Defining success uniquely is one of the most important things to do as someone in the field of creative arts and performance. What we all come with into this world of art is a setup of expectations, stereotypes, myths and pre-written stories. We have seen artists in glory and fame, we have seen artists in failure and starvation.
Often times there are certain things we connect to being successful as a singer and an artist, like getting a record deal or performing at huge stadion to millions of people.
Those can be wonderful things, but we need to have sort of inner success in order to enjoy any kind of outer success we meet in the world. We can get things that seem wonderful, but if we are not grounded in our own values, it can tear as apart.
I've had to define what success means to me as a singer. First of all, for my sanity, and for having honest clarity in my purpose. There needs to be a strong connection to knowing why I sing in the first place - not to please others, but being true to myself.
1. Singing feels easy, enjoyable and effortless in practice, on stage and after
This is a big compass of success to me. It's like the "3 SACRED E'S" of singing. Easy, enjoyable, effortless. If I feel like I'm pushing, straining or trying to work super hard to make something happen, it doesn't really feel effortless. I know I am successful when I feel open, warm and energized after practice or performance. Of course sometimes it can result also as a relaxed feeling of being tired, if that is what my body-mind is needing.
What isn't success to me is feeling like I lost my voice, tension in my mind and body, feelings of hoarseness or even pain my throat. The tension does go both way. If I feel like shit about my performance, then I have probably compromised my truth and made decisions that I don't align with. And that affects the body too. It's a path of learning to be merciful to yourself, your voice and your path. It's about the whole, not of two mistakes you did.
2. I follow my own true interests
I think that any of the successful artists, songwriters and bands in the world have followed this path. Being true to yourself is something that shows. It shows as drive, enthusiasm and passion. It is also a way to make sure you don't burn yourself out by compromising yourself. When you follow your joy, and what it is in every moment, you stay motivated.
In my earlier days as a singer I used to be afraid of losing my interest in music and singing. What I have now realized that it is just the ability to listen to yourself and what brings you joy in the moment. Sometimes it can be to not sing. Sometimes it can be to listen to music. Sometimes it can be making improvised songs all the time. I allow my interests to enter my world of singing. I sing what ever gives me joy, even if it seems a little bit out of the curve.
3. My voice is part of my everyday life
So, what I mean by this is that there are so many great things you can achieve with your voice, but if it always stays in hiding it really doesn't become alive. It is part of the journey to allow the expression to be with you all the time. It's about being open, being less concerned about perfection. It's not sexy to be worried about your voice all the time. Why should singing be meant only for the stage?
What I really love are spontaneous, improvised songs. That can be really silly, stupid and fun. They are songs that are made in a car, in the kitchen or ... in the bedroom. And it really is not only about singing, it's about having an open channel of expression, as someone who expresses verbally and with sound. I think it's fairly successful to feel like I can open my mouth and speak my truth in any situation, or have the courage to stand out with what I say.
4. I use my voice diversely
I believe that a human voice has infinite possibilities in having different sounds and shades. It's like an endless palette of colors. What is successful to me is that I am using my voice diversely and exploring new things in my voice all the time as I go. We can become very strong and good in certain things, but ultimately success to me is going into the areas that are not so familiar.
It is also about entering the realm of surrender and feeling. The voice becomes more diverse when we surrender to the moment and express what we truly feel. That is when interesting things start to happen and we are not trying to control them. They are like little micro-shades in the voice. Just listen to someone with a good speaking voice telling a story - their sound might be working at a seemingly similar area, but their voice produces tiny little things that make their expression become alive. It is not about doing, it's about being.
5. I sing with my own voice
This might be the most important one. Best to last.
Well, what I can just say about this is that we are currently living in a time where people mostly learn to sing by imitating others or we get some techniques to sound just like some great singer. We are trying to sound just the same as some famous singer, which is kinda troublesome. It can lead to voice problems and tensions, but it also knocks you off your center. Imitation can be one way of learning, but the thing is that we can learn from great singers and how they sing, but the point is not to sound similar to them. Or even do it in the same way they did. We need to let go of trying to be like someone else and just kinda surrender to our own voice.
This is a huge topic in itself. Developing a good voice means that you have to know your own voice well. You need to know your body, your mind, your feelings, your interests. To create masterful art we can never go down the copy-road. We have to go down the deep-inside-yourself-rabbit-hole.
We need to get down to the core of what inspires ourselves. We need to tap into our own vulnerability and express our own authentic selves. There is no other way.
The thing is, that by learning great technique and sing like other famous singers you can seem like a really great singer. There are singers like this out there. But the problem is that you need to know who you are. You need to trust that. You need to stay true to that. By being only a technically good singer you always stay on a superficial level. It doesn't go that deep into the listener - or history.
But being yourself, authentically you, in what ever stage you are with your voice, you can make great impact in the world. No matter if you sing just to yourself or thousands of people, or if you are wanting to make a difference with the words you let of your mouth. And really that is just way much more interesting.
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