Tim came home from a small gig a few days ago without that energy that he has when a show goes well. I always ask, "How'd it go?" anyway, so I did.
"Awful," he answered, but not sadly. And, matter-of-factly, he gave me the rundown: it was an open mic night, so not ideal sound (adequate, but the sound at those things is always set up for bands, which is NOT ideal for vocalists. Period. Ever.), people in the audience weren't paying attention, public sound check that intimidated some of his vocalists to the point of paralyzing them, people were "hovering" while Tim worked (standing around him in the way, asking him questions about non-related things, but not helping and seemingly unaware that he's WORKING--it's one of my and his pet peeves about vocalists. They seem to think set up happens by magic, and that Tim should be hanging out with them socializing, eating, and helping them get over their nerves--and they get after him for being focused instead of nice and social.), the performance was without energy--which made it feel like it was dragging, and individual performers just really didn't do their jobs (ranging from showing up dressed wrong having not read the instruction emails to singing the wrong notes to getting the tempos wrong, etc). It was bad enough that the singers apologized to Tim afterward, and bad enough that he was stern with them afterward (which he rarely needs to be because performers generally know when they had a bad show and generally can fix it with notes but not sternness).
Anyway, it was what we call "one of THOSE." They happen to everyone, regardless of how well-prepared, talented, or experienced a group is.
I said to Tim, "That's too bad. Sorry that happened."
He got this huge grin on his face and said, "I'm not."
"You're not sorry?" I said.
"No," Tim said. "Because this is how they get experience, and experience is what makes you a good performer."
That really struck me.
I remembered when I was an undergraduate in a young adult ward, and I noticed that there was just "something" about returned sister missionaries and realized that if I wanted that "something", I had to go on a mission.
And I know that "something" about experienced performers that sets them apart, both on and off stage. You can't get that without experience--and really, you learn more from the bad shows, the less-than-ideal setups, the mediocre-to-terrible sound reinforcement, the nobody-is-paying-attention times than you can ever learn from a long string of good shows in good theaters with large appreciative audiences. In short, it's learning how to deal with the problems that makes the difference. It's learning how to take the circumstances you've been given and go and provide a high-quality performance anyway. It's learning how to pull that energy and vibrance from within yourself instead of feeding off the audience--so you can give them a great experience no matter if they are energetic or energy suckers. It's learning how to recover from mistakes, not letting one flaw throw the whole show off. It's learning how to sing "a" right note even when you can't remember (or can't find) "the" right note. It's learning how to carry yourself on stage so that nobody can tell if you don't remember where you're supposed to be now. It's learning how to read and follow the instructions, and how to dress so that you look good no matter what shape and size you are, and how to carry yourself so that it doesn't matter what you're wearing. It's learning how to fill the stage and balance it no matter where and how everyone else is moving (or not moving or supposed to be moving) and no matter what shape the stage is. It's learning how to tune in to the audience while still paying attention to what the other performers are doing, what you yourself are doing, and what the tech is doing. It's learning how to talk to tech guys so you get what you need--and having enough shows under your belt to know what you need--in a tech mix. It's learning how to do that song AGAIN and still make it fresh for the audience. You learn to be stubborn about some things, and flexible about almost everything, and adaptable, and to not make YOUR performance determined by your circumstances or other people's performances--while still making everyone else's jobs on stage easier.
In short, it's experience.
And you don't gain experience when everything goes well.
It made me start thinking about the fact that God sent us here to gain experience. And I can now see more clearly that life is like performing in that way--you don't get experience from everything going smoothly. You gain experience when things go wrong and you learn how to deal with them and do your job anyway.
Just like returned sister missionaries have a "something" about them that I wanted when I was 19, some old women have a "something" about them--a beauty, calmness, nobility, ...it's hard to pinpoint or verbalize. It's just that "something" that makes them wonderful. I want that. And now I'm beginning to think they get that not by doing the easy, calm things, but by successfully weathering the storms of life.
In short, by experience.
So perhaps I should take a cue from Tim and stop wasting energy being sorry when things go wrong and instead embrace it because that's how I get experience--and experience makes all the difference.