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Overcoming Self-Doubt: Lessons from Taylor Swift

She is determined to offer a superior performance, or a superior album, every time

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Although I thoroughly disagree with her politics, the career of Taylor Swift has some noteworthy lessons for us all:

When she was 14, apparently she and her parents made the rounds to many TV and recording studios in Hollywood and Nashville asking if she could offer a live demo. Most producers said no and summarily dismissed her.

Intention Matters

The point is that at an early age she had already intended to be a star performer. Today, she’s living out her dream, but what captures my interest is her unflagging determination to offer a superior performance or superior album every time.

I saw her for the first time on Saturday Night Live, 15 years ago. I only caught her performance midway, but was mesmerized. Here was a tall, slender, teenage girl, not with the greatest vocals, wailing away on a song called Forever and Always.

She had such conviction in her singing that I, apparently along with millions of others, was captivated. Among dozens of things she does to maintain high confidence, here are some worth contemplating:

Eight Observations

1. Taylor Swift’s stage presence is extraordinary. She most definitely owns the stage, and that is a personal choice.

2. Her energy level is extraordinarily high and focused. You could say this about many singers, but if you watch any Taylor Swift performance you’ll quickly notice that she uses all 5’10” of her height in her performance.

3. Her connection to the audience is amazing. Through gestures, eye contact, and a variety of other stagecraft techniques, you get the sense that she is totally there, in every performance.

Some singers and performers allow you to watch. Some induce you to watch. Taylor Swift performs in way that all you want to do is watch.

4. She is a student of performance. When asked to be a coach on the hit television show The Voice, she astounded the four regulars coaches at that time – Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, and Blake Shelton – by instantly assessing their team members’ practice sessions and, in a matter of seconds, offering insightful suggestions that immediately improved their performances.

She has stated that she makes mental notes of every performance she’s seen and her unparalleled performance wisdom belies her tender age.

5. She is constantly evolving. Whether or not you like her music, if you take the word of top critics, it’s undeniable that each album has gotten better.

6. As far as one can tell, she is down-to-earth. During an interview on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, she stated that album reviews do matter, and any artist who says they don’t is not being honest.

How she maintains an air of humility, and that common person touch, probably can be attributed to her parents. At some point, however, you have to concede, that she has what it takes to make herself a star.

7. Because she is self-disclosing, many fans gave her an immediate pass. Today, it is understood that Taylor Swift writes songs from her personal experiences that have meaning for her and, happily, also have meaning for her listeners.

In for the Long Haul

Taylor Swift’s decision to abandon country for pop was done with the realization that she’ll be in the business for the long haul, and that the popular music route will enable her to grow and expand in novel ways.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Business

Running up Huge Deficits: Bad for Nations and for Individuals

Deficits are risky, whether global, national, regional, state, local, or personal

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Joe Biden seeks to spend $6 trillion annually, for now. It could be higher thereafter, as our national debt climbs to staggering sums: $28.5 trillion, and $153.5 in unfunded liabilities. Has any nation in history that accumulated large deficits over a prolonged period of time and, lacking a concerted effort towards reducing them, sustained economic prosperity for its people?

Personal Deficits

Deficits are risky, whether global, national, regional, state, local, or personal. What are the deficits in your own life? For example, based on how many calories you’re consuming daily, are you running a deficit in the number of calories you need to burn to maintain a proper weight level? If so, you know that you face many health risks.

Do you have a financial deficit? For decades, tens of millions of Americans have accumulated personal debt via credit cards. Sustained deficit spending erodes one’s ability to prepare for the future and, worse, exploit current opportunities.

Is there a deficit in the time that you spend with relatives and loved ones? What about hobbies? Friends? Worthy causes?

Answers Appear

When you’re honest with yourself about your deficits, the answers to reducing them naturally appear:

* To reduce a weight deficit, plot your weight each morning for six months. Once you become vividly aware of the relationship between calories burned and weight reduction, watching your weight drop will further reinforce your ability to maintain balance in your caloric intake.

* To reduce a personal financial deficit, place a moratorium on spending – regardless of what items entice you – until all your credit cards have zero balances.

* If you have a deficit in the time spent with friends, on hobbies, or on worthy causes, devote one evening per week to such endeavors. Give up addictive news and information via web and TV that, in retrospect, might add little to your life while creating other time-related deficits. To spend more time with your children, involve them in activities you have traditionally done without them.

Here are two resources:

Debtors Anonymous: www.debtorsanonymous.org
Obsessive-Compulsive Anonymous: www.obsessivecompulsiveanonymous.org

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Your To-Do List: Unforeseen Events Will Arise

No matter how well we organize our lists and how productive we are in handling tasks, unexpected obligations and interruptions arise that could throw us off our plan.

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Each day you compose your to-do list and begin proceeding merrily down it, do you take into account what is likely to occur in the course of a day? No matter how well we organize our lists and how productive we are in handling the tasks, invariably, unexpected obligations, interruptions, and other developments arise that are going to throw us off our plan.

How do you react when you are humming along and, suddenly, you get an assignment from out of left field? Perhaps your boss has asked you to jump on something immediately. Maybe a client calls. Maybe something gets returned to you that you felt was complete.

If you are like most professionals, you immediately will become flustered. The intrusion on your time and your progress means that you are not going to accomplish all that you set out to before the end of the day. Is there a way to proceed and still feel good about all that you accomplish?

A Supplemental To-do List

I believe there is, and it involves making a miniature, supplemental to-do list that accurately and completely encapsulates the new task you now need to handle.

Why create this supplemental to-do list? It gives you focus and direction, reduces anxiety, and increases the probability that you will remain buoyant at the time of its completion and be able to turn back to what you were doing before the task was assigned.

If you don’t compose such a list, and simply plow headlong into the unexpected challenge that has come your way, you might not proceed effectively, and you might never get back to the to-do list on which you were working.

Unforeseen tasks that arise represent more than intrusions on our time; they represent intrusions on our mental and emotional state of being. Some people are naturally good at handling unexpected situations and often work as public servants, such as police officers and firefighters, or in health care, as nurses and orderlies.

Most of us, however, are not wired like this. Interruptions and intrusions take us off the path that we wanted to follow, and tend to be at least momentarily upsetting. Hereafter, when executing the items on your to-do list, proceed with the mindset that there will be an interruption of some sort. You don’t know when it is coming or how large it will be, but it will pull you off course.

Equanimity Reigns

The key question for you is: Can you develop the capacity to maintain balance and equanimity in the face of such disruptions? The good news is that you can, and it all starts with acknowledging that the situation is likely to happen, devising a supplemental checklist to handle the new task, and as deftly as possible, returning to what you were doing.

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