be using the Tools and teaching them to my clients. Every time we take on an ambitious project, or step outside our comfort zones, there’s going to be fear. It’s up to us how we respond to it.

Has there been a huge learning curve?
YEP. The first years I had a lot to learn especially about managing and promoting my business (so thankful for my business coach Dallas Travers).

But the most amazing thing about doing this work is that every week I find I learn more—about coaching, about musicians, and about myself—than I EVER did while working for an institution.

The biggest lesson learned

The most important lesson I’ve learned for managing fear is to move towards it. To take action. To think of fear as an indicator pointing me towards what will help me grow the most.

I also try to keep in mind that the regrets people have late in life are rarely about what they tried and failed at. What people regret is what they didn’t do. What they were too afraid to do or to become.

Don’t die with your dreams and projects still inside you.

If you’d like to explore how coaching can help you achieve your goals, get the details here.

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Here’s to bringing your goals to life,



Dream Big, Plan Smart. Live Well!

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