I wish I had a nickel for every time I was asked the question, “What do I say, how do I behave when someone asks me what it is I do for a living? I’m still working on my voice and doing a bit of performing, but I can’t in all good conscious call myself a professional opera singer. And besides I already have a degree and should be further along. I feel too old to be saying I’m not ready yet. It makes me sound like a lazy failure. And I do have a regular job to pay for it all as well.” Does this sort of answer sound familiar?
Let me start by asking you some questions. Have a pencil and paper or your computer handy when you answer them. I want you to do this without creating a well thought out contrived answer. It’s sort of stream of consciousness. After reading the question write down, without the critic or editor interfering what comes to mind. Can you do this? If so, let’s go!
“There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside them for reality and never allow the world within to assert itself.” – Herman Hesse Demain
- Why does this very particular question make you panic and feel so uncomfortable?
- Write down the exact conversation going on in your head. (Be able to un-jumble it and get at least one solid thought down.)
- Do you feel you are worthy of having a singing career?
- Do you feel you are where you thought you would be at this time, place and age?
- Are you following your own path and are you happy with your progress?
- Are you frustrated and discouraged with yourself?
- Are you afraid to leave your comfort zone?
So, were you surprised at some of your answers? Do they make sense to you? Are you ready to step up, create and own your personal public statement? Are you ready to be responsible for changing how you view where you are at this moment on your career path?
“You know, Charlie, life is like a deck chair. Some people place their chair so they can see where they’re going. Some turn it around to see where they’ve been. Others, Charlie, place their chair right in the middle of the action to see what’s going on all around them” Charlie sighs and says, “I’m just trying to get mine unfolded.” – Charles M. Schulz
It’s amazing how many aspiring artists or emerging professional singers haven’t created a solid, personal phrase or statement that they have great confidence in when asked this really quite simple question; one that represents where you are right now as far as career is concerned. And have the guts to spit it out when asked this really quite harmless question, “And what is that you do?” So you give them your well thought out, short statement, and turn the question to them, “And what is it that you do?” And you are off and running with some interesting kind of conversation.
If you don’t have this in place, it’s usually because of the hurtful conversation you often have with yourself in your own head concerning this subject. It’s your confusion and doubt about your place in the pecking order of the career path. It’s you deciding in that moment that you are not worthy and instead of it being about business, it becomes personal and filled with emotion. Often if you are on your very own path going at your own doable pace, you might start comparing yourself to others who could even be friends who are further along than you are. This again becomes emotional and personal. You often flocculate emotionally from anger at yourself and your colleagues seeming success, to becoming fearful that you can’t make it. You might even feel guilt, shame, regret and remorse that you haven’t progressed as quickly are others seem to have. Your feelings get easily hurt when you hear others talk about their progress instead of congratulating them and being genuinely happy for them. We have to act our way into a new way of thinking rather than think our way into a new way of acting. ” Unknown Discouragement settles in when fear, anger, guilt, unworthiness and hurt feelings fester over time. Discouragement promotes inaction. Let me demonstrate this with a short story of how elephants get trained. When baby elephants are young, they are heavily chained to stakes driven deep into the ground. Quickly the baby becomes discouraged and stops pulling. It learns quickly to stay put. Over time the trainer uses lighter and lighter restraints and finally a small rope attached to a stick barely anchored in the earth, keeps that same elephant, now fully grown, in place.
You do the same thing to yourself. You have the power to pursue your dreams and goals but often your childhood and young adult memories and beliefs, like the baby elephant chained to the stake, keep you firmly tethered to your comfort zone. Often your mind interprets discouragement as failure. Failure = Feedback. (And it’s how you learn anything and everything.)
Remember also that no matter how wonderful, honest, unique, authentic, etc. you are, not everyone is going to like you and not everyone is going to agree with you and that’s just fine. It’s just human nature. So instead of letting these emotions that are infused with energy move you away from your dreams and goals, allow that energy to move you forward allowing you to get what you want instead of holding you back. Be productive with this energy rather than destructive. Learn to wield this energy as a tool for your benefit, not your detriment.
“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.” – Bob Moawad
The biggest difficulty with making change of any kind lies in the fundamental misperception of the so-called “limiting emotions”. The limitation is not in the emotions themselves, they are merely signals – red flags to alert you about something that needs your attention. It is your responses that are often limiting. The good news is that they are within your control. You choose how you respond. You have to wake up and realize that there is no one stopping you but yourself.
And the best part is that all that energy that makes up your comfort zone is yours! How you choose to put it to use is all up to you. Change is never easy, but once you have a public statement that represents you and how you want the world to see, hear and feel you, your confidence and belief in yourself comes back. You are sure of whom you are right this minute as far as your place on your career path is concerned and you own it with panache.
Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” Eddie Rickenbacker Remember that you have to find absolutely the right words for just you in putting this public statement together. It has to be something that you can’t wait to get out because it feels, sounds, and looks like you. It represents your Personal Brand which you can represent with pride with these words. Even when simply thinking them to yourself, it shall invoke pride and passion.
Here are some ideas of what a public statement might be:
- I am pursuing a professional operatic career which entails continued and never ending working with the Masters in the business. So I also have a day job doing….. until the day when most of the studying is over and I am making my living singing. How about you?
- I am an aspiring opera singer. How about you?
- Opera Singing professionally has always been my goal. I’m well on my way. How about you?
- To make a living while continuing to prepare for a career as a professional opera singer, I have a job at… How about you?
- I’m a classical (soprano, mezzo, tenor, bass) in training for an operatic career. How about you?
- I am so lucky to be living out my dream of becoming a professional opera singer. I continue with the necessary studies of course, so my day job is…. Until I make my living as a singer.
The whole point of your public statement, besides giving you a solid and prideful stance while introducing yourself, is to open an opportunity to real, interesting, diverse and comfortable dialogue with the other person or persons. It’s always about asking questions and then really listening without trying to formulate a clever answer or response while the other person is still talking. It is truly and honestly about communicating well, which is both talking and actively listening. Believe me when I say, you will be well remembered for all the right reasons. And you will be owning who you are and where you are going.
A Greek Myth: God 1: “Let us put the answers to life on top of a mountain. They will never look for them there” Other Gods: “No! They will find them right away.”
God 2: “Let us put the answers to life in the centre of the Earth.” Other Gods: “No! They will find them right away.”
God 3: “Let us put the answers to life at the bottom of the sea. They will never look for them there.” Other Gods: “No! They will find them right away.”
God 4: “Let us put the answers to life within them. They will never look there.” And so they did.
I would really love to know what you come up with so let me hear from you via email or on face book. If you need some help, I’m always available.
Avanti, and ciao until next time. Carol