Fearless Performance by Jeff Nelsen

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June 18, 2014


We All Succeed

I received a wonderful thank-you on Facebook after my last Fearless Performance Workshop.  They wrote, "It's nice to know you can do it..."


This is pretty much what it's all about.  Once you discover what you want, now it's just about whether or not you're willing to do the work.  When your work is well purposed, the actualwork part becomes way easier. 



When YOU care, you get there. 


Diligence, from the Latin root "to care deeply," is the first of four elements to the "Build" phase of Fearless Performance.  It's different than discipline.  Discipline, "to do because we should", is great.  It's definitely part of diligence.  But working because you care explodes both quality and quantity of what you're doing to new heights.  If you want to see a beautiful example of diligent work, watch the movie "Rudy".


When Rudy wasn't reaching his goal, he'd speak to his priest....over and over and OVER again.  It was both exhausting and inspirational to watch.  Rudy's priest would ask him if he was doing everything he possibly could toward his goal. The message was, if you think you've done everything you can toward your goal, just remember you haven't.


When I ask everyone in the workshop, "Who wants to be consistent?" all hands go into the air.  Then I give them the bad news/good news.  "You are already consistent. Congrats!"


That's some cool clarity, eh? Our ability to be consistent is not in question. We are alwayssucceeding.  The important change-inspiring question is, "What will you succeed at today?"  Many of us succeed at knowing why we can't get to the gym right now, can't order that healthy meal, or can't turn on the tuner, pick up a pencil and really do the tuning study we've been told to do countless times.  Many of us succeed at deciding we deserve a stop at McDonalds on the way home from a long day (Yup, that was me last night...), letting Netflicks roll over into one more episode of "House of Cards" even though it's already 1am (me many nights), or taking a 'quick peek' (yeah right!) at Facebook before doing some important writing (maybe why I've only sent a few newsletters in the past year).


Today, right now, "You are awesome at what you do!" Now just:

Everyone is always awesome at what they do.  The question isn't getting awesome....we're ALL awesome!!  We just have to find out what things will serve our goals and be awesome at those!


Learn. (Figure it out).


Then embrace those things...


Love Well. (Treat yourself, others, and what you've learned well).


....and let go of the rest.


Let Go!



June 11, 2014


Be Vulnerable

One of my favorite TED talks of all time is Brene Brown's "Power of Vulnerability".  In it, she talks about how being vulnerable is one of the most difficult things we ever do in our lives.  

What does it mean to be vulnerable? We all have different ideas of what this means.  The definition in an online dictionary is, "Capable of being physically or emotionally wounded. Open to attack, harm, or damage."
Isn't it interesting that in a dictionary and in our society we see being vulnerable as a negative thing? Why is this?  Do you see vulnerability as something negative?

I believe that being vulnerable means being completely open.  Not only does this mean we are open and honest with ourselves, but also with the people close to us.  I fight back a ton, but also learn the most when I pry myself open to hearing what the people who I love and respect might think about who I am, what I'm doing and ultimately how I can become a better version of myself.  Vulnerability is absolutely necessary if we want to connect and grow. 

 "Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change." 
Brené Brown ("Listening to Shame" TED talk)

In looking at what could be better or different in our lives, we get to see that our imperfections are really a problem only if we are not vulnerable to them. We are born and will die imperfect. Our imperfections inspire and guide our work...our lives. What if we were to redefine "perfect" in how we see success?  What if everything we are, share and succeed at, is perfectly imperfect?  Sure, we can definitely be too imperfect to hire, but fearing this drives me to get up early and practice better.  Also, remember that an audition doesn't have to be "note-perfect" in order to win it.  I have missed notes in every audition I have won.

In your life, how do you think you can be more vulnerable?  What might help you connect and grow with others?  

One little way I am working on my own vulnerability every day is by letting others finish their sentences.  That might sound small.....but ohhhhhh am I learning how to be better at this! Often, I catch myself "jumping-in" for fear of forgetting my thought.  Sometimes I think that I already know what the person that I'm talking with is going to say, so I want to get us there more quickly. I end up rushing the conversation.  When I am more vulnerable to being present and let go of more control in conversational settings, I actually end up having much more fulfilling interactions.
This week, take the time to notice how you view vulnerability.  If you see it in a negative way, try turning that around.  Try to appreciate your imperfections. Be open to being wrong.  The earth was very recently flat, so what else are we going to discover we're totally wrong about? 
Even more important than appreciating your imperfections, be vulnerable to being great.  Don't sell yourself short.  Be open to being the best version of yourself. In doing this, you will be wonderfully open to and end up getting the successes you deserve.
Live. Love well. LET GO.
June 07, 2014


Change and Transformation

We just completed the 8th annual Fearless Performance for Musicians Seminar at Indiana University. We've spent 4 days together, all of us deeply invested in the work it takes to create real and lasting change.  I'm now overly excited about what it means to change. My favourite definition of change is, "to transform."  

Transforming is a process that we all go through in life. Some of us transform daily, some weekly, some monthly, and some yearly.  I'd bet we all currently have areas in our lives that we would like to transform.  Making any change or transformation in life takes immense amounts of clarity, management, courage and diligence.

