Spiraling economies

In the U.S.A. we’ve heard recently that a lack of confidence in our economy leads to a worsening economy. And a worsening economy leads to more lack of confidence and on and on. It’s a downward spiral, a vicious cycle. It seems the worse the economy gets, the less confidence we have and it snowballs.

Is there any good news here? Stay with me; I don’t know the answer to the global economic crisis, but I see a similarity to music.

Let’s say you had a bad gig (low turn-out, sound system glitches, lukewarm response, whatever). From that one bad gig, if you start to lose confidence (it happens to the best of us), it can adversely affect your next gig, which causes more loss of confidence and down and down we go until something turns it around.

Can these spirals work in the other direction? It happens in the economy. Have you heard of ‘irrational exuberance?’ It was a phrase used in the 1990’s by Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and someone on whose words financial and government leaders hang (think “When E. F. Hutton speaks, people listen”).

Irrational exuberance is another way of saying unfounded confidence. What Greenspan meant is that despite what the pundits said and what the numbers said, people in the nineties were gung ho about the economy. And that uber-confidence caused the stock market to boom, which caused more confidence and so on. It kept going like that until the bubble burst.

So lesson #1, bubbles burst. Economies riding on the emotion (confidence) of a group of people can be stopped cold and turned around by a change in the group’s emotion.

I guess what we need for our economy now is the equivalent of a bubble burst, something to break our downward spiral. How do you get an entire country to abruptly turn around and be confident?

It’s a much easier task on a personal level. How do you break out of a downward spiral as a musician? How do you burst the bubble and start an upward spiral? Simply recognizing that you’re in a self-perpetuating cycle is half the battle.

You’ve probably seen this in your own life. When things are going well, they tend to continue to go well, including other areas of your life. Have you ever noticed when your love life is going well, your work life seems to follow suit and vice versa?

It’s the same idea: a cycle, in this case a virtuous cycle, that feeds on itself. It causes you to be more confident and that makes everything go better (gigs, writing, recording, sales), which engenders more confidence and optimism and so on.

So where do you want to put your time and energy, into a downward spiral or an upward one? When you complain, worry, stress and focus on the negative aspects, you’re giving power to the downward cycle.

I’m not saying to ignore the negative. For example, if your last gig was spoiled by a sound system glitch, do everything in your power to prevent that from happening again. That’s taking a positive action from a negative situation. That’s putting time and energy into building the upward spiral.

And most of all, give yourself the credit you deserve. When you get it right (a great performance of a certain song, a hot lick well executed, a new song written), remember that it’s part of your virtuous cycle, the upward spiral that builds on itself.


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