It’s hard to believe, but since starting this blog about singing back in March, I am now on my 50th post! Amazing! Woo-hoo! A year ago at this time, I was only thinking, wishing, and wondering about blogging, and now I am actually doing it. I’ve taken only the first steps on this long journey, but the point is, I’ve started it. I took the leap, and now I’m in free-fall! Blogging is not just a great way to share my passion for singing and solutions for singer’s problems. It’s also turned out to be a great metaphor for the struggles that singers go through in their own careers and lives. The biggest takeaway I’ve had so far, that I can share with you? Just DO it!
More than a catchy (and brilliant!) marketing tool to get you to exercise and buy Nike sneakers, Just Do It should be your singer’s mantra every day. Whether it’s planning your professional career, working up the nerve to join your church choir, or just turning off the TV to do your vocal practice, those three little words should be ringing in your head— Just Do It. Profound and life-altering! It’s not just the big decisions that set the course of our lives. It’s those moments where we take action, even seemingly small deeds, that ultimately drive us down the road to success!
When thinking of what subject had the gravitas and worthiness to be my 50th post, Just Do It kept ringing in my head over and over. I actually couldn’t sleep thinking about it! Why? Because I know something that only comes with age, experience and loss— we’re only here on this planet for a very short time, and there are no do-overs. Make it count, and make it count now! If you keep thinking, wishing and wondering about singing, whether it’s performing at the local Karaoke club or launching a major singing career, you will be wasting very valuable days of your extremely precious life. So what’s holding you back?
Let’s dig deep and help you get where you want to go…
WHY Do You Want to Sing?
Practically every motivational book and goal-setting program on the planet starts with the question “Why do you want to achieve this goal?”. Make a list of all the reasons you want to sing, no matter how grand or how trivial. Humans are driven by the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. What will singing bring to your life that will fulfill these two purposes? The more “whys” you have on your list, the more likely you will be to start, and to successfully stay the course of your singing journey. When the going gets tough, you can look back at your “Why Do I Want to Sing?” list to get you motivated all over again!
Remember, list ALL the reasons you want to sing. It could be as noble as bringing music to underprivileged children in a Third World country, to something as petty as wanting to impress your high-school nemesis with your singing success. Don’t judge yourself too harshly! The point is that if your reasons are important to you, they will be powerful enough to make you start your singing journey, and to keep going. And, if you periodically review your list, you’ll find that your reasons may change. You’ll find new, even more motivating ones, and leave some of the old ones behind.
Fighting Fear of Failure
This is HUGE, no doubt! Nobody wants to fail, or appear weak or unsuccessful in the eyes of others. Even more important, we don’t want to try something, fail, and then think less of ourselves! And yet, it’s only when we put ourselves “out there” and take that risk, that something wonderful can happen. Re-read your list of “whys”, take a deep breath, and Just Do It!
One thing you learn as you get older is that you regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you tried and failed at (yes, I know I ended the sentence with a preposition, but it’s more powerful that way!). At least if you tried, even unsuccessfully, then you can stop worrying about it! It’s done, it’s over, grieve a little. Then you can take the energy that you were using for that project and put it into something else. If you never try, you will always be thinking, wishing and wondering about it, torturing yourself, perhaps for years.
I don’t know where this blogging journey will ultimately lead me. I have my fears as well— What if people don’t like my posts, or disagree with me? What if I run out of things to say? What if it all turns out to be a huge time and money drain? What if it never becomes a profitable business? In the same way, you may be having similar thoughts about your singing—“What if I’m not as good a singer as I think I am? What if I audition for the job/show/solo and don’t get it? What if I spend all this time practicing and paying for lessons for nothing? What if I can never make money singing? None of us know the answers to these questions going in. But, if your “whys” are strong enough, you will take action in spite of your fears. Here’s an old Italian saying to inspire you: “anima, coraggio e cor di ferro!” — Soul, courage, and a heart of iron. Just Do it!
The “I’m Too Old” Trap!
Guess what? You’ll never be as young again as you are today! So stop worrying and get moving! While it’s true that you may have passed the age level for a particular competition, an internship, or to play a particular role in a show, that doesn’t mean that the singing ship has sailed without you! It’s never too late to start, and there are a world of other possibilities out there, many of which you can even create for yourself. See my post: It’s Never Too Late to Learn To Sing!
I had been singing in a band as a side job while going to college, and then later while working at an insurance company. I could never get rid of the desire to sing full-time, and I knew I wanted to teach voice as well. I decided to go back to college in my late twenties, and I’m sure everyone thought I was nuts to give up a good job to go back to school for a music degree. I jumped through all the hoops to get into a university voice program, including auditioning, and was accepted.