 "All our dreams can come true - if we have the courage to pursue them." 

-Walt Disney 

As we enter summer, I'm sure most of us have dreams that we plan on accomplishing. One of the most important things we can do in helping ourselves achieve these dreams is to schedule  as much of our goals as possible.


 Figure out what you're going to get DONE this summer.

 1)   List your Dream, Goals, Projects, and Tasks.

 At the top of your list, write your ultimate dream.  You should always have a dream!  It canchange. Don't not have a dream just because it's hard to commit to having only one.  It's okay to have a few dreams...but whatever you do, don't be dream-less!

 Below your dream, break it down into goals, projects, and tasks.  Make sure the goals are things that will bring you closer to your dream, and the projects and tasks do the same.  Take a look at this example of my Dream Sheet.  I did it in under 10 minutes.



We never do a project.  We only do tasks and those end up completing the project.  Waking up and working through a list of tasks is WAY easier than waking up with that feeling of having to finish some complicated project.

2) Plan your work.  

 A few hours before you go to sleep, consider your project list, and pick 3-5 tasks per project that will move your project closer to completion.  If you're an amazing planner, you can pick your tasks for your whole week.  I plan mine on my calendar (google calendar), and usually plan about 20 minutes of work for every 30 minute block.

3) Work your plan.  

 DO it! 

That's it.  Your way of having an awesome summer in 3 steps.

Planning and doing your work this way will help you see in writing, on a calendar, how long you have and what it will ultimately take to accomplish each task, project, goal and dream you have in front of you.  It breaks down what seems like a huge, sometimes overwhelming, dream too far out of our grasp, into very do-able daily and weekly tasks.

Before you know it, summer will turn into fall, and you will be able to look back and see tasks completed.  You'll be filled with pride and satisfaction, knowing that you've done everything you possibly could during Summer 2014 toward making those changes and moving toward achieving your dreams. 

 "If nothing ever changed there'd be no butterflies."  

~Author Unknown

Dream big, and Dive in!



 Learn. Love Well. Let Go.
March 26, 2014


Calm Your Mind...Make Simple Easy

You have goals.  You have dreams. Here's a 3-step approach for you to reach them.

Step 1 - Make it simple. 
To make reaching your goals simple, let's pick one goal that will help take you to your dream.   There...simple.  

Step 2 - Commit to your goal.
Commit to your goal so you can step past complicated choices that create drama, negative emotions, and intrigue.  Assess what things must happen in order for you to reach your goal and then simply ask yourself, "Will I do the work?" If yes, please advance to Step 3! If no, please go back to Step 1.
Step 3 - Make it easy.
This is the longest step...but quite the adventure if approached fearlessly! You've already decided you're going to do the work, so now all you gotta do is ummm...WORK! 

Thoughtless work, what I call Piñata Practicing, is not going to get you there.  Quantity and quality of your work is the key.  Imagine if you did high-quality work at the things you've already been shown and told you need to do.  Do what you know you can be doing. Reeeeeeally use a metronome and a tuner.  Reeeeally practice it slowly and musically and with a beautiful sound. Reeeeeally listen to recordings, read about the composer and performers, and look at the score. And reeeeeally get out there and perform as often as possible so that you get the experience of putting it all together at your highest level.
Simple and Easy are VERY different things, but both are equally important!  We could waste time making the wrong things easy because we didn't simplify first.  Please invest time into making things simple, and celebrate having done so... just like you do when you make something easy. Incredible magic happens when we succeed at either.
Following these 3 steps will help guide your choices so you can trust that your efforts will move you closer to your dreams.  

Enjoy making simple easy!
Happy Spring!

January 01, 2014


Happy New Year! Bring on that audition!

Welcome to audition season 2014!

Have you an audition or two coming up?  ...for music schools and/or large ensemble placement? Want to play your best?

It's audition season! ...and you want to share all your hard and thoughtful work in your 5 minute performance.  You want to play your best version of everything right out of the gate, and for your whole 5 minutes.  You want to show them what you can do, and how beautiful you can make this music sound!  Playing my best in performance is not just about how strong my technical abilities and musical knowledge are.  

Musical Knowledge - WHAT we perform
Technical Abilities - HOW we perform

So many people tirelessly train so they can have bulletproof technique (how) and endlessly deep musical knowledge about their composers and music theory (what). These are important factors and without them, the performance is weak or worse. You can't get into your dream school or ensemble without deep musical knowledge and well-habited technical abilities!  But in addition to knowing what and how we perform, there is another deal-making-or-breaking factor to our training.

Performance Approach - WHY we perform

We can agree through logic that every audition is an opportunity, right?  It’s just really hard to think that you’re walking into an opportunity as you’re walking into it.  We can agree through logic that worrying about who’s listening to us in the performance can do more harm than good when we think this DURING the performance, right?  It’s just really hard to choose better thoughts at the time…

…unless we’ve practiced doing so!

