Step Up and Forge Your Own Path
"Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda
How responsible are you for what’s happening in your life right now? Are you just going with the flow? Are you forever in an emotional state that keeps you distracted? Do you often blame others for what is or is not happening in your life?
Often with new students or during consultations, I hear and feel the pain, frustration, fear, anger and disappointment they are experiencing because this or that didn’t happen like someone said it would. Or that they totally believed their teachers without questioning or doing research themselves to find their answers and then in a respectful way ask questions about what is or is not happening. No one has all the answers. We are all subject to the flaws and fragility of being human. We all make mistakes and fail, that is a given, and in fact it’s an important part of forging your own path. It’s not the end of the world, but the beginning of enlightenment if you stop blaming and instead choose to find the pony in the pile of horse poop, so you can learn the lesson and move on.
Forging your own path is a job, not personal or emotional. It’s an ongoing job that requires your focus, attention, dedication and perseverance. It allows you to be responsible for what happens to you, the good the bad, the ugly. You have the opportunity to feel the fear and do it anyway. You have to own it all and decide what you want to do with it. This is what gives your life meaning and purpose. And this often requires change.
Change is easier for some than others. By nature, some of us are wired to seek and accept change more often than others. But, it is a necessary part of growing which allows getting better at everything, including rejection, being assertive, and forging your own path. This is what gives your life meaning and purpose.
Michael Ray says in his book “The Highest Goal”, “When you act from the highest goal over and over again, you slowly discover that you are traveling your own path. This is the key to grabbing on to your highest goal: You have your own way—your own inner power, your own contribution, your own methods and approaches, and your own experience of the highest goal. Once you recognize this, your life can be a quest to discover your path and live from it. You accept that obstacles or tests contain powerful lessons and opportunities. You see that when you give yourself fully to life and the highest goal, as you do naturally when you are tested, a grace infuses you.”
When you are able to do this, you serve as a good example and inspire others. And that in the end keeps you engaged in and responsible for you own journey.
Enjoy the rest of the summer and let me hear from you. I love receiving all the comments, observations and questions. Avanti, and ciao, Carol
Networking - Why is it important and why do I need to know how to do it?
"A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval." - Mark Twain
Whether you are involved in a summer program or not, networking is the most important part of growing a successful business and career. It often strikes fear and dread into the hearts of those who have no skills, tools or experience doing it. How does one get better at it? Here are some suggestions.
First, networking is really nothing more than using the opportunity when people get together to exchange information and ideas. The social setting could be casual or by design, either one-on-one or in a group. It's about feeling comfortable with explaining who you are, what you do and where you want to go, to someone else. You give them a quick, concise overview of yourself in 15-30 seconds.
Don't assume that you are the only one feeling ill at ease when networking. Give others an opportunity to get comfortable with you too. You are here to share information and build relationships. There is no "them vs. me", making them into adversaries and making you feel you have to defend yourself by getting all emotional.
Get good at asking others questions to get them to talk about themselves; everyone loves to talk about themselves. Your main job then is to simply listen without making comments in your head, or wandering off into your own thoughts. You may learn that they have a connection or skill you are looking for that will move your career forward or perhaps you have a skill or ability that might be used as barter in obtaining their help.
Be well read and up on current events so you can carry on an intelligent and interesting conversation. ( Easily done by reading the Times online or looking for interesting articles on subjects other than music and singing.)
Having an agenda when you enter a networking situation is important.
Representing and presenting your own authentic and distinct Personal Brand at all times is always a good start. That means carrying your business cards at all time so you can exchange them with others and keep your web site updated. Once you are home, follow up with a quick “enjoyed meeting you” email. Go knowing what you want to accomplish.
Networking can be easy and fun if you can get your head around making the conversation more about others than worrying about yourself. You get to exchange information (career or otherwise) and use the opportunity to build important and lasting relationships.
A couple of DON'TS:
Never approach a twosome talking. This is usually a personal conversation. Try someone who appears to be alone or a group of three or more. Don't sit down unless you really need to. For most people this is a signal that you don't want to be bothered. Stay up and keep moving.
There are two subjects that should never be discussed in a social setting - religion & politics. These subjects are too personal and often engage our emotions in a negative and defensive way.
Get comfortable and feel confident with "Networking”, by putting these suggestions to use. As you know, practice makes permanent. Remember the heart of any business is the human connection; the relationships one creates and maintains. Networking can and often does happen anytime, anywhere. It's something you already do all the time every day, so start paying attention to how you do what you do and see if you want to incorporate some of that experience into Networking. Keep your old and new relationships updated when there is career news to share with them. Once that communications door has been opened, keep it open. Avanti!
Your Personal Brand – “Upping the Ante”
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou
Want to “up the ante” for building your personal brand? Do you ever notice another performer’s personal brand and if so, what do you notice about how and why it is noticeable. Most professionals who are good at what they do have a lot of traits that most people miss.
Let’s start with this: most smart professionals think of what they do as a business, which means it’s just a job, it isn’t personal or emotional. This means they have an adaptable plan of action in place, so they can continually make the best decisions for moving forward on their career paths. They are interested in delivering a great product and services that will make those that hired them or would like to hire them look important in the public’s eyes. That means a solid vocal technique and great storytelling abilities. Someone who is consistent in their work ethics, acts professionally at all times, self-manages the delivery of their product responsibly within the available time frame and budget by being thoroughly prepared before they show up, are flexible and accommodating when necessary, and understand that to the company they are working for, time is money. And again, they are very interested in doing their best to deliver a product that will help the success of said company.
