As we work well toward eliminating fearful choices from our performance arena, we can still be inspired by fear in our preparation arena.
Fear is not bad. Negative results from our fear are bad.
Fear itself can be used for good. I just watched a fantastic TED Talk about procrastination given by Tim Urban. I highly recommend you watch it today.
I think his talk fits well with the concept of working in our Learning Zone without getting into Panic Zone.
Tim shares wise words and funnily-true stories about how and why we leave things until the last minute, and how we can still hit our deadlines. Time passes as our deadline comes closer...until we get the ultimate inspiration, The Panic Monster! I love it. More often than not, that's how I "work". I often say, "I do nothing without a goal." Setting a goal gives us a deadline or two, and some motivation to grow. When we have deadlines, our panic monster can come push us to our next level. But I've heard of people who actually plan their work and work their plan WELL. I wake each day with renewed passion and determination that I can do that better TODAY. Doing so isn't a mystery.
We can get our work done in a timely manner, so the Panic Monster is less urgent and more of a timely nudge. Let's help ourselves with this today, together.
This week's To Do
Think of a project you want to have finished by September 1. Set a week (not weak!) goal and a today task that take you closer to having your project finished.
- By the end of 7 days from now I will have completed this goal : ___________________
- By the end of today I will have completed this task : ________________________
Many of you have school placement auditions coming up. Take a look at your repertoire list, and pick a passage that you could be performing way closer to what is written.(That's a good way of saying, "pick a passage that's driving you crazy!" eh? ) Plan your specific tasks for today, like "find my real tempo and work at that tempo for 10 minutes." Real tempo is the tempo that you can play all the notes accurately and in tune, with musical shapes and colors.
If you want to knock off more tasks today, here are some ideas: listen to 3 recordings of today's excerpt, read a biography of my composer, listen to my favorite performer on my instrument, listen to music I love, walk for 20 minutes, drink 6 big glasses of water, only eat until 8pm, plan 5 tasks for tomorrow, get to bed by 10pm, get up at 6am tomorrow...
An example goal for the week is, "I will have worked all my repertoire at least once, have clear ideas of how all my repertoire can sound amazing to an audience, and have clear plans on my work for next week."
It's all about task management. Once you START doing this well, your goals and projects fall into place. Do not expect to nail this by day 2. Just dive in as well as you can, and you will see, with the next day's planning, how you can improve both your planning and execution.
Good luck with changing your Panic Monster into your Timely Nudge Assistant...or something like that?! Heh...
Just as the light turned yellow, I considered my distance to the intersection and speed, and lifted my foot off the gas and hit the brake. My car slowed to a stop as other cars began crossing in front of me. I was suddenly curious and thoughtful of the harmonious chaos involved in traffic.
As I write these newsletters, I'm conscious of the fact that I'm sharing what I think, and that what I think guides and creates who I am. It's the same think/am sharing when I play my horn. It's the same when I speak to my friends, my students, my wife, my child, and beyond...and speaking is performing.
Performance is a constant circle of building and sharing, as well as possible, of who we are.
I should qualify that. Performance is a constant circle of building and sharing of who we are. Good or great performance is this circle of building and sharing being done as well as possible.
Just performing, versus creating good or great performance is up to you.
When we perform, we share who we are.
During lessons that I'm teaching, often there are moments when things are very simple, yet very complicated. This is fine. This is life. But when the person speaks with hopes of a black and white answer or agreement and they don't get one, sometimes they dislike the complication.
"Just tell me what to do here." has been said.
Are those the words of a creative hire-able or marry-able solution-based person you would want to join forces with? Yeah not so much...
Personally, I love the muddy middle-ground! This is where regurgitation ends, and YOU appear. This is where you get to choose. Un-Black-and-White-ness means you're free to figure it out for yourself, make that mix of creative choice and high standards as good as possible, and go share that!! ...and then repeat the whole Build/Share circle again and again...
Question - "Should I take time on this note or that note?"
Black and White Answer - "This one."
Freedom-and-Opinion-Creating Answer - "Well, you can do that on either note. It really depends on how and why you do it."
When you hear a possibly ambiguous answer, there is still a critical moment of choice in your hands. Is this a problem that you didn't get the clear answer you wanted, or have you just been given an opportunity to choose for yourself?
THIS moment of assessment is when you REALLY get to develop who you are.
