Fearless Performance by Jeff Nelsen

You're right...now what?

Being right feels great.  Unfortunately, there is too often a big difference between what we think is right and what is actually right.  Not too long ago we confidently thought we were right about the earth being flat, for example.

I believe one of the biggest problems in society is our obsession with being right.  Often when a conversation becomes destructive it is because one or both people are holding on too tightly to being right about something.  Road rage is always about someone being so right about the other person that they yell at them, or worse...  

- They cut me off!
- I'm not good enough to win
- I'm only sight-reading
- They didn't hire me
- I don't have enough schooling yet
- I didn't practice my 6 hours today

Yup, you're right...now what?  They didn't hire you.  Ok fine...now what?  Being angry or hurt by it will only slow you down.  Talking about the problem will take time out of the work you might need to do to be irresistibly hirable next time.  Asking them what else they think you could do better is a more solution-based "now what?" For me, my solution has mainly been getting to work on what can be better.  Every time I didn't get the job I was pursuing, I asked myself if I was perfect, always answered "no!" and got to work on what remained.

"Make the decision easy for them."
J. Nelsen

This might sound cold and uncaring, but it's not.  I care a ton!  I also have a ton of potential things I could feel guilty or sad about in my life...but what helps me get constructive is thinking, "You're right...now what?"  It helps me stay solution-based.  We spend too much time thinking and talking about the problems.  The next time you hear someone else talking about their problems for longer than they need to, say, "You're right...now what?"
"Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal."
- H. Ford
I'm only sight-reading.  You're right...now what?  Do I just try to get the notes and wait to add the musical aspects on my second time through? NO! I'm sight-reading and I'll miss whatever is coming up that is too advanced for my current level.  Regardless of what's coming in the next bar, I'm going to lean into this and give it everything I've got right here, right now...one note at a time, one long beautiful phrase at a time!
What is right and what isn't?  

This is a wonderful purpose for discussions and for our work in the practice room.  But getting it right is a potentially low goal compared to getting it great.  Computers can get the notes really right, but it's just a regurgitation.  If "right" is why we're making music, we will be quickly replaced by computers, because they nail it every time... zzzzzzzzz ...borrrrrrinnnnng!

There's another approach to music, and to life...an approach that could be called comfortable chaos.  I recently heard a great word:

Chaordic - simultaneously chaotic and orderly

Let go of being right.
It is a powerful state in which to be where you are comfortable enough in the chaos of other people's ideas that you can hear anyone's ideas and consider them...just consider them.  You don't even have to try to decide if the idea (or this person's performance onstage) is right, or whether you agree with the ideas.

There's a wonderful moment in the movie "State and Main" when a car comes flying over a hill and rolls down the street.  When the crash finally ends and the care comes to a stop, an obviously drunk Alec Baldwin climbs out of the car.  He walks by the shocked onlookers, without looking at them.  As he passes them, he wipes a bit of blood off his face and just calmly exhales, "Well...that happened."
Thing to try this week:
The next time you feel yourself getting upset about something, try to celebrate that you've noticed, and then think, "Well, that happened."  Take a step back and objectively look at what you're choosing to get upset about.  See if you can find a new, more constructive approach to your situation.
In the practice room, let's say you're missing the same note over and over, or repeadedly  playing something out of tune.  You will make the most improvement when you can be objective and notice YOU'RE doing whatever is "happening".  This is not happening to you.  Now respond with a solution.  The greatest word for when we do this is "presence". No, you have not missed this note ten times in a row!  You've missed this note just now. Change your approach, and see if that helps.  Keep going...
"Your actions do not produce success or failure, they just produce results."
- W. Dyer
Would you rather be right or happy?
You are right about missing that note 9 out of 10 times just now.  Many people get inspired to work through it with that knowledge about the problem.  I'm much better served being right about getting that note once just now!  WooHOO! Now I look at what worked on that one time I got the note.  There's a lot of creative chaos through which we can work in order to be right about better things, and end up stumbling forward into a better version of ourself.  
You're right that this person played better than you, or won an award you wanted.  You're right to be upset about this, or angry.  You're right...unless we are here on this earth to be happy and get to be as great as possible.
"Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."
- Buddha
I'm not saying don't mourn your losses.  Being sad and eating ice-cream for a weekend or more might be the most constructive thing we can do...as long as we come out of that sad state at some point, eager to take on our next goal.  We need you out here, learning, growing, sharing...contributing to the planet.  
I'm just trying to equip us with some more ideas about how to get over hitches quickly and how to be doing constructive work as consistently as possible.  Be constructively creative this week with what you're right about.  Doing this will have you spending way less time on the problem, and way more time and energy on your solutions.
This week will happen either way.

Jeff Nelsen
Jeff Nelsen


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