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Performance Essentials

My name is Dan Thurmon, and I’m a performer.

Does this mean that I enjoy being on stage, the center of attention? That I embrace the heat of spotlights and am fueled by audience responses and applause? Well, yes. But it means much more than that.

You don’t have to step on stage to be a performer. Even if you shy away from the spotlight, you may be one yourself. In fact, every one of us is called upon to perform; to shine; to deliver our life’s work and our best efforts.

Our performances may be planned or spontaneous. They may last mere moments. Yet these moments – when we are engaged in the act of performing – are extraordinary – charged with energy and potential for transformation. These moments, when we attempt to summon our best efforts, reveal our character, improve us, and uplift those around us, whether we are performing for an audience of one or one thousand.

Some would say, “perform at your best every day,” which is a kind wish, but not exactly realistic or useful advice. I used to say this myself, to my audiences. And sure, it sounds good and seems logical that each day we should routinely put forth our best efforts. And perhaps that is your approach. But in reality, it is impossible to be your best at all times… and it isn’t necessary.

To be a sensational performer, you must be your best when it matters the most.

We all have high and low moments and some days are naturally better than others. Performers seem to sense, however, when their circumstances demand a supreme effort, and they know how to summon their abilities to rise to these occasions.

How do you respond to pressure? Do you feel uncomfortable, nervous, or perhaps even a little intimidated? So do all performers. But they also know how to manage their thinking, leverage their strengths and past experiences, and turn uncertainty into excitement … and then opportunity … and then reality.

Performance mastery, in any field, is essentially converting expertise to execution. All the knowledge in the world or specialized skills matter little if they fail you at the critical moment.

Performance abilities are not born. They are developed. Through trial and error, study, mimicry, inspiration, and luck, we learn how to perform. No matter your predisposed posture to performance, you can become excellent.

Three key requirements essential for performance excellence are desire, awareness, and resilience.

Desire

What do you want to achieve or hope to become? Performers, on and off the stage are driven by a compelling motivation. Motivation isn’t just a feeling or positive attitude. It is a hunger that resides with in. And motivation works, to focus the mind, channel the talents, and inspire new solutions. Is motivation working for you? Or are you lacking in motivational fuel? Desire is what enables you to go “off balance,” in pursuit of excellence, yet remain “on purpose,” connected to meaning and mission.

Awareness

Cultivate an awareness of what you are doing and the result of your actions. Are you getting the results you desire? If not, why not? What, specifically, could be better? How so? Become aware of others who are performing better than you are. Study them. Model their efforts, adapting them to suit your unique style. Then try something new, and observe how that works. Continuous learning requires continuous awareness of what isn’t working.

Resilience

Performers fail. Their efforts sometimes result in glory. Other times, the result is utter embarrassment. What makes someone a sensational performer is the resilience to rise, undefeated from their “flops,” informed with the knowledge of what didn’t work and motivated to try something else.

So how do you prepare and rehearse for show time? Study your craft. Put in the work, become the expert. Absolutely. Without that, you have no right to step on your stage.

But performance is about converting expertise to execution when the pressure is on. And that, my friends, is a different discipline entirely.

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