If you are sensitive to crass language, today’s post may not be the post for you… Please feel free to bleep them out in your mind or join us again tomorrow. – Love, Megan.
“Most of us struggle throughout our lives by giving too many fucks in situations where fucks do not deserve to be given.” writes Mark Manson in his run-away bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. As the diva mentors’ responses were pouring in and I began sketching out the trajectory for this season, I realized that I better not delay this any further into this season. I mentioned yesterday that “practice” came up in eighty-two percent of the responses to my interviews. But, this, this was the holy grail of advice: stop giving a fuck.
Your 29 Days to Diva Day 7 activity is to actively stop giving a fuck when it comes to getting what you want in your career.
Doing It Is The Best Way To Learn
Britt Olsen-Ecker is a badass renaissance woman who never ceases to amaze me. (She’s also been a Friend-o-the-Blog™ from way, way, back when…) I have been mesmerized by her confidence and seen her as bold in the way that attracts people to her and not the way that makes people intimidated or spiteful. When she wrote, “not giving a f&8k what anyone else thinks,” in response to one of the top skills she had specifically curated in her career, I immediately sat up and took notice. She continued,
Project confidence even when you’re feeling zero confidence. Welcome to my world: IMPOSTER SYNDROME! No matter if you’re trying to secure a job or nail an audition, the people on the other side are hoping you are the best person ever for the job. There will be times that it will be your “first time” doing said job. Whatever. Do it even if you don’t feel ready. Doing it is the best way to learn.
Exactly. That imposter syndrome shows up in so many sneaky and diabolical ways in our art-making practices and creative careers. To know that Britt felt that way too made me feel less alone. It reminded me that when I was mired deep in my own version of imposter syndrome, I went on a quest to figure out how to strategically build my self-confidence, self-assurance, and self-efficacy. I turned page after page of personal development books and scrolled through entirely too many Pinterest pins imploring me to “just be confident.” I cried back, “But how, mf-er? How??”
The Two Keys to Confidence
That’s when it hit me. Now, I teach my students and clients what I call “The Two Keys to Confidence.” Only two keys? Yep, these two unlock the door to progress. The first key is to “build skill.” The second key is to “recognize that you have that skill.” It’s really just that straightforward. We don’t feel confident when we haven’t put the time in to learning a skill. We also won’t feel confident if we don’t recognize the skills we have. No dilly-dallying. I either have the skill and recognize it or I don’t. When you’re feeling imposter syndrome creep in, check with yourself:
- Do I have the skills necessary to complete this task?
- If yes, how can I better remind myself that I am ready to ace this undertaking?
- If not, how can I forge the skills required?
- Can this moment be a learning experience to gain those skills?
It’s one thing for me to tell you to stop giving a fuck. It’s another thing to give you some foundational diva skills in not giving a fuck. I’m all about that micr0-action life, remember? Your first micro-action task is to think about the biggest goal that you are currently working on and ask yourself if you have the skills to complete the undertaking. If not, make a plan for how you will strategically bring those skills into your life in the next 90 days.
TODAY’S THOUGHT LEADERS
This year, since I’ll have so many people to thank as we’re making our way through the series, you’ll see the names of people who have contributed their wisdom in this section.
- Britt Olsen-Ecker is a musician, photographer, social media expert and fuckin’ badass based in Baltimore, MD. Her interest and research areas include: photography, social media marketing, studio recording for beginners, and how to make the perfect roast chicken. To thank her for her advice and cheer her on purchase her band’s latest EP at outcalls.bandcamp.com! And, sign up for her mailing list for photography: https://www.boephotography.com/about/.
- New York City-based composer Stephanie Ann Boyd endeavors to write music that brings whimsical worlds to life, that is meaningful to audience and performer alike, and that refreshes and strengthens the creative spirit. You can thank her for her wisdom and support her work by visiting her website and signing up for her mailing list http://www.stephanieannboyd.com/contact1.
- Kala Maxym is a musician and Founder & Chief Event Composer of Five Senses Tastings based in Los Angeles, CA. Her company seeks to “Diversify your Palate. Amplify your World.” Thank her by visiting www.fivesensestastings.com and giving her a like or shout-out on your favorite social platforms.
- Pamela Stein Lynde is a soprano, composer, and Founder & Director of Stone Mason Projects based in New York, New York. Her work includes writing and performing new music with a special interest in music for the voice. To thank her and cheer her on you can check out her work in the upcoming American Opera Projects Composers & the Voice workshop. The First Glimpse program happens on May 18th and 19th and September 28th & 29th will feature 20 minute mini operas/opera scenes performed.
Thinking Big and Not Freaking Out Over “No”
Being “too precious” about our singing careers and singing goals stands in direct opposition to not giving a fuck. If you treasure your big goals and keep them held high on a pedestal, you will block yourself from working on them. Please say out loud right now (unless you’re reading this in a public area and that would be weird…), “I would much rather see my goals coming to fruition in the real world than to continue idolizing them in my mind.” If you keep them in your imagination, they will undoubtedly stay pure and unsullied; but, they will also stay concealed and without real merit.
Composer Stephanie Ann Boyd has experience taking her big dreams and turning them into reality. She knew that she couldn’t let her vision of the 50 State Sonata Project, a large scale co-commission bringing new music to every corner of the US with one violinist in each state premiering a new sonata for violin and piano called “Amerigo,” stay dormant. She shared with me,
Having the courage to think big and think outside the box and just “go for it” even though it was scary and I wasn’t certain of success is a big one here. This skill resulted in being commissioned by violinists in nearly all 50 states for the 50 State Sonata Project, and moreover has resulted in some of the most memorable concerts and incredible friendships that I’m humbled and honored to be a part of.
