Overcoming Self-Doubt: Lessons from Taylor Swift

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.

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.

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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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Posted by Jeff Davidson

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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