Have you ever felt that you make some progress with your singing/voice and then regress?
You move forward with your singing and then you go backwards?
In this Episode we put and end to the Myth of, “2 Steps Forward and 1 Step Back!”, for good.
There is no reason to frame your singing progress this way any more.
Listen to this weeks show and hear why.
This is really cool. (-:
Let your Inner Singer soar!
The Inner Singer Podcast
Episode 14 – Transcripts
2 Steps Forward and 1 Step Back – No More!
I had a nice discussion with a student of mine the other day who is a martial artist. He’s got a couple of black belts I think in different disciplines and we were talking about that. We were talking about tennis and we were comparing them to what goes on singing.
It occurred to me that a lot of us as singers have an idea that may be not serving us. The idea is as follows. I think I’ve even said this in a podcast before, not this particular thing, but I think I’ve referred it to taking two steps forward, one step back and what have you. That’s what a lot of us think, but what if we reframed that? What if none of the steps were back?
Let me tell you what I mean. Take two steps forward, take one step back. That’s the old belief. That’s a normal thing that we would expect. We try and validate that and rationalize why that’s okay and we shouldn’t feel badly about that. But what if we reframe that a little bit? What if we were not taking any steps backwards?
What if this is a forward momentum the whole time. Just like when a plane takes off from Los Angeles to fly to New York, it doesn’t fly as a crow flies. It doesn’t go straight to New York. It would appear most of the time to be off course as a matter of fact. So it takes off and it may go to a completely different direction than New York because it has to go with the way the wind is going and then it shifts and then it shifts again and it shifts again and it shifts again. So I would imagine that very little time during that flight to New York is the plane pointed actually straight at New York. It’s course-correcting constantly.
But that doesn’t mean that anything is wrong and you don’t even necessarily have to call it a course correction. That’s just how it gets to New York. They’re always on time, always makes it.
So let’s look at this for a second with regards to our singing, our practicing, our vocalizing, our performing, whatever we’re doing, whatever stage we’re at because oftentimes we think that we’re losing progress once we do something that’s going to take us to the next level.
For example, I don’t where you are in your singing, I don’t know if you are just doing karaoke, if you’re not doing any performing, I don’t know if you’re performing on Broadway, I don’t know if you’re in the record business. I have a lot people that listen to the podcast, a lot of people that are on my list that this goes out to. So I don’t know necessarily exactly what your situation is. But it doesn’t matter because whatever it is and at whatever level, we are always going to the next level and we’re always in opportunities that take us to the next level.
So if somebody is auditioning or doing a song at karaoke or doing a Broadway show, whatever you’re doing, every time you hit the stage, every time you sing in your room, every time you are doing something – let’s say where the stakes are a little bit higher.
Let’s take you out of your room for a second. Let’s say you’re doing karaoke or you’re on a Broadway stage or you’re singing at a wedding or you’re performing with the band or whatever. Every time you step up in front of people where the stakes are a little higher, you have an opportunity and you will go to the next level. Whether you know it or not, whether you feel it or not, there’s something going on that’s taking you to the next level, that’s propelling you forward.
Now, let’s go back to our a little bit of martial arts example when I was talking to my friend and student about that. I was telling him that I had just taken up tennis again. And I particularly liked this fellow that I found online and I’m doing some tennis lessons online. I really like his approach with a lot of the things.
For example, the serve, he’s taking apart the serve and he’s giving an example where he just shows the form and he says, “Just serve in the air. Just do an air-serve. Don’t have a ball, don’t try and hit a ball.” And he is just basically re-coordinating the serve. So I have been doing that and it feels a little bit unnatural at first, but it’s starting to feel good. And he says, “Don’t even try and hit a ball.”
And then he says, “Now, once you really start getting this serve coordinated, go ahead and hit a ball, but don’t be on a court and try and hit it over the net. Hit it against the fence.” In a tennis court, generally on the court, you’ve got the net obviously, you’ve got the other side where the other player is, but usually on this side or on the back and there is a big metal fence. You can hit the ball on the fence.
He says, “You don’t care where the ball goes. You’re just seeing if you can make some contact with the ball.” And then he says, “And don’t even worry if you hit the ball. It doesn’t matter if you miss the ball. None of the matters because once you hit the ball, once we get on the court and you go over the net, your serve might be all over the place for a while because you’re really coordinating it, but you’re going to emerge from this as an infinitely better server and your serve is going to be much more accurate and much more powerful.”
So I particularly like that approach because that’s a lot of the things that I do in singing. It’s very analogous to singing.
Well, my friend said as a martial artist, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool because in the discipline of martial arts, you’re taught a punch and then you practice that and you’re taught another punch and you practice that. And then you work the foot work and you practice that. And then you begin to do the dance with somebody and you practice that. And then you get in a light spar and you practice that.
And after the spar, what happens is you get with your coach. And then the coach at that time can point out what is really working well and what needs to be addressed.”
In our martial arts, in our tennis and in our singing, it’s those times when we do something where the stakes are a little higher.