When I added what I call performance training to my work, my performances got exponentially more consistent…in a good way!  Everyone always performs consistently, it’s just that most people perform consistently worse than their best.  Learning how to be a good performer as well as technician and musician will explode your performance experiences and your work around each event as well.

You can learn how to train optimally for your audition, walk in there feeling ready, and actually be ready! Through experiencing daily performances in your training, you can learn how to execute a performance that sounds like what you imagine!

Try this today - simulate your audition, and use an inspirational sheet (from my blog "Dear Students").  Read it before you walk into the room, once you get to your chair, and in-between each excerpt or piece.  Reading the sheet helps in mannnnnny ways.  If you dive into using it, if can help you slow down, it can also clear your self-destructive assessments, and it can help you get into your next piece.

You can authentically think, “My audition?  Oh yeah….bring it on!”

I've been asked quite a bit lately if the workshops cover auditions.  Yes, yes, yes!  We will look at how to train for and perform your best in your upcoming auditions!  Come to a Fearless Performance Workshop to learn and experience much more of this performance-and-life-changing stuff...
...the next one is January 11 and 12 at Siegfried’s Call in Beacon New York!
I wish you huge crazy awesome dreaming, exciting planning, and fearless performance for YOUR 2014!
Dive in!
Learn.  Love Well.  Let Go.
December 31, 2013

1 Comment

Hey, me, get out of my way...I'm diving in!

Bring it on, 2014! 

Are you getting tired of walking eagerly into your performance and walking disappointingly out of it?  One of the biggest causes of this common performance experience is that we get in our own way.  I know I still catch myself backstage worrying about those two or five places where I could really mess it up.
I think everyone worries before they perform.  The great performers are different in how quickly they notice they are thinking destructively, and how strongly they replace those thoughts with better ones.  The greatest performers in the world might have a half-second-long choice of concern, but then they decide to:
1. Choose well - Believe in the work they’ve done, and/or 
2. Remember they can always do better tomorrow, but right now, backstage, is NOT the time to worry about work they haven’t done, so let go and go back to point #1.
3. Read their inspirational sheet that has words and drawings that inspire a trusting naive state of optimism - things like, “They want you to play well.” and “Don’t ask - TELL!” and “Make the decision easy for them!” and “Get out of your way - Get into your opportunity!”
“No one can make you feel anything without your consent.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt
This is a wonderful quote that helps me remember no one can make me scared. I do my best work when I remember I’m responsible for my choices. I choose to fear.  No one and no situation can make me nervous.  I choose to get nervous, and I can choose to focus on better things too…
This quote also reminds me that no one else can make me feel inspired and optimistic.  I have to choose for myself to believe in the work I’m doing, the performance I’m about to give, and the audience for whom I’m about to perform.  When I do this, I end up getting out of my way so that I can focus on what I need to do to perform my best.  Sure, it can be better tomorrow, but I have to let go of that fact now and use the work I’ve done up until this performance as best I can.  When I’m believing in myself, I can best focus on what I need and thus execute my performance as close as possible to my best abilities.
Come to a Fearless Performance Workshop to learn and experience much more of this performance-and-life-changing stuff...
...the next one is January 11 and 12 at Siegfried’s Call in Beacon New York!
I wish you beautiful pondering, celebrating, mourning, and learning over your 2013 and exciting dreaming, planning, and fearless performance for YOUR 2014!
Dive in!
Learn.  Love Well.  Let Go.
Please comment on this blog and let me know your what, how, and WHY you're diving in in 2014!
August 22, 2013


Dear Students,

...and you are all dear to us!

Dan Perantoni and Rhys playing!

Take another look please...and recall why you play music...


Dear dear students...welcome back to school!  Happy placement exam and audition season!!

During this time of passionate last-few-inches-left-of-summer preparation, I've been thinking about you.  You've done so much great work this summer.  Remember that.  And you've taken a well deserved break!  Remember that too!  If you've done too much of either, take note, and balance next summer better, ok?  Promise?  Seriously...think about how your summer went, and decide right now whether you can say "YEAH OK!" more, or "NOPE, NOT THIS TIME!" more.  Write it down, and put it in an envelope for Thanksgiving! Open it up, and plan your Christmas break accordingly...as a practice for next summer...
So as you walk into your auditions and exams this week or next, please do three things for yourself.  These three things I urge you to do can help you get out of your own way, and allow you to perform closer to your best.
1.  Write a reassuring inspirational note to yourself.  Really write it to yourself. Here are some ideas to get you started:
...whatever works for you, ok?  Be creative, supportive, constructive, and be you in your inspirational note writing.
2.  Read your note right before you walk into your next performance situation, whether it be exam or audition or even just a hang with people you might get a bit fearful around.
3.  Let go.
Just let go.  Share what you got!  That's it.  You can do better next time...but right now, GET IN THERE and just do.  Focus on what is really going on, and what you're really there to do...and keep doing.  Critique yourself later!  My mom who teaches singing says, "If you're listening, and the audience is listening, then who's singing?"
So just perform...stay present...
...let go...
...share your stuff.
...and remember...keep breathing!