Your success number – How successful do you think you are?

Are you your own worst critic?

I do it all the time. I look in the mirror and see an old, worn out guy, when I know, I know I’m fitter and stronger (and frankly younger) than I was 10 years ago. I finish a project at work and think, “I could have done so much better,” or “I could have squeezed more efficiency out of that project.”

I certainly do it to myself as a parent and a husband. If I don’t feel like a failure at least once a day as a father then I probably spent the day in bed.

As a musician and performer I’m usually dissatisfied with every performance (although I’d learned to be OK with being a mediocre musician – probably not to the benefit of my audiences).

As you can see from this video (and yes, I know, this is an advertisement for a school, but that doesn’t make the message any less valid) how we see ourselves is usually with a far more critical eye than those closest to us judge our performance.

I think one of the reasons I’ve grown more comfortable with my abilities as a musician has to do with a lesson an old friend taught me about how audiences perceive rock and roll shows. Most musicians know that “Live” albums are typically mostly not a recording of an actual live performance. One of the greatest live LP’s of the 1970s, Cheap Trick’s Live At Budokan, is mostly the result of studio overdubbing. The original tapes from the show were only able to capture the lead vocals and drums properly. The bass was utterly missing from the tapes and had to be re-recorded in a studio, and while they were doing that, Cheap Trick’s guitar player, Rick Nielsen, opted to re-record most of his guitar parts. KISS’s epic ALIVE LP made use of lots of overdubbing, including the addition of crowd noises from a much larger event (some have said it was actually the crowd noise from Woodstock). Why? Because live music is messy. Even live performances by masterful musicians will sound rough when listening to them at home. The same performance goes over great to the audience in the room because that audience has the benefit of watching the performance and seeing the energy of the musicians on stage played out (as well as simply being a part of a big crowd who are all having a good time).

The lesson from my friend that I took to heart as a performer was that people who attend a performance are, at least partially, hearing with their eyes. It could be said that it’s more important, as a performer, to engage with the audience and put on a show for them than it is to hit all the notes perfectly. Even if you’re not a musician, this rule applies.

Your audience, the people around you, cannot hear the dialog in your head.

Your friends, your family and your coworkers feed off of your energy. They will reflect back to you the attitude you put into the world. If you announce to the world that you’re tentative, that you feel anxious or disappointed by what you’re doing then that’s the energy you’ll get back from them. But even so, no one wants you to fail. Most people are just glad you showed up.

While you’re busy scoring yourself a 3 or a 4, they see a 7, or an 8… or maybe even a 10.

Give yourself permission to love yourself and be proud of what you’ve done. Did you work hard at it? Were you present and involved in what you were doing? It doesn’t have to be perfect.

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