Now imagine, you’re practicing the martial arts and you’re punching and you’re kicking and you are doing all these things, but nobody else is involved. But once you get into the ring and you’re sparring a little bit with somebody else, someone else is involved and there’s reacting, there are all these different things going on, that then is when you are now at a different level.
For all of us singers, that’s analogous to getting on the stage and performing in front of somebody at any level, it doesn’t matter.
But now, you get back with your coach with the martial arts. “Okay, this was great. This was great, that punch, that block, that kick. You were off balance here. Let’s focus on this, this and this.” Here’s where we have to look at our programming and our wiring. We have an opportunity to do that. So how do we see that?
Do we see that as, “Wow! Okay, great. I got to my first spar. It went really great. Coach said I did this, this and this well. I need to focus on this, this and this. Okay, cool. Let’s focus on those things and let’s just keep moving and having fun with this. This is cool?”
Or we do we say, “Oh, man. The same things I’ve been working on. I can’t believe. Yeah, I did this good and this good, but I’ve always done that well and now I’ve been working on this, this and this, I still have to work on this?”
So you leave the conversation and instead of being inspired and feeling like that moved you forward, that experience actually moved you forward, propelled you more towards your potential, you leave that conversation with the coach with the experience that you took one step backwards. “Oh gosh, now I have to work on this stuff again.” Do you see what I mean?
So depending on how we’re wired is how we’re going to receive that information.
I’ve got to be really honest with you guys as I always am. I’ve been looking at myself a lot for years and years and years, but really specifically lately with different things. And it really came to me. I really, really have a sense that I’ve been wired to look at things like I took a step backwards. “Oh, man! I can’t believe I have to work on that again.”
And to me, it goes way back to that old story we’ve all heard. If I handed you a cup of water that was filled halfway up and I said, “Here, take this,” – and just be really, really honest yourself. This is really important because it really helps to know with how we’re wired, how we are programmed and what is running our decisions and our views of our singing. If I handed you this glass of water that is filled halfway up, would you look at that glass as half full or half empty?
I know that seems trite and it doesn’t seem important, but let’s track it for a second. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching on this lately. I think that I have been wired for a long, long, long time to look at that glass as half empty. That’s not all that fun to say. But based on the decisions that I make sometimes and the things that I have done, things that I say, feelings that I have, tracking them back, they don’t go back to a belief that the glass is half full. They would much more be tracked back to a belief that the glass is half empty.
So go back to talking to the coach again about the first sparring event and leaving that experience and feeling like that was a real step forward. That was a step propelling you towards your potential because you did some things really well and you know what to work on. That’s great information. That’s all good. There’s nothing bad in there at all. It’s all good.
That is really a view through a belief that the glass is half full. Now you have to take that belief that the glass is half full or that glass is half empty and track that back too because we’re really not being handed a glass, but I guess we metaphorically have a glass in life, in our voice, in singing, whatever. So is it half full or is it half empty, right?
So in looking at my glass, I think I’ve always believed that it is half empty, which is hard to face and say, “Wow! Really?” That’s one of those things that I am tempted to say in this moment. “Gee, you’re kidding. Really? I’ve been working on that for so long.” But that reaction to that comes from the belief that the glass is half empty. Did you see what I mean?
It’s like being on a habitrail. Those hamsters have those little wheels and they spin around, spin around and spin around. That’s what that is. And really, that wiring is really, really interesting. That’s one of the reasons that I say you question everything, question your feelings, question your beliefs, track them and see where they come from.
So let’s get back to this martial arts thing for a while. What does it have to do with singing? Clearly, sparring would be very analogous to you getting on stage. So you’re working on a song, you’re working on a performance, whatever it is, it doesn’t matter what level you’re at all, at all. Believe me, I have worked with Broadway people, I’ve worked with all kinds of people, high, high, high caliber in the business and they all experienced this stuff.
Well, I probably shouldn’t make that generalization that they all do. Of course there are some that really don’t, but a tremendous percentage of people, no matter what the level is, go through some of these because we are all human and we all have a wiring and very few of us just have phenomenal conditioning in our lives. We have wiring and programming that we took on and we didn’t know we did it.
So anyway, back to the singing. While we’re onstage and we’re vocalizing with our teaching, we’re doing whatever, we’re making progress, we’re moving forward and we’re moving forward. And then we go on to a stage or wherever the stakes are a little bit higher, boom. We have that experience.
Now really in reality, that experience is propelling us forward. But how are we viewing that experience? Do we come off the stage and go home and listen to the recording of what we might have done? Or do we talk to somebody and get some constructive feedback? And then how do we take that feedback? Do we take that in a way that lets us believe that that was a real positive thing that was propelling us forward in our experience? Or do we take that feedback as something, “Oh, my gosh! I can’t believe I was doing so great and now I’ve gone backwards.”
And really, over the 25 years that I’ve been teaching, a tremendous number of singers do this. And I think it’s because in our culture and in our collective wiring, we are taught that we take two steps forward and one back, two steps forward and one back. “Oh, that was the one back.” It’s almost expected.
