Why do we sometimes struggle to implement new ideas, even after we’ve studied and learned them?
I attended the Belmont University School of Music from 2014-2018, and spent every day in class from 8 in the morning to 8 in the evening. Weekends involved masterclasses with out-of-town industry professionals, and even with all this, students were expected to keep up with their academic classes outside of the music school.
The Musical Theatre program itself was considered “experiential learning” at the time, so the typical “skipping class” once in a while wasn’t only frowned upon, but would quickly lead to a failing grade. If you went out partying or stayed up too late, you paid for it by losing your voice or exhausting yourself – unable to perform to the best of your ability in your acting classes or your daily 8AM ballet session. Finally, not only was the work demanding, but the level of competition rivaled that of most professional athletic programs.
All of this led to creating an intense mindset. One where an eighteen year-old was so focused on criticism, notes, and technicalities that I struggled to remember why I was really here. It all came to a head one afternoon when somewhere between handing in the packet of work I was made to complete prior to performing and opening my mouth to sing the first note, I found myself thinking, “How is my posture? Do I have jaw tension? What does the character want in this song? What is my ‘moment before?’ Crap, this song is in Italian. I almost forgot. Do I even know the words?”
It was at this moment my professor noticed my level of intensity and stopped me before the accompanist even played the intro. She looked at me and said, “You have the technique. You’ve done the work. Just sing.” This led not only to my performance improving, but opened the door to a greater conversation between the students and the professor after my song’s conclusion. One where she reminded everyone that after the preparation, it is imperative to trust the work and simply sing.
That conversation and coaching led me to have a deeper conversation with myself. I remember asking myself:
How often do we have what it takes to relax and accomplish something because we’ve already done the work required to do it successfully?
Beyond that, how, as leaders, can we remind people to let go of thoughts that may distract them from successfully executing something in which they have prepared? It all comes down to caring about others enough to remind them to do so.
As I’ve made my corporate transition to Braintrust, I have had a front row seat to observing many coaching calls and conversations, and more often than not, it seems people get quite nervous to put new communication skills to the test. At first, there seems to be so much to remember when applying a new framework to a sales call or when leading a team, but the only way to get better is to take it from your head and out into the world. Applying new things is intimidating, but when we’ve done the work on the backend, it’s always best to let go and “just sing.”