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It seems that almost no one in music today understands the difference between confidence and arrogance. Matter of fact, they are commonly conflated and thought of as interchangeable words of the same meaning. 

 

I have encountered very few people who actually know what it means to be humble. 

 

I can’t remember how many different times over the years, when after attending a concert, I shared with the performing musician that I enjoyed listening to their music. Their response: “ah nah man, nah”, or “that’s all you”, or “no! I’m nobody”, etc. 

 

That is not humility.

 

Often times, that is arrogant insecurity disguised as humility for the purpose of seeking validation, and more times than not, as a way to deal with the shame of their own perceived musical shortcomings and mistakes. 

 

How would one need to feel about their playing in order to not feel the need to say those type of things anymore in response to praise? What type of mental clarity and freedom would they need to build?

 

Because the reality is, they wouldn't want me to tell them that they sounded bad, even if they did! If their response to my praise is “nah man”, then do they want me to tell them that they sounded terrible instead? Of course not! They would likely feel I disrespected them if I said that. 

 

What does it say about someone’s character that they downplay and deflect praise in a self deprecating manner, but then are offended by legitimate critique? 

 

Also, if I got something from what they played, that is legitimate! Am I wrong for being moved?

 

I believe that real confidence comes from your assuredness in your abilities, from the consistency of your practice/training, from the steadfastness in your mental game, from an unwavering belief in the value of yourself and your sound - the strength to be and become yourself.

 

I understand that most people have not experienced this. It is a lot to build. To go in the direction of that kind of embodiment, there are some questions you seriously need to ask yourself about why you play music and in what ways you might be using music to fulfill needs that have nothing to do with the art. 

 

A lot of people who play music don’t actually need to play, they need to be loved

Another one of the most common ways in which people conflate confidence and arrogance is in the belief that there is no such thing as "being the best", and that anyone who speaks highly of their abilities is arrogant.

don't accept the limitations and parameters which others have placed on the concept of greatness. I don't believe that being great is only a distinction that others can place on you. What if there is no one to bestow that distinction because they don't share or understand your vision? We can't wait for others to know where we are.

I play with the highest level technical specialization, at a velocity and level of endurance that would injure the statistical overwhelming majority of drummers if they attempted it without proper training. And I play and train this way every day, alone in my studio - because I love the drums. The Shaolin don’t need to come out of seclusion to tell everyone else what they can do!

 

I speak of my greatness from the standpoint of comparable, measurable technical fact, how I train for my playing, and how I creatively apply that level of technique to all musical situations. All other sports have metrics to define the greatness of players. Why is it not the same for the drum set, which is just as physically and mentally demanding? Other musicians may say "I'm not an athlete". I respond "No, you're not. I am!"

To me, being the best is not about playing everything and anything in every style equally well and better than everyone else. It's not about being the greatest sight reader, or knowing every page of every technique book.

It's also not about being the best in relation to others and their playing. For me, it's all about what I'm doing and trying to do with the instrument. If the skills necessary to play what I'm hearing require me to be a highly advanced player, then that's just what's required!

 

When you know that you have worked to develop a consistently reliable baseline level of technical ability, it will do massive things for your feelings of self-worth and confidence. You can’t understand this unless you do it. 

 

At the same time, the drums are not the beginning or the end. It doesn't matter how skilled one is as player if nothing else in their life is together. The best player with the worst personality IS NOT the best, no matter how successful they are. That imbalance will determine everything they play - I can hear the truth that people wish to hide - the self  they don't present to the world - in their playing. In a way, they are using music as a way to not have to deal with the imbalance in their lives: their playing speaks for them, thinks for them, interacts with people for them. And I doubt that anyone will see through it or call them on it because of the clout they want to feel they have by being proximal to them! How many people would distance themselves from their "famous friends" if they really assessed the way that those people treated them and made them feel? How many people tolerate constant disrespect and unpredictability from people they will never cut off simply because those people are famous? That's not why I know them. It does not make you humble to act starstruck in the presence of your heroes. BE STRONG. 

 

I don't know of any substantive frameworks to support unbalanced people in the music. The extent of suffering that even someone's favorite musicians may deal with off the instrument is often not recognized by anyone, sometimes including themselves. Chances are, they don't know of modalities for healing, so the music becomes the outlet. That has a sound. It's everywhere.

That may also be a reason for musicians downplaying and deflecting praise: they know that on some level, they haven't put the work in to "deserve" praise, but have no plan for how to develop their skills, so they feel constantly unworthy of glory, creating a vicious cycle.

 

 

 

What could it do for you if you built your mental game to the same degree as your musical ability? How could you heal? How would it benefit your relationship to music? To hear beyond what you haven't yet processed and overcame. The love that many seek is there.

Don't let your hidden arrogance or insecurity make you too proud to seek help for what you need to become free from. 

 

To do the mental and emotional work so you may authentically present and execute your vision every time you play. To believe in your development. To ask the right questions to the right people. To feel free to express joy and exuberance. To be kind, but serious. To be earnest. To be calm in the confidence of your abilities. To authentically go after what you love. 

 

That is humility. 

-NK

 

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