Photos of my Christmas concert at Velour Live Music Gallery by Justin Hackworth, 11/28/12.
Do you ever lay awake at night and run scenarios in your mind in which you are doing extraordinary things that might normally scare you in real life? Perhaps it's speaking in public, maybe it's traveling to a foreign country, pursuing that love interest you've pined for from afar, quitting your job and starting your own business or maybe something as simple as striking up a conversation with someone at the bus stop.
I've been performing on stage for more than ten years now and I still have times where I literally lay awake at night imagining how I can improve myself and what new things I can try on stage to take my live performance to the next level. Last month I literally lost sleep and awoke in cold sweats after I decided to learn five new songs on keyboard. In addition, I also wanted to start performing standing up at the keys, versus sitting down. Those may sound like simple things, but admittedly, I've long been intimidated of playing keyboard in my shows. In the past, I played enough to write the basic outline of a song, but never felt quite confident in actually performing on keys. I've learned a song here and there and over time have built up my repertoire to be able to play at least supportive parts (so long as there's a guitar playing lead). But last month was December, which meant Christmas songs, which meant learning new pieces! I also had a tour in Japan where my Christmas album was releasing for the first time and I really wanted to play my Christmas songs with total confidence at my shows.
So how did I get through that initial phase of fear when I decided to step outside of my comfort zone? First of all, I made a clear commitment to myself that this was what I wanted to do. No backing out. Secondly, I made a plan of preparation. I have always been taught that when one is prepared, one shall not fear (or at least, let fear control them). I called up a piano/performance coach to not only help me learn my songs, but to also help me perform them comfortably in front of an audience. I practiced those songs every single day until they became tattooed to muscle memory. Muscle memory is VITAL to performing comfortably. When your songs are engrained in your memory and fingers, it frees up your brain to be able to perform in an expressive way. If you're worried about playing the right notes and singing the right words, you simply can't connect with your audience (which is the most important part!). In the end, I did learn to perform my new songs, standing up, no less. Was everything perfect? Of course not! I made plenty of mistakes, but you have to allow those mistakes to happen when you're doing things outside of your comfort zone. It's part of the process of become better at what you do. If you show up with the intention to connect to your audience and serve them, they won't even care if you mess up. In fact, it often endears you to them. That's the beautiful thing.
- Make a commitment to accomplish your goal.
- Create a plan of preparation and carry it out.
- Practice consistently.
- Do it! Allow yourself to make mistakes in the process.
To end, I'll leave you with this little 5 minute TED Talk about the value of doing things that make you uncomfortable. (I stumbled across this while reading a great post by Ariel Hyatt called, "Why Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone is the BEST Thing You Can Do For Yourself in 2013"). Best quote of the video: "If you want something you don’t already have, you have to do something you haven’t already done."