But in that very first semester, a prominent voice coach told me that at 28, I was too old to start a serious singing career and should probably give up. I went home and cried my eyes out, and then I got mad. REALLY mad. I went back to school with a vengeance, and since that time, accomplished everything I ever wanted to do in music, despite the dire predictions of that coach. Much later on, that same person heard me in a recital and actually gave me a compliment (through somewhat clenched teeth). Vindication!
Years later, after a busy twelve years or so of performing and teaching, I
decided that I wanted to get my Master’s degree in Vocal Performance.
Yet again, I fought that “you’re too old” voice in my head, and went for it.
It was the best decision I ever made, and led to my college teaching career, as well as to so many other opportunities in singing. I have a friend who at 60+ years of age just got a full scholarship to get her Bachelor’s degree (a lifelong dream of hers), and the college even pays for her apartment in New York City! Age is only a number. Just Do It!
Have a Plan and Work It
There used to be a great poster back in the seventies that said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else”. Ain’t that the truth! If you want to achieve your goals in singing, and in life, drifting along with the many ups and downs of everyday living will keep you from making any real progress.
Find some quiet time and a calm place (even if you have to hide in your parked car!). Sit down with a pen and a big notebook or legal pad— yes, the Old School way, no electronics. Close your eyes, and visualize what you want to accomplish in singing, and when. Think of what you’d like to have achieved by one year from now. Then, working backwards— what would you need to accomplish every month to achieve that end-of-year goal? And then, work backwards by week. What do you need to do every week to achieve your end-of-month goal? And finally, what do you need to do every day to achieve your end-of-week goal?
There are so many goal-setting systems available to help you get organized. You can even buy a planner, take courses, and drive yourself nuts with complex programs that all say they will help you to achieve your goals. I’ve done some of them! But in the final analysis— simple is best. Do what works for you. I find that making and revising lists for the big-picture items, and using Post-It notes for my daily tasks really gets me where I need to go. I do have a planner where I keep all my lessons and appointments, and I do love my colored pens for different activities (who knew that now there are erasable pens?!). The point is, set your goal, and get organized to move toward it. Just Do it!
Keep Moving No Matter What
Life can throw us lots of curveballs— the loss of a job or relationship, financial problems, a serious illness, a death in the family. It can also throw us unexpected blessings, too! Whether the developments are good or bad, they can distract us from our primary goal, and the tasks we need to accomplish to achieve it. What to do? Depending on the scale of the event or issue that has come up, you may need to take a temporary break from your game plan. No one will fault you (and you can’t fault yourself) if you are having to deal with a truly life-altering event.
However! I find that many people use not-so-life-altering events as excuses not do the work they need to for successful achievement of their singing goals. As a teacher at secondary schools, colleges and privately, I have heard every version of the proverbial “the dog ate my homework” that you can imagine! Students want to sing opera at the Met or be the next big pop star, but every little thing that happens in their lives becomes an excuse for not learning their music, not practicing their vocal exercises, and sometimes not even showing up to their lessons. Life is full of big and little hurdles, but you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and keep moving. Just DO it, no matter what!
Escape the Perfect World Trap
You may have specific ideas about the music you want to sing, the people you want to work with and the venues in which you want to perform. You may only want to sing if you get paid a certain dollar amount, and perhaps you only want to drive a certain distance for gigs. Maybe you hate getting dressed up, and only want to perform if you can wear your favorite jeans. Or, you’ll never settle for a small role in a show; you’re only interested if you get the lead… Be careful, my friend! There’s nothing wrong with having standards and boundaries, but especially if you’re just starting out as a serious singer, saying “no” to possible work that doesn’t fit your idea of the perfect singing job may be a big mistake.
I have had many unexpected twists and turns in my singing career, and they’ve all added to my professional and personal life in a valuable way. By saying “yes” to a diversity of singing opportunities that weren’t in my original plan, I had amazing experiences and made important career contacts. Most significantly, each and every one made me grow as a singer, and contributed to the depth and breadth of knowledge I could bring to the table as a teacher. (Of course, always be discriminating when it comes to your safety, and if applicable, getting paid fairly for your services).
Finally, if there’s one thing I can impress upon you yet again, it is this— The only one holding you back from achieving your goals in singing is YOU. Yes, there are external stresses that we all have to deal with in life, and that can certainly make things much harder. But how badly do you want it? How hard are you willing to work to get it? Are you going to let performance anxiety (see my post: Performance Anxiety— Stop It Before It Starts!) or fear of failure get in your way?
You want to sing; the time is now. Don’t wait another day to follow your dreams, whether it’s singing a small solo in your church Christmas program, or taking the world by storm as a solo artist. Take that leap off the metaphorical cliff and soar your way to success…