I’ve always thought attitude can change everything. I blogged about it here in my Say I Won’t post about a bull rider who was told he wasn’t good enough to represent his country in the world cup and proved them all wrong, about how a challenge can make people rise to the occasion and achieve the incredible. But it works both ways…that same bull rider I had cited in that previous post let the mental and emotional stuff get to him later in the season, sending him into a slump that nearly cost him the world title. It didn’t though, because he regrouped and rose to meet the challenge just in the nick of time.
Now I am watching the same happen much closer to home, live and in person instead of through the television screen and it involves one of my best friends since 5th grade. You see there is this little local karaoke competition that my friend decided, on a lark and just for fun, to try out for. She is a former professional singer who retired to have children, but who still loves a good night out of singing even if it is at a bar full of drunks screaming ‘Sweet Caroline’.
Here’s where my philosophy comes into play. It was supposed to be fun. It was a surprise she was able to get in the competition at all because she entered late and had to compete for a slot in the Wild Card competition based solely on audience votes. It should have been a no brainer, after all, she used to sing at sometimes 2 gigs a day on weekends and a few nights mid-week back in the day.
But this competition was different than her days in the band, because suddenly here were 3 judges critiquing her every note and holding up score cards. There was an audience here to vote for her, or not, based on their own loyalties to the competitors. All of this combined to create a stressful situation out of what should have been fun. Each week she’d get more nervous about her performance, which affected her voice. Songs I’d heard her belt out perfectly in her band, she struggled with here, on top of the technical issues happening in the competition such as songs being played in a different key than she’d requested.
Yes, she’d played famous clubs in Manhattan in the past, and this was only the backroom in a small Italian restaurant in Pleasantville, but her confidence was blown and that makes all the difference in the world.
So, let’s skip to the present. After over a dozen other competitors were cut, she made it to the final 9. She was going into what the judges liked to call ‘Bloody Thursday’ where 6 of the 9 contestants would be cut, leaving only 3 for the grand finale. She asked me what songs she should sing. We’d discussed song choices before. There were lists of songs and CDs all over her house from the weekly song choices, so I was familiar with them all. She never thought she’d make it this far and we didn’t think she’d make it through Bloody Thursday. The judges’ 3 favorites were pretty obvious at this point and we all expected them to take the 3 slots, with maybe a surprise upset taking the 3rd.
So I said this to my friend, verbatim…
“F*CK IT! You’re getting voted out this week anyway. Sing what you want.” I told her to do the 2 the songs I knew she’d been wanting to do the entire competition but was afraid to because quite honestly, they were risky choices. She agreed, in spite of all the people around her questioning her choices, or grimacing when she told them the songs, she stayed strong because as I’d said, she was on her way out anyway, so f*ck it!
She went into last Thursday night, Bloody Thursday, armed with that attitude, a great new dress, and her 2 favorite songs and guess what? She took first place last week by a good margin. The audience was silent and speechless for the first time that night during her 2nd song, an obscure piece from the Broadway show Wicked that most in that room had never heard, and she received a standing ovation from both the audience and for the first time, the judges, along with 3 perfect scores.
Why? Because she said f*ck it and didn’t let the competition get to her. Much like life, you can’t let the stress of those who judge us get us down. And more importantly, we can’t judge ourselves because we can be our own worst enemy. When your internal chatter starts to get to you, remember, aren’t we really here to enjoy ourselves? So just say f*ck it!
For those wondering how this story ends, I don’t know yet. The final 3 compete Friday Nov. 12 at 8PM at Ciro’s in Pleasantville, NY. If you’re in the area, stop by. Admission is free.
NOVEMBER 13th UPDATE–Donna took first place in the finals!!