The Psychology of Small-Scale Gold Mining (Part 2)

This is the second post in this series about the common characteristics shared by most small-scale gold prospectors and miners. Hopefully, you'll learn something new here so please read on.

Risk Taking

In addition to being dreamers, it's my contention that small-scale gold prospectors and miners are also risk takers. No, I don't mean risk takers in the sense of base jumpers, sky divers, or mountaineers looking to scale 8,000-meter peaks like K2 or Everest where your life is on the line, but in the sense that miners have to take calculated risks financially, emotionally, and physically to get the job done.

In my experience those individuals who like the odds stacked in their favor and who prefer "safe bets" are typically not drawn to gold mining or, if they are, they don't last long once they realize that mining breaks down into a series of questionable long shots or alternately, a slow, steady grind for limited returns that takes lots of patience, persistence, and perseverance. In the long run, the gold miners who are most successful are gamblers of sorts...ready, willing, and able to roll the dice again and again despite the fact that Mother Nature controls the house and is always looking to maintain her edge over those seeking to wrest her treasures from her. So playing it safe is not a psychological characteristic that most gold miners share. In fact, just the opposite is true.

Flexibility and Adaptability

The great majority of small-scale gold miners and prospectors that I've known in my checkered mining career always displayed an amazing capacity to adapt to the circumstances at hand. They also remained flexible in their thinking when it came to problem solving out in the field. When these two psychological characteristics are combined in useful harmony, no mining problem is too large to overcome. Additionally, miners who possess these attributes in spades are (with a bit of time and effort) able to come up with solutions or end arounds that focus on "can do's" as opposed to "can't dos."

I have to digress a bit here, so please forgive me. You know, there are scads of gold prospecting and mining sites out there these days that can tell you how to use a sluice box or a gold pan, but very few of those same sites go beyond the superficial and, to a certain extent, the mundane. In their instructions to you, they seldom cover the "what if's" of gold prospecting and essence they are clones fixated on giving you the fundamental knowledge you need, especially when you're first starting out in gold prospecting and mining. Don't get me wrong...this is a good thing and it's valuable info...up to a point. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that you can have all of that "A-B-C" info at your disposal (including my own), but if you don't have the flexibility and adaptability to convert that same information into meaningful gold recovery terms, you're going to fall short sooner or later. (Most likely sooner...)


This is a very big bug-a-boo for literally tens of millions of people, not just gold miners and prospectors. A serious lack of confidence in yourself and your own abilities is probably the most destructive (and potentially self destructive) psychological dynamic we face in our day-to-day lives, gold mining notwithstanding.

Some people say you're born with a certain measure of confidence but I beg to disagree. Confidence is a learned trait, not a random gift from the Almighty bestowed only upon a select few out there in the world. Sure, if you're lucky your parents or the adult figures in your life got you started with a positive message in this regard or, if you were patently unlucky, your childhood may have been an ongoing sequence of confidence-shattering events foisted upon you by the uncaring or the vindictive. Either way, the measure of confidence within you is earned...not gifted. This is where gold prospecting and mining steps in and shines so brightly. It's you who calls the shots, it's you who takes those first baby steps with a gold pan, it's you who eventually learns to use that dredge, highbanker, or dry washer to good effect. Every step you take in gold mining is a confidence builder, not a confidence limiter. Or at least that's the way it should be.

Over the years I've heard quite a few gold miners say they weren't worth a poop at anything until they got into mining and prospecting. Some suffered from serious self-confidence issues as well. However, once they got a pick and shovel or a piece of mining gear in their hot little hands they became, with time, some of the most confident and self-assured folks you'd ever have the pleasure to meet. Self-confidence is a fundamental character trait for successful gold miners and it grows with time, effort, knowledge, and experience. There's no magic to get more confident by facing your fears and limitations with honesty and effort and practice.

Best to you all.

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2013

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Maybe one of my favorite posts EVER!

  2. Jim, one of my Dad's favorite sayings was "Can't is for quitters that won't even try." You hear it every day, "I can't do___." If folks would just "Try" they would be surprised at what they "Can" do. Another one he said, "Always remember, if someone else can do something, you can too. They never did it before either 'till the first time." My Dad died in 1980 from cancer. He was only 40 years old. He packed a lot of living into those 40 years though. I don't recall him ever backing down from a challenge. Gary

  3. Your Dad was spot on Gary. Sorry he died so young. Best, J.R.

  4. Thanks Cy. Your comments and support are always appreciated. J.R.


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