I can remember it so clearly. It was a gorgeous spring day—the kind you look forward to for months when you’re living in New England. The kind that puts everyone in a good mood.
And I was in a great mood for other reasons too. My teacher had been out of town performing for weeks, and I had worked my butt off practicing in his absence. I wanted to impress him at my lesson that day, and I had never been so proud of my playing. I had made breakthroughs in so many ways, incorporating many of the things we had been talking about in previous lessons. Having that large chunk of time to let things settle had been a gift, and I was so ready.
He opened the door with his huge signature grin, happy to see me, and yep—in a great mood. Phew! This was going to go well.
Except that it didn’t. It quickly spiraled downward and the smile drained from his exasperated face. Nope. Not right. Nope– poor phrasing choices. The sound isn’t big enough, or small enough. Or “Enough” enough. Didn’t I practice AT ALL while he was away?
He wasn’t unkind. He wasn’t being a monster. He was trying to help me, and he did. But from that moment, it became hard for me to trust that what I thought was good, truly was. Because one person could say it wasn’t, and that would be that.
From what I’ve heard, I’m not the only one in the arts who has had an experience like this. Whether it was a private lesson teacher, an art teacher, a director, an editor, or a critic, as artists, we come to the table with all of our vulnerabilities laid right out there.
It’s so incredibly brave what we do.
And I get why it becomes really difficult to trust our own ideas. Whether it’s about our work, or about our visions for a better future. Our entire training was based upon getting the approval of someone else. Being anointed as
I’ll admit, one’s confidence is boosted tremendously when a chorus of people tell you that what you’re doing is good. It was a hell of a lot easier for me to launch the Creatives Leadership Academy after seeing the successes my clients have had while working with me, and the fact that they keep coming back for more, but these days I’ve learned to trust the process, rather than shrink away from my ideas out of fear they’ll be laughed at.
I left the freelance world to pursue playing more of the solo repertoire that made my heart sing–blocking out the horrible and nasty things my brain was trying to convince me people would be saying about me.
I started an online music festival at the beginning of the pandemic even though people actually DID try to tell me it was a dumb idea. (Narrator: It was NOT, in fact, a dumb idea after all).
You see, I had the festival all planned out on paper, and I had my list of heavy-hitter cellists I wanted to invite all ready. Literally shaking, I sent the first email to my old teacher—the one from the story above—and told myself that if HE thought it was dumb, I would reconsider.
Two things happened: :
That experience showed me the difference between the two mindsets. Part of me waiting on the approval of “the master” and the other part of me trusting my instincts and leaning into my support network. My coaching group at the time was an important part of that process. Without offering judgment of “good” or “bad,” they simply said “trust yourself and keep going. Don’t give up!” And that was exactly what I needed to hear.
Because our work might not be perfect. In fact, it probably isn’t. There’s always something that could be improved. But if we allow our fear of possible judgment to get in the way, we’ll never launch important projects. We’ll never start initiatives. We’ll stop asking “what if we did it a different way?”
So in case you happen to need to hear it today, I offer you this:
And if you’d like some help along the way, if you’d like to be part of an incredible group of encouraging and supportive creatives like yourself, all showing up and stepping up to make the arts world a better place, there are still spots available in Creatives Leadership Academy, my new group program. I’d love to chat with you about how we can help you achieve your dreams faster and with fewer obstacles, less grit, and a hell of a lot more fun. You can do that HERE.