Enhance Yourself. Perform.

marcus

*This post about gutsy performances is dedicated to my friend, business partner, and former teammate, Marcus Filly, for his incredible performance at the CrossFit NorCal Regionals competition this past weekend.  Marcus earned a coveted qualification spot for the Reebok CrossFit Games in July.  His victory is the result of intense focus, hard work, discipline, determination, and a huge dose of absolute talent.  Congratulations, Marcus, for having the guts to throw yourself so fully into this venture and for coming out on top!  

On Friday, our ten-year-old daughter kicked off the CrossFit NorCal Regional competition by singing the National Anthem at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.  This marked the sixth time she has sung the Anthem solo at a large sports event.  Earlier this week, she sang with her school chorus at PacBell Park to kick off the Giants’ game.  Next time, she hopes to solo there.

Performing takes guts.  Getting up in front of a group of people and singing or dancing or acting or playing tennis or doing CrossFit or showing your art takes guts.  It takes guts to pull together and wear an outfit to high school when it may not be exactly what the cool kids wear.  Writing a book or a poem or a song or an article that others will read or hear means you’re putting something of yourself out there for people to process and judge: gutsy.  I’ve always been especially impressed by performers, and I have come to recognize that “performing” takes many forms.  As I talk about performing here, I mean putting yourself out into the world for others to take in some way, via some form of personal expression.  It’s not easy to do, it involves vulnerability, and it invites other people to provide feedback, whether or not that feedback is desired.

Often when we take risks, as we do when we perform, we are brought far outside of our zones of comfort.  It is here where our heartbeat increases, our palms sweat, our thoughts race, our doubts creep in.  It is also here where our character is formed and meaningful memories are made.  It is when we put our talents, our training, our hard work, and our determined striving to the test that we give life to the parts of ourselves that would otherwise go unknown, to us and to others.  When we perform—when our personal expression meets an audience and we risk all that this entails—we shake up our hormones, challenge our internal status-quo, and endeavor to put forth the best of who we are.

Of course, performances don’t always go well, personal setbacks occur, and, in the worst of cases, public humiliation can happen.  In sport, we can train with abandon and have the best coaching in town, and we may still lack what it takes to do well at a certain level of competition.  Or, despite having what it takes, we may not be able to access it on a given day when it matters most.  We may sing like an angel and work with a premier voice coach, but our rendition of a song may fall flat with a given audience.  We can spend days, months, even years generating and writing ideas and proofreading till we’re cross-eyed, and still there will be people who find our work uninspiring.

Outcomes aside, we need to have the guts to try.  We need to find a way to continue to put in the effort and take the risks to develop our craft or our bodies or our minds in ways that might, in time, affect someone else in a positive way.  I was recently talking with a friend and fellow blogger about some nasty comments she had received in response to a recent post.  My perspective was then, and remains today, that it is far easier to criticize someone else’s written work—someone else’s performance—than it is to create anything of one’s own.  Courage and success is found in the producing.  There will always be critics; we must perform on.

The truth is that we are often our own harshest critics.  What we might think was a lackluster performance just might have thrilled plenty of others.  Often it’s the tenth-place athlete who inspires us the most, or the singer who sings with abandon and joy, if not pure perfection.  Risk-taking and gutsiness are generally acknowledged and appreciated.  When they’re not, perhaps it’s the audience’s miscue, rather than that of the performer.

The thing about singing the National Anthem at a sporting event is that it’s so rich with emotion—from the meaning of the song, itself, to the athletes preparing for their own moments–taking the chance to visualize, breathe deeply, reflect, and find faith.  That my kid has the confidence to sing in such a forum means to me that something has gone well for her.  Will she be a famous singer one day?  Never say never, but probability and percentages say the chances are slim.  Will she have nurtured within her from her years of performing a sense of confidence, agency, and esteem that she might not otherwise?  Absolutely.  How awesome is that?  Maybe just awesome enough that it inspires you to have the courage to step outside of your own comfort zone and put yourself—your training, your studies, your creativity, something about YOU—to the test.  Sign up for a competition or a 10k race.  Join a soccer team.  Write an article for a favorite website or newspaper.  Audition for a community play, bake something for a baking competition, sign up for your high-school debate team.  Do these things take guts?  Yes.  Find yours and have at it.  You’ll be a better, fuller version of yourself for having done so.

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Comments

  1. Phil Dodds says:

    Awesome post! 5 stars!

    Repeat this until it has been internalized: “Step out of your comfort zone. Experiment! Challenge yourself.”

  2. Great post!

    Repeat this until it is internalized: Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone. Experiment!

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