Fearless Performance by Jeff Nelsen

Even if I Fail

We all question ourselves...daily, weekly, monthly...minute-ly.  It's part of being human. One of the questions we most often ask of ourselves is, "Did I fail?"  Our olympic-medal-winning internal doubter is amazingly well trained at doing this!  We constantly ask, "How bad was that?"
What if instead of 'keeping it real' in a problem-based focus, we set our sights on success? When we miss the mark what if we simply get back up and do it again?  It's not about who fails the least, but rather who tries again and again, faster and better. Balancing quantity and quality of getting up and going again is a powerful ability.
"Why do we fall down, sir? So that we can learn to get back up."
- Batman's butler Alfred in Batman Begins
I asked my student Julie Gerhardt to write about her experiences with fear, and she wrote an inspirational story:

"What's worth doing even if you fail?

- Brené Brown, Daring Greatly



I was watching Ellen interview Selena Gomez a while ago, and they started to talk about Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift apparently gets into relationships and falls hard, but eventually the relationship fails. Fortunately, it seems to be working out for her career. After all, "we are never, ever, EVER getting back together..."

But it was Ellen's take on Taylor's outlook that really made me think. Taylor, Ellen said, has got to be an amazing optimist. No matter how badly a relationship fails, she always throws herself into the next one with everything that she has, convinced that this is going to be THE ONE.

Sounds a lot to me like the audition process.

Here's how it goes for me. I see the audition ad, so I ask myself, should I take this audition? If I should get the job, would I want it?

At some point, I drift from the practical, productive questions to the "Am I good enough to win this job?" questions. And then I hem and haw for anywhere from a day to two weeks or more before I either put it out of my mind or quit sniveling and send in my résumé already. Yet, once it's time to commit, it's time to commit. 



Like Taylor Swift, the relationship that I need to have with that particular audition makes it THE relationship that's going to work.

You see, I won a job. I auditioned for and won a position in an orchestra. But because there was quite a lot of time between when I auditioned for the job and when I was given the results, and because it's in a small regional orchestra, and because this somehow added up in my brain to diminish my achievement into no achievement at all, I hadn't called Jeff Nelsen (my primary horn professor from my time earning a Performer Diploma at Indiana University, mentor, positive-self-talk guru, and friend) to tell him...and I'd known for awhile. 

It took a phone conversation with the inimitable Ashley Cumming to remind me that, professionally, things had been going really well for me. So much had been going right with my work, and I'd only just hit my one-year anniversary for my graduation from IU. I mean, I knew that things had been going well - but since my initial emotional charge had faded, I truly appreciated the reminder that excitement is still warranted. I mean, GET EXCITED ALREADY, JULIE!



That evening, I texted Jeff.

"So, I won a job."

And pretty quickly, he called to congratulate me. And I did my darndest to remember that I should be excited, that I am excited, that things are going really well, and to tell that voice that diminishes all of that, "Hey, I don't need you. I've got better thoughts to think."

What I wanted to do was explain to Jeff that it really wasn't such a big deal. I wanted to give an outlet to that fear, that acceptance, that insistence of failure, to say that the job was "just" this or "only" that. But I didn't. And it was hard. And before I texted Jeff, I knew it that would be hard. Which is why I did it. Because I needed to remember how to replace that voice. And that I could.

Hey, Jeff. You taught me how to do that. That failure is not failure; rather, it's a lesson. 


And that replacing that fear, that voice, is important - and way easier with practice. My voice...my musical voice...is valuable, worthy of being heard, and that, given the chance, people WANT to hear it. And that when I forget, I have fantastic people in my life holding me accountable to remembering.



So, what's worth doing even if I fail? Being heard. Connecting meaningfully with people through music. Sharing my voice, my musical voice.

Because, fear, we are never getting back together. Ever.  

Fear is persistent. But, you see, so am I. 

Jeff Nelsen
Jeff Nelsen


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