I may have even said this on a podcast at some point because it comes to me that I have heard – forgive me if I have said this before. I even validated that. I heard that validated and it really made sense. It really makes tremendous intellectual sense.
There was somebody on stage that I really respect. He was talking one time and he was talking about taking two steps forward and one back, two forward and one back, two forward and one back.
I may have said this previously, but bear with me.
This gal came up to him afterwards and said, “Wow! I really, really like what you said. That was powerful because I’m a seamstress and ordinarily when we’re sewing a seam, everything is just forward, forward, forward. But if I need to make a particularly strong seam in a shoulder or something that really needs a hold, I do two loops,” or whatever you call them, “I go two forward and one back, two forward and one back, two forward and one back and that makes a real, real, real strong seam.”
I thought that’s really, really cool because that’s what we do. We take two steps forward and one back, two steps forward and one back.
So now, I think that’s great and that validates that cultural belief that we take two forward and one back.
But now let’s reframe it just for fun. It’s very challenging for us in our culture and what we’re brought up with to believe that taking one step back is actually good. Let’s be honest. We hear the validation like that and that makes sense sewing a seam. It really is cool. And I used that for a long time. I’m like, “Wow! That really makes sense.” But you know what? It still never makes me feel good.
So I don’t want to take a step back and I don’t want to go backwards. I don’t want to be moving forward and then go backwards, moving forward and then go backwards.
But what if we reframe this whole moving backwards thing as we’re not moving backwards at all?
This is not just an idea. Play around with it. I’m not right about everything. Play around with this idea.
So you’re singing, you’re practicing, you’re rehearsing, you get on the stage and you have your performance. And let’s say that some things are great and some things need work. And until we reach a certain level, that’s kind of most of our performances, right?
So you come off the stage. What if discovering the things that need work are just new things that you found out about your voice, new things that you found out about yourself when you’re performing where stakes are high that you need to find out?
What if that has nothing to do with anything bad? What if it has nothing to do with a step backwards? What if all is just a constant forward movement of learning in the process of reaching whatever your potential happens to be at singing? To me, that is really a much more productive way of beginning to view this.
Honestly, this just came to me the other day. I share with you as things come. I’ve said a million times that these things aren’t scripted. They aren’t planned. I turn on the microphone and I go. So a lot is coming to me as I talk about this that I am going to try out in my singing about the two steps forward and one step back.
How about just forward? What about a forward, gentle and nice forward momentum and not placing the interpretation on any feedback? “Oh boy, back step, two steps forward, one step back. Oh, my gosh! This time, I think I took two forward and two back. Oh, my God! I’m back to square one. I haven’t made any progress at all.”
How many of us have done that and how lousy does that feel versus, “Wow, okay. I got some really constructive feedback?”
I heard one time somebody said, “There’s no failure. There’s only feedback.” I really thought that was a really, really great way to look at things.
So look at it like the martial arts, look at it like the tennis. By the way, I have people coming in all the time that say, “Do you have any other scales? Do you do other scales for your advanced students? Can we do other scales?” I say to them, “You really shouldn’t be concerned with doing other scales. Your focus and intention should be on doing these scales to mastery really, really, really well because it’s not about doing a hundred scales okay. It’s about doing 10 scales like a master because the ones that I throw at you, if you had mastered those already, you’re going to find your singing heck of a lot easier.”
I was talking again to my friend. In martial arts, there are a finite number of moves in a particular discipline and then you improvise and you bring your own thing to it. But as far as moves go, you would never go in as a white, green or yellow or even brown belt and say to the fifth degree black belt that was teaching you, “You’ve got some more moves for me here?” Really, he would just laugh and say, “Dude…” or dudess, I guess, “you’re not doing the ones that we’re doing to mastery yet. There’s no reason to throw new moves at you right now.”
I don’t even know why I said that except that with the martial arts example that I’ve been using, that seemed really, really important to say. If nothing else, it really helps if we can just get really realistic (not negative, but realistic) with where we are because if we’re realistic with where we are, we can take constructive criticism – let’s say critique, not criticism, constructive critique – and feedback as a real, real forward thrusting energy that is not indicative of one step back. It is highlighting the fact that we are continuing to move forward in our process.
So anyway, I could ramble on, but there’s no need to do that. I think I’ve been clear. Hopefully, you got something out of this. Let me know what you think about this. Maybe this is controversial. Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t know, Mike. I think you’re stretching on this one.” Let me know. I never know unless I hear from you guys. Let me know what you think.
For me, I’m going to take a shot at this because the whole idea of two steps forward and one back has always bugged me even with that rationalization that I got a little solace from. So okay, in stitching and sewing, that makes sense. We do really well and then we suck and we do really well and we suck. And that makes us stronger.
Yeah, sure. But maybe we can reframe that. Maybe we can do really well, get some feedback, continue moving forward and not go through the mental, “I suck, I suck, I suck. Oh well, that was my one step forward. Okay, let’s get back on the horse again, boom,” and the constant motivation and talking to ourselves and all that.
Anyway, it’s just an idea. See what you think. Try it on. I’ll talk to you in the next episode. Thank you so much for listening. Bye-bye.
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