The greater the artist, the greater the doubt.
Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.
– Robert Hughes

A well known painter friend of mine once said that having an art show is like “pulling down your pants in public.” My favourite mystery quote about acting is, “acting is like being naked on stage and turning around very very slowly.” People ask me if I get nervous before a big speaking gig. My answer, “If I’m not nervous, I’m in trouble.”

It’s not so much nervousness as it is delighted-but-anxious butterflies that are reminding me that: the stakes are high when you’re hanging your story out for all to hear; screwing up would suck severely; and that the universe is rooting for you… but don’t screw up. On the rare occasion when I have NOT felt some butterflies, when I’ve been smug {one of my least favourite human behaviors} and thought to myself, “slam dunk, I’ve got this in the bag,” then I was either less-than-amazing, or I didn’t really care and shouldn’t have been there in the first place.


1. Smug is the enemy of excellence.

If you’re not even slightly doubtful or anxious about your performance, talents, contributions, or big presentation, than you better generate yourself some positive doubt. Lance Armstrong doesn’t enter the race thinking it’s a done deal. He knows he could lose so he tries harder to win. No matter how many times you’ve performed the surgery, made the sale, or given the pitch, you’re not infallible. Play to your audience. Be present. Watch for cues. Refine your intentions.

2. Bring YOU forward, along with your doubts.

“Naked” and “artist” are often used in the same context because true self expression is a form of vulnerability. And it’s that exposure, that authenticity that makes all the difference. Whether you’re writing a report or teaching yoga class, sincerity is the winning formula.

3. Anxiety is healthy.

A little bit of anxiety opens the doors to possibilities and strength… adrenaline, clarity. It’s a rush telling you that you’re alive and that you can do it–even if you need to put the doubts firmly in their place–you can do it.

Before almost every stage gig I have a mini moment of doubt and think to myself, “I really hope I can be of some use here,” Or, “If this crowd doesn’t laugh in the first three minutes, I’m cooked.”

And then I take a deep breath and smile. And my butterflies and I head out to take flight.


With Love,