It sort of goes without saying that in order to get up in front of people and perform…basically say, “Hey, look at me!”…you have to be more than a little bit narcissistic. Furthermore, as a professional entertainer, you have to promote yourself endlessly and tirelessly if you want to make a living. It’s really a setup for it to be all about you. No wonder some commercially successful young entertainers (not mentioning any names, Biebs) can go off the rails. You get that “enough about me, what do you think about me?” phenomenon. The irony is that even though it’s “all about me,” you become inordinately concerned with what everyone else thinks about you. This can set up a relationship dynamic with your audience in which you try desperately to control what they think about you and “make” them like you. Your anxiety about how successful you’re being through the course of your performance is a huge impediment to your succeeding in your goal.
How do you avoid this trap? The short answer is that you make it not about “you” but about “them”…your audience. It requires a good-size serving of humble pie. Guess what…you did absolutely nothing to come by your amazing musical talents. You’re not special, you’re just lucky. Rather than be full of yourself, you should be thankful that you are the recipient of this wonderful gift. Of course, if you’ve worked incredibly hard to develop those talents and skills you lucked into, you certainly have something to be proud of. Being proud of what you’ve accomplished, you might want to share it with others. The best reasons to share your gift with others are that it can lighten their load for at least a little while and enhance the quality of their life. It is your gift to them. When you give someone a gift, you want it to be the best gift possible, one that fits them and you want them to like it. The focus in not on you, it’s on the gift and your audience.
If you prepare professionally to perform, you can be confident that the gift you are sharing is a good one. The more confident you are, the less you have to worry about whether you’re doing a good job (“me, me, me”) and the more you can focus on your audience’s enjoyment and appreciation of the gift you’ve given them. In the two-way communication that goes on between entertainer and audience, they will get a clear sense that you are most interested in helping them to feel good and enjoy the performance you are giving to them. I promise you, there is an energy audiences give back to you when they sense this attitude from you and it is absolutely amazing. Collectively, you realize that you are all on the same side. It’s not just about you as the entertainer; it’s about what you are sharing together. That is music at its best. When you get that going, you realize there’s nothing to be nervous about. And the funny thing is, the more you’re focused on the enjoyment of your audience, the more they’ll like you and the more popular and successful you’ll become. Taking your focus off of you paradoxically helps you.
What about my buddy, George Ensle’s take on this? George’s approach stems from his Christian faith…he’s one of those joyous, loving, accepting Christians, not the look-down-your-nose, judgmental types. He came up with a phrase that describes how he approaches performing. He says he comes to each performance with a “servant’s heart.” I’d never heard the term before and was immediately struck by it. He sees every performance as an opportunity to serve others, to share his gifts and to do his best to help them enjoy themselves. It’s all about them. He is an extremely gifted singer, songwriter and guitarist with much to be proud of and yet he is an admirably humble man. He realizes how lucky he is and is delighted to share his good fortune with others. It’s hard to be nervous and afraid when you come to an audience with a servant’s heart.
Check out George’s music at www.georgeensle.com