‘When The Pressure Is On, Use RLG’
You’re walking towards the stage… you are nervous, sweating, unsure of yourself, doubting yourself, trying to remember… why am I putting myself through this ordeal again??
Sound familiar? We have all experienced this, and if it’s not in music playing drums live as I do, then it is going on to ‘life’s stage’, whatever that is for you. A life dedicated to safety is actually MORE risky, because you risk REGRET, which you can’t undo and definitely don’t want to live with every day (I’ve met too many seniors that live with regrets they can’t undo, thinking ‘if only…’) So if we’re going to take on some danger, discomfort, and fear (the only way to GROW), here is an acronym that’s helped me center on those final footsteps before stepping on the stage: RLG.
Acronyms are powerful because they compress massive meaning and emotional context into a few letters. Let’s go through this one.
R = BE REAL. No one can be you, and you can’t be anyone else. This puts our focus in the right place, to create and not compete. To TRY to live up to another’s standard, or what you SHOULD be is a setup for bad stress that we can never achieve anyway. Be Real… you are your own artist of life. What do you have to say in THIS MOMENT?
L = LISTEN. This is about contributing to and complimenting the whole, taking the focus off of ourselves and onto those around us to we can SERVE. This is what music and drums are all about… the great drummers have always been in great service to the big picture. Michael Jordan still passed the ball… he became great when he made his TEAM great. It’s easy to get wrapped up in OURSELVES; we all want to sound good after all; but we have to practice the never ending discipline to gently take the focus off of ourselves and LISTEN to what is going on around us, surrendering to the present moment to serve strongly.
Here’s a thought experiment: what would you do if your 5 idols and heroes in your field (fill in the blank) walked in and got a table close to the stage to watch your gig? How would you react? Would you play different? Would you play more or less? Where would your focus be? Even though we would definitely all NOTICE and be a little freaked out, the way to make the best music is to lISTEN, place your focus on the other musicians, and best serve the music making the big picture better for you being there. This way the pressure to ‘sound good’ is gone, and you will have the strong approach of simplicity.
This ‘thought experiment’ happened to me in real life at the ‘Sonor Days’ drum festival in which I was on the bill with Steve Smith. I have studied and learned from Steve for many years, he’s one of my favourites! I have seen and heard him on record and video for years but never in real life, and there he was… I was choked up and didn’t say much, it was intense! So later in the day when my band modus factor played the festival, sure enough I glanced over during the set and at the side of the stage a few feet away was Steve Smith checking me and my band out, eating a sandwich. I remember thinking ‘whoa, that’s Steve Smith!’ and then putting my ficus back to our bass player Ian DeSouza, and what he was playing. Just like that I was back in the groove, back to complimenting the whole, instead of futilely to trying to ‘sound good’ and impress, where I would have tensed up and overplayed. There were also many great drummers in the audience which freaked me out as well, but I kept going back to the bass, the music, and serving. DON’T COMPETE, CREATE.
G = GRATITUDE. We are lucky to be able to do this! Gratitude is a practice, one that is best to work in the morning and evening, which trains our brains to see these moments in our most challenging moments. The regular state of our brains, one that helped us survive millennia ago, is our ‘negative bas’, to always see what’s wrong in any situation. We all have this, it served us well is eons past, but this is a daily practice to always come back to gratitude. No matter how ‘bad’ the gig, this is an opportunity for you to express your skill on the drums to other people. Wow!! Think how cool that is, that we live in this age with these tools where we can learn and express our craft in this way. I remember hearing a great story about the golf master Jack Nicklaus that even in the middle of the intense pressure of a competition, he would practice getting back in the moment, taking a look around at the scenery of the course and think ‘wow, I get to do this, this is pretty cool.’ STRUGGLE ENDS WHERE GRATITUDE BEGINS. Practicing gratitude can get us in the right state to be our best selves and live our truest potential as we can onto the stage of life.
So in those final steps to the stage repeat RLG a few times to yourself to get back into STATE to be your best self under the pressure of the moment. You can guarantee about stress, pressure, challenges: THEY’RE COMING, so having good habits and protocols in place will steer you in the right direction. Be patient, this is a never ending PROCESS where we are overcoming our own biology to live our potential. We will never ARRIVE, but always strive. Our focus is like the intensified sunlight through a magnifying glass moving to wherever it is directed, and RLG moves this focus to the arena that will empower us to be our best selves, and to inspire others with what we offer the world.
Now take the leap, and get on that stage!