Zen and the Art of Getting Over Yourself

Yesterday I did something totally out of my comfort zone. I went to a recording studio and laid down a few tracks. The studio, in case you’re curious, is in my friend Dennis’ basement. He’s got quite the set up.

Dennis asked me to come by after he heard this recording that I did using my iPad and Soundcloud. That was my first step out of my comfort zone a few weeks ago. I have been learning how to sing and play guitar at the same time for about 25 years (yeah, I know), and I figured that I’d gotten this song to the point that I’d just record it. I had no intention of publishing it. That would be insane. What would people think? What if I suck? What if people think that I am showing off? What if I suck and people say I don’t just to be nice?

All of those ridiculous things went through my head. Then I just hit Publish.

You know what? The world didn’t end. I didn’t suck. A few friends thought it actually sounded pretty good. I started to feel comfortable with the idea of publishing songs I’d recorded. And then Dennis emailed me and said “come over, and we’ll record the song in my studio.”

And then I was out of my comfort zone all over again.

For those of you who have never recorded in a studio before, it’s a fairly unnerving experience. First, I had to lay down the guitar track. Yep, just me, playing guitar, singing along in my head, trying to make sure I got the chords right (did I play that G for 4 bars or 6 bars?). I am not a confident guitar player so that took a lot of concentration. Then it was time to record the vocals. We set up and the second I heard my voice coming back at me in the headphones I started to feel a bit nauseous. What was I doing here? Am I nuts? Whose voice is that? Is that the right note? Forget it. I can’t do this.

But I took a breath. And I sang.

What’s With the Hangups?

I believe that the primary reason people don’t do things is because they are too worried about what other people will think. So that novel never gets written. That course never gets developed. That song never gets composed. That blog never gets started. That startup company never starts up. Think of all the creative ventures that have gone by the wayside because people were too afraid to try. Think of the dreams that haven’t come true because people were so afraid to look silly.

You know who taught me not to be afraid to just sing? Bob LeDrew. I didn’t even know Bob when I saw this article back in 2008. In fact, that article is how Bob and I met. Now we’re great friends, and he’s a source of inspiration to me in so many ways. He taught me that it’s okay to get up on a stage (or into a recording studio) and not be perfect. It’s okay to stumble a bit at first, as long as you learn from it and keep going.

He taught me that it’s okay to believe in yourself. And that it’s essential to get over yourself.

Comfort Zone, Shmomfort Zone

I’m convinced we use that comfort zone thing as an excuse. (Oh no, I can’t do that. I’m not comfortable. It makes me nervous. I’m too shy.)

Pardon my French, but screw that.

We really do need to get over ourselves. As my good friend and business partner says, we need to “outshout the voices” in our heads that tell us we can’t do stuff. We need to fight through the nervousness and the nausea, and just start doing what we want to do, in spite of it. Because you know what? I sang my guts out yesterday. I fought through the knot in my stomach and I did it. And it sounded good. And I had fun.

As for the results of my efforts, you’ll have to wait while Dennis works his magic on the mixing board. But rest assured I’ll be showing the world when it’s done. Because I’m so over myself. And I know now that living a creative life requires that.

So you? What are you going to do to get over yourself and just do that thing you’ve always wanted to do?

[photo: Greg McMullen]

6 comments
Andrew Moizer
Andrew Moizer

The only way you find out where the edge is, it to try to step over it. Pushing into the "uncomfortable zone" is a good practice, that I encourage everyone to do. It's been my experience that the edge is a lot further away than you think (aka the "comfort zone" is a lot larger than we realize), and that dealing with stuff out there is also easier than we expect. A good number of years ago I decided to take a chance and play the banjo on the front porch. I don't consider myself a particularly good picker, but a lot of people walking by said they enjoyed it anyway. I had a dad with two young girls who changed their evening walk route so that they could come past. If I was playing the little girls danced on the sidewalk in glee. We're in the process of moving back into that house, so once it warms up again I'd better suck it up and get out there again. cheers, Andrew

yael
yael

In hebrew we say "Every word is written in Rock". I guess there is an English parallel but I don't know it :) Great words of wisdom, truly inspiring and taking the edge off the intimidating "Greatness" that numbs and paralyzes creative and sensitive people. Rock on!

Patrick Gant
Patrick Gant

This is a great cover...and I like the key you chose. When I first started getting serious about my music (still a hobby, but a serious one), I started making recordings of cover songs and originals. Sometimes it was so I could listen critically to my work, but more than that, it's become something I do because it's fun. The first little while was dreadful. I used to do take after take trying to get everything *perfect.* Eventually I got fed up and realized that I was never going to get anywhere if I didn't stop agonizing over every little thing. That's when I started the "single-take sessions." http://soundcloud.com/pgant I plug in the guitar, get GarageBand set up and I hit record. One take. One track. No retakes. Blue note in the solo? I'm flat on the intro? Too bad. I flubbed the third verse? Too bad. It was really hard at first to get over my countless worries. Like your partner said, it's all about outshouting the voices. So far, no one's come to my house demanding that I turn in my amateur musician card. I've compiled a good number of tunes over the years, and what I find now is that I can really see where my technique has changed over the years. I see my mistakes. But I also see how much fun I've had over the years with music, too. That's insight I otherwise would have lost by insisting on flawless takes.

Mickey Gomez
Mickey Gomez

Love this, Suze! You've made me think, which is about the highest praise I can give for a blog post. This resonated with me and made me consider why I've stopped playing and singing and why I've never recorded myself and why I don't make more time for writing. I don't know that it's fear, exactly, but part of it is the "dreaded" feeling of letting something out into the world before it's "perfect". We can spend our whole lives trying to get to perfect before we share instead of realizing it's all part of the journey. Thanks for the inspiration!

Audrey
Audrey

"No one's interested in somethin' you didn't do" love that line. What a great post, and you sound great! Your guitar playing is strong, the chords are full and rich, and your voice has wonderful depth - I think you sing in the lower ranges like me....and ADELE! You just started my week in the best possible way. I lost a dear friend to cancer yesterday, and he sure didn't waste any time when he was here. What am I going to do? Theatre! Acting!

Susan Murphy
Susan Murphy

Audrey, I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. I too lost someone I know last week to cancer, and I think in part that may have motivated me to write this. I wish you all the best in your theatre and acting pursuits!