Sunday, March 14, 2010
Acts of Sabotage
Rehearsal is part of a musician's life. If I want to perform a piece of music flawlessly, it takes considerable practice ahead of time. Even those who improvise in performances need to rehearse on their instrument in order to pull off convincing, skillful improvisations. As a musician, I accept that how well I perform is based in part on how well I have practiced. It would make perfect sense if I transferred that philosophy into other areas of life as well.
As a step in building a business, I recently joined a networking group called BNI. The group is designed to be an ongoing source of mutual referrals, and we meet for breakfast each Wednesday. At the breakfast, every member offers a 60-second introduction of themselves, their business, and what kind of clients they are currently seeking. My first week as a part of this BNI branch, I assumed that my 60-second introduction would require very little preparation. I have been speaking in front of groups of people for many years, and since I knew the basics of what I wanted to say, I went in cold.
One minute is not a great deal of time, people. If you don't believe me, set a timer and start talking about something that ignites your passion. I wound up rushing things, and I didn't even get to everything I wanted to say. Needless to say, I realized that I wanted to be better prepared to deliver a concise, effective introduction the next week. So, the night before the next BNI breakfast, I rehearsed an introduction verbally. I didn't write anything down, but I went over it several times, tweaking a phrase here and there. On Wednesday morning, I spoke through it again in the car and believed I was much better prepared than the previous week.
No matter how prepared someone is, there is always a little bit of stress in the heat of the moment. My delivery that morning fell far short of "flawless." It was clunky at best. I forgot a piece of information and then went back and inserted it awkwardly, and I added things that diluted the basic facts I wanted to get across about myself and my business. Even though I have read time and time again about the value of writing down a presentation, some part of my brain decided that I didn't need that advice... until after the fact. I finally admitted to myself that the importance I wanted to place on my participation in the BNI group would be best served through being thoroughly prepared, and that meant more intentional rehearsal.
I had the opportunity just a couple of days later. Since I won't be able to attend the breakfast this week, I went online to the group's website and looked for a substitute from another BNI branch. The first person I contacted agreed, and invited me to his branch's breakfast on Friday (just a couple of days after my second barely-prepared introduction). Of course, he needed my 60-second introduction written down in order to present it as my substitute, so the arrangement necessitated taking the time to thoughtfully construct what I want to say. After a little time scripting the intro, I memorized it and practiced saying it aloud until I was satisfied with every aspect of it. Friday morning was a perfect opportunity to try the well-rehearsed intro with a brand new group of people.
Nailed it! I represented myself and my business with much greater authority and confidence when I practiced what I would say ahead of time. So much of what I know as a musician and a composer transfers to other areas of my life if I allow it to. But my mind sometimes sabotages what I truly want to create by convincing me that I don't have the time or skill to do something well. Or that I don't need the extra preparation because I already know what to do. The truth is that it didn't actually take very long to be well-prepared, and no matter how well I know how to do something, a little extra practice never hurts. Moreover, I am usually realistic about what I am able to accomplish when I think things through. The bottom line is that anything worth doing well is worth the time to prepare well. Something I've known, but sometimes forget.