During Day 1 of this year’s edition of 29 Days to Diva, I brought up professional jealousy. I encouraged you to kill the green monster with clarity by working on your Be/Do/Have/Make list. The reason we focus on this so early in the process is that I want you to become absolutely obsessed with your vision and your cause. I want you to become so passionate about becoming the musician and/or composer you ultimately want to be that you forget to focus on “beating your competitors.”
When I work with colleagues and clients who are on the precipice of burnout, the most prevalent thing that mires them is working for randomized external validation and worrying about whether or not they’re “keeping up.” When I ask them about how aligned they feel to their 10- and 20-year goals, they stare blankly and say, “I can’t even dream that far.” They’ve stopped playing the long game. They’ve stopped envisioning themselves achieving their most ambitious and self-specific goals.
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29 Days to Diva Day 12 Assignment: Pick Which Skills To Acquire Next
I want you to take a look at your Be/Do/Have/Make list and choose a few of your biggest, most audacious goals. Quick aside: if you haven’t been writing these into your list, don’t delay! They belong there. After you’ve chosen your most significant goals, write them down in your practice journal in as many columns as you need. Then, write down as many hard and soft skills as you can think of underneath each one of those goals headers that will help you reach that sublime state. Did some of the same skills show up under multiple goals? That’s a big clue that informs how to strategically spend your time/money/attention resources in the near future. It’s advisable to talk through these goals as well as the hard and soft skills needed for each with your own singing team.
For this assignment, I’m also calling on the diva mentorship of one of the most brilliant rays of sunshine in our field today, Sharin Apostolou. A soprano who moves through Baroque, Bel Canto, and new music rep with ease, her dazzling and exuberant voice is only matched by her personality. We’re so lucky to benefit from her hard-earned wisdom today.
Take an objective approach to singing and technique.
At first, I want you to take it from Sharin when it comes to filling the gaps you need to fill when it comes to technique and not failing victim to your own excuses:
Fill in the gaps. If there are things you need to work on, work on them. This sounds simple and obvious in theory, but it may be harder in practice than you may think. Singing is very personal and emotional. We are our instruments. I’ve found that working on shortcomings in one’s technique can be a more of an objective situation with instrumentalists. With singers, it’s a part of ourselves that we need to work on: our coloratura, our breath support, our support, etc. I tell people (and myself) to try to take a more objective approach to our singing and technique.
Also, get past the excuses- things like “My voice is too big for coloratura” is nonsense. Google Stephanie Blythe singing Handel. You will not be disappointed.
Your goal is to keep working for a really long time.
But, I also want you to hear her underscore this point that we’re out here to become the musicians/composers WE want to be—not who someone else wants us to be.
Stay in your lane: This is really hard, guys, I know. You’re working your butt off, feeling pretty good about life, log onto facebook and are inundated with #ThrilledToAnnounce and the like. This could possibly affect your mood in a negative way. Say it with me now, “Other people’s successes are not my failures.” One more time for those in the back! “OTHER PEOPLE’S SUCCESSES ARE NOT MY FAILURES.” Stay in your lane, friends.
Remember that picture of Michael Phelps and his competitor? The one where Phelps is focused on himself and about to win and his competitor is focused on Phelps and about to lose? Yeah, that’s us in a nutshell. There will always be someone doing better and worse than you are (whatever those terms mean to you. It’s totally subjective.)
Work on you (see “Fill in the gaps” above.) Don’t train for the next audition or job. Train for your career. Think LONG term. The goal isn’t to win the next audition but to keep working for a really long time. Someone may be working more than you are right now. That can change in an instant. Keep focusing on improving you.
The visionary of my unicorn side hustle is a man named Simon Sinek. He addresses this in business as “playing the infinite game” and did an awesome talk at Google on the subject. This can 100% be applied to what we all do as artists.
If you’re interested, you can watch it here:
How do you “stay in your lane”?
Sharin is right. It can feel overwhelming and dreadful to scroll through social media during “Thrilled to Announce” Season and feel like you don’t have any news to shout from the rooftops. Then, you hear this advice to “Stay in your lane.” But, you don’t know how. That’s why we’re breaking it down in this assignment. The way to stay in your lane is to truly figure out what your lane is. Then, become so enthusiastic and zealous about bringing those specific skills into your life and reaching your specific goals that you don’t have space in your brain to be defensive or insecure. When you’re close to your goals and feel like you’re on your own path, that leaves a lot of room to be supportive of others. You’re gonna be thrilled that they announced too because it doesn’t mean anything about you and the work you’re doing.
Divas, what kinds of questions or concerns do you have when you think about “staying in your lane”? Where does it feel like you get stuck when you work on this assignment? I’m really curious to know. Feel free to share in the comments below. Or, find me on social media. In fact, you can talk about this assignment in a Facebook or Instagram story and tag me. I’m @mezzoihnen. Don’t forget to use #29DaysToDiva | #29DTD.
Did you like this post?
I bet you might also enjoy this one:
Somewhere along the line, I picked up the notion that our emotions and feelings are a mighty, coursing river inside of our being. (I’m sure that this comes from some Zen or Buddhist teaching. But, I can’t seem to find the original source of it.) Experiencing intense emotions can be like standing in the middle of that dangerous river. If we continue to stay in the middle of the river, we are more likely to drown in the current. The way to de-escalate the situation is to stand next to that river of intense emotion and observe it.
Read all of A Singer’s Inner Work: Calming the Mind here.