Belief in my success has often meant the difference between achieving a goal and missing an opportunity. Those lessons have applied in work, school, sports, and fishing. Many anglers talk or write about confidence flies, flies that they fish frequently because they believe they catch fish consistently. When you look at the fly box, what do you grab and tie on the line? What are you willing to put in the water?
What am I willing to put out into life? That is what confidence means to me. What I know I can accomplish, what I have faith in, where I know I have people behind me, what makes me happy, and where I feel valuable. The answers to these questions are the things I can rely on when I’m faced with fear and uncertainty or I’m challenged to overcome a goal. Our trust and faith can carry us to extraordinary places and our fear can keep us stuck in place.
Sometimes my confidence can become a crutch. I have developed habits that may hold me back from learning and exploration. For the past several years, an overwhelming percentage of the fish I have caught have been on four flies: the frenchie, the mop fly, the black jig streamer, and the pat’s rubber legs. Often I go to those flies first, sometimes I try something else at the beginning and then switch back to one of my confidence flies. I’m often reminded by my friend Mark of the clever t-shirt philosophy, “It’s not the fly, you suck.”
In my experiences at work, I go through similar processes. I easily find the courage to try something new or look for an innovation. I stumble if success isn’t forthcoming with my new effort. Too quickly I can turn to old habits. It is hard for me to continue on a hard path when I am not rewarded with incremental wins. Building new habits is where promise meets movement. Holding on to promise is not easy.
With writing my courage has peaks and valleys. I have committed to writing daily and I’ve pretty much kept that up. The more I practice I feel like I have to be improving. My mind tells me maybe that is a façade. I struggle with self-promotion and reaching out to others, so I feel like I am lacking feedback and that people aren’t naturally drawn to my writing. I don’t have confidence flies to fall back on my writing. The practice of writing and the discovery of what comes out each day is a reward. As Seth Godin says, “Step by step, page by page, interaction by interaction. As you start moving, you can’t help but improve, can’t help but incrementally find yourself getting back toward your north star.”
In the practice of fly fishing, tying flies has helped build a stronger foundation for decisions and strategies. Understanding the materials and how they work together and move in the water have helped me to expand my fly fishing knowledge. There are times when I want to follow a recipe or video instruction perfectly. Through mimicking others who are tremendously skilled, I also gain confidence. There are also moments when I don’t have the exact color or material to match the pattern exactly. I am gaining the ability to discern a suitable material substitute and to think through color combinations that can produce a functional and attractive fly.
If I choose to fish many different flies or a single fly the next time I am out on the water, I do not want doubt and hesitation to enter my mind. Recently I have mixed in turbo midges, little black stoneflies, simple pheasant tails and caught fish. I am learning to find confidence in myself and not the flies. Hopefully the areas of my life where I let doubt in, I can let the practice and faith lead me towards my north star.