Step On The Stage

My performance with the Portland Chamber Orchestra of "The Creatures of Prometheus. I wrote and performed the piece for PCO.

My performance with the Portland Chamber Orchestra of “The Creatures of Prometheus.” I wrote and performed the piece for PCO.

Craig is laughing at me and with good reason. Through a post he asked a simple question about people building boxes around themselves. He issued a singular challenge: to apply what I found in his post to my writing. I’ve had more ideas and random ruminations than I know what to do with; he opened a big can. Before I let it go, I want to wade into the last part of his question: when did I know to create my stage?

Craig positioned a stage (showing up) as the polar opposite of a box (hiding) so I read his question as asking when I decided to show up. I’ve learned that a stage can be a strategy for hiding, too, so “showing up” means much more than just being visible.

Many actors get on the literal stage because they are seeking appreciation or approval from the audience. When anyone mounts a stage, either literal or metaphoric, to seek approval, they split themselves. By definition, they must hide their intention (to seek approval) and in so doing, give away their power and potential. Young teachers often pass through a growth phase in which they seek the approval of their students; they want to be liked and their need for appreciation neutralizes their capacity to teach. Ironically, in both cases (actors and teachers), the moment they cease splitting their intention they become great at what they do and their respective audiences can’t help but appreciate them. That’s the way power works.

Several years ago I was working with a corporate client who was upset because he felt uncomfortable with what he’d learned from my workshop. I told him that I could either serve him or please him but I could not do both. I understood that my job was to help him grow and that necessarily required discomfort. If he wanted to be pleased he needed to hire someone else.

I hid for years. I split myself for decades. My dear friend Roger once said that one day in his middle 30’s he realized that he was no longer becoming someone. He was someone. Everyone navigates the “becoming.” It is a necessary and vital growth phase and is often filled with fears of inauthenticity and split intentions; everyone wants to be appreciated and everyone sacrifices their primary intention in a mad dash for approval until one day, if they are lucky, they realize the only approval they need is their own. My revelation came when I was preparing to go on stage to perform. I realized that I was steeling myself against the audience (preparing to hide). I was assuming that they were going to judge me, which is a form of approval seeking. It was like a cold slap. I’d never had a bad experience with an audience. I’d only ever experienced appreciation and support and wondered why I was steeling myself against the very people I was there to serve. My need for approval dropped like a stone. I went on stage, perhaps for the first time in my life, present and powerful. I didn’t need anything from them. I was bringing life and my gifts to them and that was all that was required. My whole world flipped. No armor. No mask. No need other than to offer my gift on that day to that specific group. Whether or not they accepted my offer could no longer be my concern.

I’ve since learned that discomfort is a very valuable thing. It is present anytime learning and growing is happening. In fact, if there is no discomfort, there’s no learning. And that is the plaque nailed to my stage.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Go here for hard copies (Amazon;-)

2 Responses

  1. I just said that last night to a friend: ‘If you get comfortable, get out of the field.’ Richrichrich. All that you say is true for therapeutic musicians, too.

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