I'm writing about about this topic this week because I spent some time with a good friend and colleague, mezzo-soprano and arts advocate Carla Dirlikov. I watched her thoughtful interview about her extensive experience performing as Bizet's Carmen and was moved by her comments. I was especially inspired when she mentioned that Carmen really knew who she was.
"I honestly admire her. I admire her sense of value...and that's something that people don't really understand because people think, "Ohhh, she's a femme fatale and she's this home wrecker." But actually no, she's someone who really knows who she is, and she's someone who stays true to herself."
Carmen really knows who she is. And Carla brings that to her portrayal of Carmen.
Task for Today - Make it YOU.
Do you know who you are?
This is who you bring into every performance, and what you share every time. For every performance, it's not "What do you have for us?" but it's something that goes way deeper.
"WHO do you have for us?"
And then all you can do is share that! So yes, it's about "What's it going to be?" but you can and must go deeper.
Make it YOU
Today, in preparation, answer yourself the question of, "Who am I in this idea?"
Answering that question will take you down new avenues in your pursuit to:
Learning what to Love Well and what to Let Go will equip you to know who you are and enable you to share that.
The more you try to act, the less real it is. Don't go out there to try to be who you think they want. No matter how much you know about what they want, you must go be you! That's what you're doing anyway, so know this during preparation too! When you prepare, you can include things you know they want in what you Build...so you build a you that is who they want, but when you cross your magic line from back stage to onstage, the goal is to be yourself.
As Carla says in her interview, "I think that that is the purpose of life. I think that's the mission in life, is to know who you are."
...and if that doesn't end up being hirable or 2nd-date-able, keep building.
Less is more.
Your final pre-performance question is always "Who's it going to be?"
"It took a tremendous amount of confidence for me to believe that I didn't have to do anything." - Carla D
It took Carla confidence and a ton of good preparation.
My life's goal since high-school has always been to exist as I am, and have that be enough.
"I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
In your next performance, for both your audience and your peace of mind - clearly answer this one simple question:
Who's it going to be?
I look forward to seeing YOU soon,
"Have no fear...YOU and HERE"
Here is a valuable book for you.
We often fear because we're lacking control. When we're standing backstage, just about to enter our performance arena, we don't know what will happen. This is scary!
What we can control is being right about things. Unfortunately, being right is where we dig ourselves into a hole of fear. If we've spent most of our preparation time focused on what we did wrong, we will stand backstage and slide into being right about what has gone wrong in the past...and then be right about how it obviously might go wrong again. Gulp!
I remember a time I was standing back stage before playingthis solo and I thought to myself, "Well Jeff, there's only 3 places you could totally screw up!" ...like that was a good thing!? Luckily my students didn't hear my hypocritical choice of thought!
Do you ever stand backstage and think, "Well, you could totally nail this performance"? In that moment, I realized I definitely hadn't thought that constructively before. I grabbed my inspirational sheet and quickly wrote, "GreatPossibility!" like there was a great possibility for greatness.
Task for the Day - Practice Letting Go
Once you are about to enter your performance, when you're "on deck", it's too late to worry. Sorry, but this is happening.It's too late to regret having not done enough quantity or quality of practicing when you're standing back stage. If you should have practiced more better, tooooooooo late. Let go of that right now! Do more better after this performance. Why? Because this is happening. Right now.
If you're worrying in this pre-performance moment, you can become a ticking time bomb, growing closer and closer to a destructive explosion of stress. Even a small burst of built up stress here will have you giving a performance way below your best.
Your only goal in this moment is to embrace what you have, and focus on sharing the best version of you. Let go of everything that doesn't serve this. When you do this, you have the highest potential to perform at your best ability level. When you let go of destructive thoughts, you are clear to at least do the best with what you CAN do.
Build. Be. Share.
It's in that middle space between prepare and perform, in the "Be" space, that it's important to let go. Simply thinking, "Let Go" can help a great deal. At this point, you're finished building/preparing and you're about to walk out and share/perform. This part "between" is for being present in healthy anticipation. This presence can have you playing each note, saying each word, smiling, bowing...everything like it's the only thing you're there to do.
Whether in music, business, sports, or on a date, we have plenty of pre-performance moments. In these moments today, let go and focus on what serves you and your ability to share what you've brought for us today...because this is happening either way. How it happens is truly up to you.
You can do this. Today.