stay the course

Let’s be realistic – not every big goal will come to fruition; especially not on the first try. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether it’s a good idea to keep going or call it quits and look for the next shiny idea. However, if your goal is nicely aligned with your personal values in life, there’s usually a valid reason to be stubborn and keep going. In every unique growth timeline, there are tipping points along the way – moments that can completely change the course of the journey and decide what happens next based on small actions you’ve taken across a long period of time.

A personal “mini” win

As someone who’s struggled with severe performance anxiety for many, many years since childhood – especially audition anxiety, I reached a new milestone 2 days ago (from the time of writing this). For the first time, I advanced past the first round in a professional orchestra audition. I didn’t win a permanent spot, but was offered a substitute position after the second round. I walked into the first round actually feeling confident, calm, and focused – it felt like another routine “runthrough” of excerpts, and my mind (to my surprise) stayed focused on the music with minimal distractions.

Stepping Stones

It was by no means a perfect round, but it made me think about the audition journey since I started it back in 2017. Yes – some people win a killer job straight out of school, but for many of us orchestra nerds it takes that much longer to get just to this point, and that’s perfectly fine! I’ve devoured books on sports psychology, participated in online courses (including those of Noa Kageyama, Rob Knopper, and Nathan Cole), and played mock auditions for friends and colleagues. The first few years of auditions felt like hitting one brick wall after another. The amount of times I wanted to quit are countless. I considered other career options on and off, and even picked up some coding skills during the pandemic (nothing against coding…it’s super fun..just takes a very long time and leaves little time to practice). Thankfully, I’ve received enough coaching to understand that the first 24 hours after each audition are a crucial moment of reflection and learning. I had the courage to actually listen back to every audition I recorded on my phone (yes, I recorded every single one thus far!) and face myself – coach myself on what to do next time.

 

As the pandemic hit, I spent a lot of time working on fundamentals (and of course, continue to do so on a regular basis) with hopes to raise my “bottom line” – that is, if I choke in an audition, the “floor” I land on will be at a higher plane and I won’t fall as far down. Another thing I’ve been working on – and continue to do so regularly (or do my best to..) is building a strong foundation in other areas of my life. Those include staying in good health through regular physical activity, practicing responding (vs reacting) to adverse situations, and self-confidence outside of the music realm.

3 Quick Tips

It’s so easy to look up at the giant staircase you’re climbing and get discouraged by how far up there’s left to go. Bad news…this staircase is infinite. Don’t forget to look down and see how far you’ve come, even if to an outsider there doesn’t appear to be a big difference. The day-to-day gains are bite-sized, and some days feel like taking two steps back (growth is like the stock market; it’s not entirely linear). Whatever your mission is, I hope these 3 tips help you to stay the course:

 

  1. Keep a record of your progress, even if it feels outdated, or insignificant. Record and journal.
  2. Surround yourself with encouraging and uplifting individuals, but also those that will challenge you in a positive way!
  3. Tiny tweaks over the course of a long period of time lead to monumental change. You are what you focus on!

 

I will discuss these 3 points in future posts.

4 thoughts on “On Staying the Course

  1. Thank you for your posts. They are very encouraging. I had to laugh at this one when I reached the sentence about the staircase.
    I have taken up lessons in my older years, now 60. My teacher’s classroom is at the top of a giant, steep staircase. Seems every time I look at those stairs I dread climbing them…but I do and it’s worth it. I know you were talking in metaphors but sometimes we must get past the tangible to even begin. Thanks again.

  2. Charlotte Howes says:

    Hi Inna,

    This is great! And well done with this, most recent, audition. I loved the bit about looking up and feeling overwhelmed by how far there is to go but also remembering to look down and see how far you’ve come. Brilliant!

    Charlotte

    • Thank you so much, Charlotte! Sorry for my very tardy reply to your comment and thank you so much for reading – that bit you mentioned is a constant reminder to myself as well! Happy Holidays!

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