Fearless Performance by Jeff Nelsen

Deserve and Demand the Best of Yourself

A conductor once asked me what I think about some students (and some professionals) who choose to play with their legs crossed, ignore him while he gives commentary, or outwardly show displeasure during rehearsals and concerts.  We've all seen these players, but rarely in the great orchestras in the world.

My first thought was of another conductor friend's inspirational rehearsal comment, "There are no great musical careers for anyone who plays with their legs crossed."  I love that.  It's not really about how well they might be able to play with their legs crossed, it's more about their approach to collaboration, contribution, and doing their best all the time.  Since those people almost never cross their legs in concert, the legs crossed in rehearsal unfortunately tells many people watching, "I have a moving quality of standards. I'll do my absolute best when I decide to, or when it matters most...but not all the time." That's less hirable and marry-able to many people watching.

I told the querying maestro the quote and he smiled and nodded.  Then in an effort to be as constructive as possible about these caring, hard-working, committed, well intending, maybe-not-realizing-what-they're-outwardly-showing musicians, I was very happy to have come up with this thought:

"Well, I think that they are not used to deserving and demanding the best of themselves." 

Too often, we might not feel like we deserve to be our best, or it's too hard today. Maybe we hope no one will notice if we fudge the lines here and there. Probably no one will notice, most of the times.  But how often do we do this in music and in life? It can hold us back in countless ways. I like making a littering analogy.  We won't throw the hamburger wrapper on the ground but we will drop the gum wrapper.  Sure, it probably doesn't matter, but then what?  What's next?  I often think of the saying, "Good enough is the enemy of great." What if we demand the best out of ourselves more often? Where would we be? What would we be getting to do for a living, for fun, and for love?
"We are what we repeatedly do.  Therefore, excellence is not an act.  It is a habit."
- Aristotle
You can do this! How much do you want it? Right now, take ten minutes, dig deep and think about what you really deserve.  Then call a dear friend or family member and ask them in a serious manner to tell you what they think you deserve. If they make a joke, laugh at the joke, and then follow up with, "...but seriously. What do you think I deserve to be doing 5 years from now?"
Write down what they say.  If they aimed low for you, cross it out and write a glorious dream for yourself!  If they aimed high for you, circle it.  Circle it again! Write some details around it if you think of some exciting additions.  Stare at it.  Let it soak in.  Sit in it.
Fearlessly embrace deserving and demanding the best from your choices of thought and action today.  You will attract more of what you want. You'll see it when you believe it.  I am amazed at how often, when I take a moment to open myself up to deserving it, that "it" appears.  Sometimes it's something small, like a drum-set instructor.  Sometimes it's life changing.  But, I strongly believe that, 
Ya gotta wake up and do stuff tomorrow anyway.  So you might as well wake up deserving an awesome day, and then...demand that it is one.  Then go to sleep.  Repeat until you get "it".
You deserve this.

Jeff Nelsen
Jeff Nelsen


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