Last week, I performed my first piano recital. My immediate reaction afterwards was I was “terrible.” I literally made a mistake on 3 out of 4 songs, including forgetting where I was completely for a sec. My fingers were shaking the whole time.
- I was unprepared for the crowd. It wasn’t supposed to be a regular recital. My teacher told me it was more like background music, while people were walking around enjoying the Halloween decorations. She was misinformed. People sat and listened to all the performances.
- I psyched myself out. I was one of the few adults performing. The kid before me performed this beautiful piece. She is much more advanced than I and only 9 years old. The more I thought about her, the more nervous I became right before my performance. “Is the crowd expecting Beethoven from me?” I may be in my 40s, but my piano playing is merely beginner.
- I didn’t expect to be nervous. Having presented in front of many senior executives and led large training sessions, I didn’t think I would be nervous in front of a small group of strangers at a community gathering. I practiced the songs many times, but I wasn’t mentally prepared for any nervousness. A rookie mistake!
I share this story because I know it’s hard to try something new when we are adults. But I also know it’s the only way to evolve our skills and ourselves. Here are 3 lesson learned from this less than perfect piano recital.
Lesson 1: Appreciate my own courage
It’s interesting how quick I was to put myself down. Many of us, overachiever, do this. We are quick to find the “glass half empty.” I have gotten several emails just recently from members who are down on themselves because they didn’t do well in their first job after switching careers.
My responses to them were
- Good for you for having the courage to switch careers and explore what you may like better
- Good for you for convincing someone to hire you in the new career.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself – just because you were good at your old career, doesn’t mean you would be at the new one, especially not right away.
- The more interesting question is “What did you learn?” Do you like the new career? Do you want to keep pursuing it?
While I sent these responses to others, it’s interesting to notice the initial reaction to my first piano recital was similar to theirs – very critical. What I really should appreciate is my courage to learn something completely new in my 40s and have the “balls” to perform it :-). How many people can say that about what they are doing today?
Lesson #2: Choose thoughts that build confidence
I was obsessed with mentally comparing myself to the 9 year old who probably had 3 times as much training as I had. It was destructive to my confidence before I even got on stage.
Ironically, my daughter, Isabel, who performed her first recital right after me, had the opposite experience. I asked her if she was nervous. She said, “Actually no, because it was so dark. I just imagined no one being there while I performed. I wasn’t nervous at all.”
I almost laughed when I heard that. Here I was psyching myself out and my 8 year old chose a much more positive thought to get her through her performance. She not only enjoyed herself but did very well.
It’s amazing how powerful our mind is. We can either use it to help or hurt ourselves. The next time you need to try something new, ask yourself, what do you need to believe to build your confidence instead of tear it down? Focus on that thought that makes you feel strong and confident. It’s amazing how much better we perform when we are confident instead of nervous.
Lesson 3: Surround yourself with supporters
My teacher was there with me through the whole performance. She accompanied me on two of the pieces I played. You know what she said to me afterwards, “Great job, Lei. That was really good. Both you and Isabel did great.”
Immediately I said, “But I made so many mistakes.” “You did fine and it was so much fun. Thanks for doing it.” She added. What I learned is how great it feels to have such a positive teacher. Even in my lessons, she is encouraging vs picking on what I did wrong. Two weeks ago, I had a substitute teacher. He is a great pianist, but during the whole lesson, he focused only on what else I could do to make the pieces I learned more interesting. No encouraging words at all. I know he meant well. However, I was overwhelmed with too many pointers and somewhat discouraged.
When you are trying something new, surround yourself with positive people who knows how to support and inspire you. It’s hard enough to get the courage to do something new. You don’t have mental room for “naysayers.”
Will I do another piano recital? Absolutely. Will I still make mistakes? Probably, but who cares. At the end of the day, I am learning piano because I love it. I don’t need to become a concert pianist. Ultimately, life is more fun for those who try vs. those who need to be perfect. I am thankful to have a fun life full of learning and new adventures 🙂
Your comments: What new things have you tried lately? How did it go? I look forward to hearing from you in the comment section below
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