How much of a real commitment have you made to getting the job done when it comes to working with an agenda when you practice, perform, audition, or even think about music and the industry of performance? I venture to guess that it is in reality more of a wish or want rather than a desire that burns you right down to your toes. You play at it and love to indulge yourself in your emotions when singing through a piece rather than just doing the work necessary to put your vocal technique in place and do this over and over again as you work through a piece of music and then perform it with the same passionate agenda in mind. What happens to take you off track and keeps you from actually doing your job?
Fear is a big factor. Admit it! We spend lots of time in our heads talking to ourselves about resisting and then rationalizing our resistance to just doing the work. Its one thing to lie to ourselves about this but it is another to actually believe the lie we are telling ourselves when we rationalize.
“Maintaining a complicated life is a great way to avoid changing it.” — Elaine St. James
Are you a pro or an amateur? Until you turn that corner in your mind, and decide to be a pro, nothing changes. The amateur plays for fun, and only does the work part time even when he/she is supposedly doing “the work”. There is no real commitment, no focus, no dedication, and no bona fide love for the process of perfecting that vocal technique so one can make “honest” music.
When you turn pro, it’s almost like stepping into another body, another world, because you have finally chosen a genuine and authentic purpose. It makes everything else seem irrelevant and almost in black and white. It’s as if you woke up from a long sleep and all of your senses are keenly alive and life is in vibrant color. You can clearly understand the difference between what is important and urgent. Urgent is saving the earth if it is under attack. Important is the “stage” on which you have to leave everything you’ve got, each and every time. You know that you are in it for the long haul and are committed for the duration to a curriculum of rejection, self-doubt, isolation, sacrifice, anguish, contempt, and even at times embarrassment. This is how you become a warrior; you withstand the misery that comes with committing to the job. You are in it for the duration because your love of this art form, your innate talent, and ferocity helps keep your eye on the ball.
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds; your mind transcends limitation, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties, and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” — Patanjali, 1st century BC
This is about delayed gratification my friends! In addition to what you have to endure, you have to also have patience to sustain you through the tough times. You have to be prepared at a deep level to combat and confront your own self-sabotage. You can then be prepared to take that risk, or not. Life is not fair so carry out your business in the real world. Take a good hard gander at what our industry looks, sounds, feels, smells and tastes like. That is the real world. The playing field alters each and every day so one has to be prepared internally to do battle. This is how the warrior prepares his mind for this journey. His goal is not victory, but to be able to handle himself, his thoughts, the “Brat”, as competently and steadily as he can, and low and behold, sooner or later he will be at the finish line. Remember this is business, not emotional or personal.
“We have a right only to our labor, not to the fruits of our labor.” — The Bhagavad-Gita
There is really no mystery to becoming a pro. It’s a decision brought about by an act of will. You make up our mind, you change our mind and you are the only one that can do that. By this small act, you set something mysterious in motion. It’s a process that creates space for the Universe to do some of the work. The power you start to generate when you are committed, focused and concentrated on getting the work done, draws more of this good stuff to you. You attract what you are thinking about. Thoughts are things. The words we use when we talk to ourselves are powerful so make them count. Call your muse for help. There is magic when one looses one’s arrogance and humbly asks for help from a source we cannot see, hear, touch or smell. This is like cracking the surface of a hard nut. Bravo! This is getting out of your own way. Bravo! This is keeping the ego out of play. Bravo! There is no room for that in making art.
“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” — Carlos Castaneda
Here is what the great 82 year old – one of this year’s Kennedy Center Artist Award Honorees – Barbara Cook says about being a pro. She is still singing very well, continues to perform giving people goose-bumps with it all and travels the world presenting Master Classes in Performance. (If you don’t know who this woman is, check her out online.) “Know who you are, pick pieces of music that illumines that person, and be very present when you do. Often singers remember what they did yesterday or just a few moments ago and try to repeat that. It never works! As for me, I know where I am in my life right now, know what it is I want to say right now, and know how I feel about the music and words right now. Then I sing.”
That is being a pro. What is your New Year’s Agenda?
Avanti, and ciao until next time.