Finding Your Creative Confidence

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I used to play the bass.

Not the fish. The musical instrument. The electric bass, to be exact. It wasn’t just a hobby, either. I took it quite seriously. When I was much younger (around 14 years of age), I decided to forgo a summer vacation with my high school class to work in a warehouse packing make-up, just so I could afford my first electric bass (a new one… as I was already tinkering with a used one). I played throughout high school in multiple bands and even studied music in a post-secondary institution for several years. I wasn’t the next Jaco Pastorius, but I loved the four strings. I’ve always kept music floating around the house and office. Random acoustic guitars, some of my older basses and beyond. My favorite bass was a Spector NS2B that I got in the late eighties. I don’t even have a case for it anymore (no idea where that went), but it has followed me for close to two decades. I don’t play it much anymore… and I haven’t changed the strings in forever.

Then, I got embarrassed. 

We had our annual Twist Image holiday party a few weeks back and our amazing team pulled together a house party-theme for this year’s event. It was held in our Montreal office, featured local fare and a live house band. Two of my three business partners are musicians and they decided to jam. They (and some of the other team members) urged me to join them, but I couldn’t. I had not played in so long that I wasn’t even sure if I knew the notes (let alone the chops to do a simple walking bass line). I was mad at myself. Not because I didn’t jam with the boys, but because I wasn’t sure if I had lost my chops or my creative confidence. Can you forget how to play bass or is it as silly as thinking that you can forget how to speak if you’re silent for a really long time?

It’s all about creative confidence.

With the holiday break upon us, I blew the dust off of my Spector bass and started fiddling with it. Wouldn’t you know it, it didn’t take all that long until the feeling, fun and joy of playing the bass came back. It’s hard to play that bass and not smile… and, that’s when it hit me. Music is still a powerful, pervasive and creative force in my life, but sadly it’s one that I have not been nurturing. I brought the bass down to Steve’s Music Store for a tune-up. It turns out that my little patient may have died on the operating table (too many years of neglect), so I decided to buy a new electric bass (and I’ll keep the old one as a souvenir). I plan on taking some lessons… maybe even jam with some others at some point in the future (any takers? ;).

This isn’t about New Year’s Resolutions.

The serendipity of life can be fascinating. In the process of reviving my interest in the electric bass and playing music, I just so happen to be reading the book, Creative Confidence, by IDEO‘s David Kelley and Tom Kelley. It’s a book based on the notion that all of us are creative. It’s what human beings are, but we suppress or disguise our creativity. The Kelley brothers think of creativity as "using your imagination to create something new in the world," and they are passionate about empathy (when you understand your fellow human being) as one of the major gateways to gaining that creative confidence. They’re also passionate about the fact that all of us – no matter how mundane our jobs may be – have been creative (and that we should be doing more of it). Now, along with reading Creative Confidence, I also found myself on YouTube, randomly watching videos from some of the bass players that influenced my love of the instrument when I was younger. It’s not an exhaustive list, but Victor Wooten holds a coveted spot on that list. As I was grazing through some of his instructional and performance clips, I came across a TEDx talk that he gave at TEDxGabriolaIsland  in March of this year. As a long-time TEDster, I felt my world’s colliding again. Wooten’s talk is titled, Music As A Language, and it stopped me dead in my tracks. Beyond his passion to teach music and play music, Wooten touches on so many important themes in this 18 minute talk.

You don’t have to love the electric bass to love this line of thinking.

It doesn’t matter if you are a musician or not, please watch Victor Wooten’s talk. His lessons about life, success, creativity, learning, passion, permission and smiling are profound. I promise. I’m going to smile a lot more in the office, when I write these blog posts, when I speak on stage and in everything that I do. I think you will too…


  1. Thanks for this post, Mitch. I started playing guitar at a very young age, and did music for a living for much of my early adult life. Now I’m a corporate communicator. But I still play 30-40 gigs a year and spend quite a bit of time in the home studio. The music part of my life inspires and energizes the other parts. Without it, I become stagnant. It’s opened the door to so many great relationships.
    Love the Victor Wooten talk. I frequently tell people interested in learning an instrument that the key to successfully learning as an adult is to not to be intimidated and discouraged by what you don’t know, but to take joy in what you’re learning as you learn it. That’s how we learn as kids. Victor so beautifully articulated that.
    If you ever need a guitar player…:-)

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