So you want to be a professional?

A lot of years ago I had one lesson with a real professional vocal coach. It was life changing. I probably learned more from that one hour long lesson than I learned from any other single hour in my entire life. Decades later I am still absorbing the lessons I learned in that one hour. This is one of those lessons.

What does it mean to be a professional?

It means that no one cares. No one cares if you are tired, or sick. No one cares whether you are having a bad day or a good day. Do your job. Do that job to the best of your abilities.

It means you are an adult. Stage fright is for children. Fear of heights is for children. Being “grossed out” is for children. Some day, if you reach that place in your career, someone may ask you about your struggles. You can talk about them then.

Right now you have a job to do. Do your job. Do that job to the best of your abilities. Your struggles haven’t magically vanished, but right now you have a job to do, and they are, for the most part, irrelevant.

Ask that person whose job it is to climb poles and work with the lines attached to those poles. They may tell you that they are afraid of heights, but they do the job anyway. Ask a nurse if they are “grossed out” by vomit and excrement. They may tell you they are, but they do their job anyway.

Your performance isn’t about you.

If you are a performer, and you are a professional, your performance isn’t about you. Your audience has payed to see a show, and your job is to deliver your lines, play your instrument, sing, or whatever it is you do on that stage, to the best of your ability, without excuses.

Your job is to be consistent, and to provide every audience with a show they will remember and talk about for the rest of their lives, no matter how you are feeling, no matter what kind of a day you have had. No one buys tickets to a show to make fun of the performers. Fans don’t attends a show to see their idols fail. They come to see a show and walk away with good memories.

Your job is to make sure they walk away with what they payed for, and it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve given the same performance, or how you feel about the material you are working with, or the people you are on the stage with. If you ever arrive at that place in your career, you can save those complaints for the tabloids.

But, but, but… Where’s the love?

That professional vocal coach didn’t say what I’ve said here out loud. But what I’ve said here was woven into every second of that lesson. When you learn that lesson, far from destroying your love for what you do, it empties your performance of everything that would distract you. It allows you to fill that space with your technical skill, and with your love for what you do.