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On Confidence

It’s nobody else’s job to tell you that you’re good enough.

It’s nobody else’s job to tell you that you’re capable.

It’s nobody else’s job to call you a professional (sound designer/composer/etc.)

It’s nobody else’s job to call me a professional audio programmer.

Tough love time today, let’s talk about it…

The world does not define you

I say all of the above because I’ve been witness to a lot of audio professionals being down on themselves.  This theme I’m writing on today bears a remarkable resemblance to a previous post of mine if you want double-rant time.

Let me visualize this for you.  Are you, or have you seen the following?

  • The sound designer/composer “trying to get into game audio”
  • The aspiring sound designer/composer/voice actor
  • The sound designer/mixer/composer/film post-production mixer/voice actor/game audio implementer
  • “I haven’t been doing this long enough to mentor anyone” — from the multi-year/project industry pro
  • “I wouldn’t call myself a professional” — from someone who does indie projects with a day job

The list continues.  You all stab my heart and make me cry.

I’m serious.  Though the above sounds funny, and you can laugh, I’m not.

Most of these people are waiting for external validation.  From an employer, from a colleague, from a peer.  They can’t believe it until someone tells them it’s true.

I know how this feels – I’ve said a lot of these things.  But let’s break these down one by one in a real-world sense:

  • The individual “trying to get into game audio”?  I’m not going to hire you.  You’re literally telling me that you don’t have industry experience.  You’ve heard that, right?  Try something like  I don’t love pay-to-play, but it’s cheaper than Digipen.
  • If you’re “aspiring”, I’m also not going to hire you for the same reasons as the dude above.  By the way, the word aspiring reeks that you lack confidence in yourself.
  • The person who does everything?  When you’re breaking in, you pick one.  When money is passed around, this art turns into a business.  Business happens when you (as a business) solve a need for a client (your employer).  Clients don’t want you to solve every need initially, they want you to solve one.  Unless they don’t have money – in which case they want everything, for free or “a percentage”.  If you do everything without a decade of credits to back it, you’re advertising that you don’t feel strong in anything and you’re desperate.
  • You only “haven’t been doing this long enough” if you’ve literally never shipped any media.  Otherwise, you have experiences and something to say.  Maybe not to everyone, but definitely to someone.
  • The only person qualified to call you a professional is you.  My litmus test?  If you’ve earned $1 at your craft, you’re a professional.  You might not be the highest paid, the most expert, or even good.  But you meet my litmus test to be called a professional.

Wake up — it starts with YOU

So if you don’t get validation externally, we probably all agree that you find it in yourself right?

But that doesn’t mean that you don’t struggle with self-confidence.  So how do you get that?

One of two ways:

  1. Lots of practice.  Practice is where expertise is built and confidence is gained over time.
  2. You don’t.

Wait, what?  You don’t???

You read that right.  You don’t have to go find self-confidence before you do something.  Here’s a story:

By my own definition, I am a professional audio programmer.  I also run the #audiocoders slack channel.  Do I feel like a professional?  Nope.  Especially every day I read my own slack channel – where many audio programmers hang out.  I feel like my level of knowledge is completely inadequate.  This is a nice way of saying that I feel like an idiot every day that I read my own slack channel.

When I released my first product I was so nervous I could hardly eat before I hit publish.  “What if it doesn’t sell?!?!  What if it’s broken??!  What if everyone hates me and I’m a laughing stock?!!!” I said to myself.  I may not be making a living off programming yet, but the product has sold.

I’m also at a level of knowledge where I’m completely incapable of taking on the major projects I want to release without a lot more learning.

I don’t always feel confident that I’ll pull it off.  But I keep working on it every day anyway.  I don’t need confidence or validation to practice and work.  Those things come after the work.

Just a reminder

So I hope you can read this and know that even if it may be tough to read for some – that’s a good thing.  It means you see that you may be making mistakes and can turn it around.

Everyone makes mistakes, you either learn by making them or learn from someone else doing it first and teaching you.

So quit being the aspiring/trying sound designer, don’t even be the “practicing” sound designer.  Just be a sound designer, or be a student.  Be a composer.  If you make $1, feel free to put “professional” in front of your name.

Be confident in what you do – because people will believe in you after you do.  If you’re not, and you can’t force it, then practice and completely ignore confidence altogether.

So long as you’re getting up and working, and you’re not faking that you’re working, you belong with your peers.  I promise.

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.