Fearless Performance by Jeff Nelsen

Frustration is denial. You know better.

Strong newsletter title, I know.  I want to make a strong case. I realize this newsletter could show me to be a very irritating type of person, so in hopes of avoiding that, I'd like to defensively state before you read on that I don't mean to preach, but rather:
WARNING -  This is an optimal theory you can use to think through and replace the emotional choice of frustration.
How often do you hear someone talk about how frustrated they are with something? How often do you say you're frustrated? I know many people who like frustration, cause it feels good to be right about whatever they're frustrated with.  But there are many who live in a state of almost constant sharing of their frustration with traffic, their instrument, their colleagues, their job, and/or their children. That's not fun to be around, and it doesn't contribute well to anyone's day.
Wouldn't it be great if we vanished the word "Frustration" from our vocabulary?  I've pretty much done so for myself...pretty much.  :)  Read on, and I bet you'll rethink the next time you decide to be frustrated with something or someone.
The Idea - Being frustrated with something is basically ignoring reality.  Every time we're frustrated, we are frustrated with something because it isn't what we think it should be.
The Logic - If I have a friend and they show up late to meet me one day, maybe something happened or maybe they can't manage their time very well.  Either way, I can get frustrated or I can stay calm and continue having a good day regardless of whether or not they are on time to meet me. I prefer the second option.
I like hanging out with this friend, so I make another time to meet with them the next day. If they are late again, I learn that they have some sort of time-management problem.  I don't need to know the complexities of it, I only need to learn about this friend. But for me to be frustrated with them is to think that they should be good at time management.  They're not. 
This is my way out of the frustration cycle. When I get close to feeling it, I remind myself that being frustrated is ignoring reality.  It's like moving to Canada and being frustrated with cold weather. 
Frustration is denial. You know better.
I can be disappointed or sad about this friend not getting there on time, but frustrated?  I'm speaking very specifically to 'Frustration'.  Let that one go!
To go a bit deeper, if it is a colleague or a boss you're trying to let go of your frustration with, it's the SAME THING!  Probably tons harder to deal with, but your solution lies on the other side of the same logic.  Frustration is thinking they should be something else.  
If they make you late, find another way to get to where you have to be, and if you can't, then let go and take what you can get.  If they are a jerk, can you change them?  If you can, then do that.  If you can't, let go of thinking, and getting frustrated with the fact that they should be who they aren't. You can still be angry with them, or sad about the situation...just let go of choosing to be frustrated with them. 
Embrace the reality, and then either
let go or change it.
The Music and You - To your instrument and your practice sessions - Every time someone grunts angrily while playing, I see a glimpse of how badly they might (probably?) treat themselves when they' re alone in the practice room. That grunt usually is saying, "Grrr, I should be playing amazingly right now, but I'm not!"  This massively impedes their progress. The way out of that is to embrace reality.  Regardless of how they think they should be playing, what they just did, is what they just did! 
If you're frustrated while practicing, you are ignoring the reality of where your playing is, at that moment.  
An approach to your practicing that is based in 
the reality of what is coming out your instrument 
is the fastest way to optimal learning 
and to the quickest possible reaching of your goal.
I'm not saying never be upset, or to never ever get frustrated.  I only want to share the theory that helps me live with very little frustration in my life. 
To Do Today - Next time you catch yourself thinking or about to say, "I'm frustrated with..." take a moment and think about the reality of what you're frustrated with.  See if there is some room for you to see clearly what is really happening around the whole situation.  Then try with all your might, maybe even kicking and screaming the whole way, to:
Let Go -  of what you usually would have felt, said, and done
Learn - about what is a better choice, and see things in a more objective reality
Love Well - yourself and whatever you can in the situation
Then act a bit more constructively in the new situation you just made...
...or at least vanish your frustration, and replace it with a bit more constructive objectivity. 
Who knows?  Maybe some of that new objectivity could turn into something crazy, like hope.

Jeff Nelsen
Jeff Nelsen


1 Comment


March 29, 2021

This is excellent advice that I really needed today. I’ve found that when I get frustrated (rarely, thank goodness) I end up picking up or tacking on other offenses from the past until I’m just outright upset. This advice you gave really helps keep things in the present. Hope is probably a better perspective to keep.

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