Beginning the 50 State Sonata Project was really scary. I was motivated, and I really wanted to do this project in honor of my high school violin teacher, the pedagogue John Kendall (who brought the Suzuki Method to America). But I was scared about asking all of these incredible violinists to be a part of a large consortium project, and I couldn’t get myself to send those introductory emails for months! I didn’t have the courage to get a “no” back, or worse – no answer at all! I was scared because there was no precedent for a project of that kind. I was scared because I was a 24 year old composer asking people twice my age with huge careers to commission me to write this piece. But I finally summed up the courage and went for it. After hundreds of hours of interviews with all the commissioners (nearly everyone said yes!) and many, many hours of concerts and pre-concert talks and post-concert talks with the commissioners and their families or dearest friends, I’m so happy I got over myself and sent the emails. There’s so much joy that you rob yourself of when you limit your own actions to actions that you know have had success in the past when carried out by other people. You are your own tome with your own index and your own journey. Precedent is nice to have for reference, but should never be your map when it is limiting your growth and your ability to bring about learning and joy, especially in the music world.
Reading “I didn’t have the courage to get a ‘no’ back, or worse – no answer at all!” resonated with me deeply. We too often stop ourselves from asking for what we want or need in this career because we’re afraid of hearing “no” or being totally ignored. LA-based soprano and CEO and Founder of Five Senses Tastings, Kala Maxym, is a serial music entrepreneur who constantly inspires me. She agreed on how important it is to curb our reactivity to the word “no.” She wrote,
I would say “Not freaking out at the word ‘no'” is really important for me. Hearing a no from someone can definitely mean no but it may not mean no next week, and it certainly doesn’t mean no from all the other hundreds or thousands of people you will talk to in the coming weeks, months, and years as you build your business. Even the person who says no may be able to refer you to someone who will say yes so never close the door, just move out of the doorway and see if another path can open for you.
Part of the process of making your creative career happen is finding the right people. You’re seeking the right clients, the right listeners, the right presenters, and more. Hearing no is simply a redirect. You didn’t find the right fit for that one.
A Note On Rejections
I want to state this as simply as I possibly can: the art of not giving a fuck includes not giving a fuck about rejections.
Rejections hurt but you are the one person who decides their long-term meaning.
Show Your Work
Okay, so what are the micro-actions of not giving a fuck? Let’s start with introducing yourself…
- An email I’ve been meaning to write and could do today is:
- A phone call I could make today is:
- An application deadline I’m going to mark in my calendar today is:
- An application I can complete today is:
- An audition I can sign up for today is:
- A coffee meeting I could set up today for the near future is:
- A collaboration I want to start discussing today with _____ and/or ______ is:
- I vow to distribute ___ (#) business cards during/after/when:
- A recording or video I could post today is:
- A person I would like to bring on my team is:
- This is how I plan to get in touch with them today:
- A gatekeeper in my musical community to whom I will send an introductory email/my materials today is:
- An organization I will contact today about getting more involved as a board member/volunteer/resident artist is:
Notice what kind of feelings come up in relation to any of the prompts above. If some of them don’t feel easy or exciting ask yourself why that is. Do you actually need more skills (see our confidence builder paragraph above) before contacting that person? How can you go about getting those skills? Do you simply need to recognize that you have the skills? This is your time.
If nothing else, divas, pretend to be a person who doesn’t give a fuck. Do not cede valuable opportunities to other people who have developed this skill. Mentally give yourself two gold stars every single time you get over yourself, your imposter syndrome, or your perfecrastination. We don’t gain prizes in the real world for the sheer act of overcoming our own insecurities but the indirect benefits can be astonishing. I’ll leave you with one more thought from composer and performer Pamela Stein Lynde remembering a piece of advice given to her by Sarah Kirkland Snider,
I often talk myself out of applying for things, submitting my scores to things, submitting my materials for auditions or competitions, etc. As singers, we have to manage our resources as much as possible, and a lot of times, that means we need to be critical of audition opportunities and know when to say, “Hey, I don’t think I’m really what these people are going to be looking for.” However, going too far in this direction can be bad. As a composer, I’ve found myself shying away from opportunities, thinking about how I’m probably not as experienced as other composers applying. But Sarah Kirkland Snider said something about this that I always try to keep in mind, which is that you just have to apply. You just have to do it. Even if you don’t get picked for that particular opportunity, people will still hear your work, and learn who you are. You never know when those same people will think of you when something else comes up. Also, women composers tend to get especially intimidated, and therefore, we owe it to ourselves to just send in our music, even when we have doubts, because we need to work on being represented more in programming. So I guess the actionable advice is “just do it.”
Divas, tell your Diva Buddy System how you plan to just do it today. What things are you holding “too precious” in your work and how can you push yourself to bring those dreams into reality? Tell them what “no’s” you have heard in the past that are preventing you from applying, contacting, performing, asking, collaborating, recording, presenting, and whatever other verbs are part of your art-making. Please, please, please share on the Sybaritic Singer Facebook page or contact me directly on Twitter (I’m @mezzoihnen) and tell me how you’re putting your work out there and not giving a fuck today. (No matter when you’re reading this!) I want to cheer you on!!
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