How can you, the artist, create an incentive to be rehired? A professional singer is interested in building trust between management and themselves. While there is no one way, path or method that works for everyone, I’ve already mentioned the key behavioral ingredients. It’s up to you to find what works for you as you move into this world of opera. Keep in mind those that do the hiring are always asking the question, “What’s in it for us as a company?” Even before they contract you they ask themselves, “Will this person add value to our company.” Plus during the production recap, they again ask, “Did this person add value to our company?”, thus closing the circle of, “What’s in it for us?”
It’s about creating a personalized system that can respond to change in a way that builds a solid foundation and structure for you to realize your goals and needs. You have to respect and trust yourself to get to where you want to be. Mistakes and failures are going to be in the mix so expect them. They stay failures or mistakes ONLY if you don’t take the time to find the lesson within each one as you polish and apply what you have learned going forward.
All of the above help in the construction of your personal brand. It makes you stronger and more confident. And remember, that no matter how prepared you are, not everyone is going to like or agree with you or appreciate you or your talent. But that is life and the quicker you realize that, “what you think of me if none of my business”, the more you can let go of trying to please others and you will find you can truly and happily be yourself which is your personal brand. It is a lifelong journey that requires preparation, improvement and practice. Reaching the goal is not half as much fun or satisfying as the journey. So avanti and ciao until next time. Carol
Audition and Performance Anxiety
"Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears." - Les Brown
Audition and performance anxiety is an evolutionary throwback — one that can be directly tied to our more primal neurological heritage; it’s called fight or flight. This fear that is elicited by stage fright ignites the body's fight-or-flight response, which is what brings about its various physical and physiological manifestations. Essentially, it's the perceived sense of danger that sets off kinds of internal bells and whistles in preparation for something that arguably never happens. This kind of response is completely disproportionate, and can be seen as a kind of false alarm. And needless to say, the physical and psychological experience of all this, is extremely unpleasant. Experiencing audition and performance anxiety, it's fair to say, is not fun.
Many very famous artists like Pavarotti, Barbara Streisand and Rene Fleming and even great athletes suffer from performance anxiety. For those that have audition or performance anxiety, it can be worse than most common fears like flying, forgetting your music, loosing luggage, losing your phone, etc. It’s possible to even become physically ill before you actually audition or perform. This complex fear extends beyond the pressure to perform in the moment. It’s the vulnerability of exposing oneself to be judged by a panel of adjudicators or an audience, that sets off an entire cascade of physiological processes when you simply think about it, that include dry mouth, butterflies in the stomach, a pounding heart, shaking, sweaty hands, throwing up and diarrhea.
Those of you who are at the effect of this condition often start to experience its effects days or weeks in advance. Psychologists, who work with patients on this condition, describe how your inner chatter tends to focus on those things that could go wrong during the performance and in the immediate aftermath of a potential failure, which allows your imagination to build a solid story about how, when and why things will go wrong. It's the lead-up to an audition or performance that get’s your mind off track. Your thoughts become irrational and absurd, and most times you know it but can’t seem to stop them. These are exaggerated fears taken completely out of context.
And in fact, studies have shown that this exaggerated anxiety and fear of failure in an audition or performance can be driven by any number of traits. See if you find one that fits: want everyone to like and admire you, what to be a star in their eyes, desire control, fear of failure and success, and an intense anxiety about not being able to perform properly when the time comes (which can if you’re not careful, serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy).
During an audition or performance you may be trying to second guess or “mind read” what those listening are scrutinizing. Consequently, you turn your focus onto yourself and interpret the audience's attention as a perceived threat. And once the fear sets in, that's when you begin a downward spiral during which you’re perpetually on the lookout for anything that would reinforce your fears. You start to think pessimistic thoughts and presume that others are naturally critical and that a negative evaluation is likely, when in reality, your mind should be focused on doing your JOB. And your job is to tell your characters story through the sound of your voice and acting skills, while you take your audience on a magical journey! That’s what they paid for and desperately want. They want you to use your skills and tools, to take them away from their everyday life.
What is the best way to get a handle on this? First of all, you have to want to get out of this emotional rut. You have to want to create new habits that need to be reinforced every day to become the “go to” response. Finding the right method for you to get a handle on this will include some trial and error and lots of research. I find that most times it’s the “Brat”, you know that internal voice that talks you in a not so nice way at the most inappropriate times. I have a method to deal with this “Brat” in my book Aria Ready, The Business of Singing. Or you might want to consider a therapist, who can perhaps help you tackle the psychological and emotional underpinnings of your anxiety; things that might include learning to recognize irrational and unfounded beliefs, help with your ability to stop revisiting a recent negative experience, which can trigger the fear. You can also learn how not to obsess over the fear of negative consequences. Simply talking it out with a therapist has also been shown to be effective. There is also hypnosis, meditation and visualization, which are all very effective.
So… with all this said, let’s concede a couple of things. First, those who have this anxiety shouldn't feel that they have to get over it. Sometimes it's just simply not worth it. But for every one of you with audition and performance anxiety who wants to move on and have it under control, you need to consider just how important it is for you to deal with the effects of this crippling, emotional ride. You have to decide just how much you want to perform, do it well and be able to enjoy it. Performing as a professional is not for the faint of heart. It’s a job with all the ups and downs just like any other. It’s not glamorous but if you have the talent, and want to get involved, then do it! Avanti! Ciao, Carol