Ask any performer what is necessary for success and they will quickly reel off a list as long as your arm… lots of practice, hard work, support, luck, maybe even a big bank account or a sugar daddy! Arguably the most important elements for success are often overlooked. It doesn’t matter how much technical expertise you develop, how many scales you practice, or how much hard work you put in, without developing the core psychological skills for peak performance, even the great virtuosos would struggle.
With thanksgiving just passed, it seems appropriate to bring up the topic of gratitude. Whilst I haven’t traditionally celebrated Thanksgiving, I've had the pleasure of joining friends at their Thanksgiving celebrations in recent years and was touched by the sentiment of the holiday. Whilst the food was fantastic it was the moment we went around the table and said what we were grateful for that really stayed with me; I was heartened by all the lovely details that my friends chose to focus on. Each were experiencing their own challenges in life, but able to see the silver lining. Some even described their struggles and gave thanks for the resulting learning curve, which was very humbling!
As artists we receive an exorbitant amount of feedback: sometimes it is good, but other times it can feel crushingly critical: too much vibrato; not enough line; you don’t look right; you don’t sound right; you’re too blonde; you’re not blonde enough; not enough expression; not technically accurate; you need to work on this; you need to work on that (and this may all be from the one performance!). It can be especially crushing when you thought you were doing your best to achieve all of these things.
Of course these statements can either cut us to the bone, or slide right off our backs - depending on our interpretation. The same statement can either be a factual suggestion of how you can become even better, or a scathing comment on your worth as both a performer and a human being. The key is in understanding the nature of feedback.