Whatever it is that you are trying to achieve, the stages one goes through are very similar. Preparing and succeeding at a challenge has similarities. For example, let’s take my singing for a discussion.
1) If you had asked me to sing in public 3 1/2 years back, I would have shied away from such a request and if you tried to force me into it, I would even have got annoyed. For me, at that time, my voice was all that sucks. I didn’t like the sound of my own voice. This isn’t surprising as I have read many do feel the same. That is mainly because, we haven’t developed that facility within ourselves. If you are able to hear your voice loud and clear, then the chances are you will like your voice.
2) Then one day, I attended a party where people took up the microphone and were singing karaoke. Something triggered within me. As I was growing up, I loved listening to music. And loved many of the movie songs as well. I recall I would sing those to myself and there were times when the tune would go on and on in my head through my sleep. So I had sung before and could recollect the passion with which I would sing the song to myself. That ability was there. It just didn’t have a chance to get nurtured and surface. After the party, I thought I could do it too. Identifying what you would love to do can take years for some and not much time for others. Just don’t get disheartened if you can’t decide. Very likely, if you select something to do, over time you will start loving it. I wasn’t born knowing yoga, singing, photography, investing, writing..these all developed once I started on them and kept at it.
3) This next stage actually is the relatively easier part so to speak, but a time consuming, effort-intensive task that one has to get involved with. The hard part is in #2 above. Over the past 3 1/2 years, I have spent quite a bit of money, a lot of effort into singing. I got comfortable with singing with tracks at home. Then I took every opportunity to sing at parties – those birthday parties and friend get-togethers. There were some okay ones and then the good ones started coming out. You get to know when you receive feedback. So you have to involve others in your challenge too – those who care about you and don’t mind giving you feedback that matters. I even ventured to sing at community events and that requires some preparation. Sometimes, especially in the beginning, coaching helps. A coach helps you see and hear things that you would normally have glossed over. They are key learning lessons in your journey. For lot of people, spending on a teacher is a barrier. Why additional expense when some hobby of yours isn’t going to be winning the daily bread? But coaching is like education – it pays off and in the long run you will realize the cost was nothing compared to the gains. For my part, I took up basic carnatic music lessons, got a trained singer coach me for a community singing event, read voraciously on the internet and listened to a lot of YouTube videos. And of course, listened and practised regularly.
4) Whatever the challenge you have undertaken, having clear goals in mind is key. Goals lead you towards the target and in this case, getting better at what you set out to do. Whatever is the level you would like to take your challenge to, nothing helps keeping up your drive as goals. My goals were very simple – to get better and better. To do this, I had to practice, I had to take on challenges i.e., take every opportunity to sing, etc, etc. But after all these years, my goals are now much clearer. As a singer, my job is not to just get a good round of applause. It is deeper. And that is to make worth the time of those who spend their time listening to me. This is a great goal to have. For it is the ultimate goal for a professional singer. When you get on the stage, and during the time you sing (or entertain) – those moments are not about YOU, it isn’t about your singing but it is about making the audience forget themselves in the singing. After the song, it will be about you, but unless you shed that notion that it was you on the stage, you aren’t going to get there. When you sing a duet, for example, it isn’t about the two singers. It is about bringing life to the lyrics, adding to the music and getting the audience to enjoy those moments. How you make it not about you is a much deeper challenge you need to figure out.