I just finished a book called, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F**k. During the entire book, I couldn’t help but think about how this practice can be used in my life. Well, in the opera world, audition season is among us and I need to learn how to practice not giving a f**k about auditioning. This is one of the most stressful times in a singer’s life. During this time, we spend a ton of money to fly to a far away place just to face anything from uncertainty to triumph to shame.
Often, even when we nail our auditions, we don’t get the job or don’t get hired for years to come, which we confuse with rejection. Auditioning is inherently a good thing. It is character building, it is its own art form, it is the main way to get work, but it is so stressful in so many ways that all of the good things about it go out the window!
How to not give a F**k about auditioning
My number one piece of advice for this is don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.
I never won any professional competitions when I was working my way up. I have a feeling that one of the reasons this is the case is because of the importance I put on them. Many times I borrowed money to fly to them. I needed the cash from winning first place. That cash could pay for a year’s voice lessons, rent, bills. I needed to win.
Since I had my whole life riding on whether I won this competition or not, the need to win is all I thought about when I auditioned. You know what I wasn’t thinking about? THE ART. The music. The words. The translations. Point being, I gave too many f**ks because I had too many f**ks to give.
Don’t Gamble With Your Career
How to remedy this? There are a couple of things I really wish I had done instead of auditioning when I wasn’t mentally ready. I wish I had saved my money.
Don’t spend the money flying to competitions when you don’t have it. If you catch yourself choosing between rent and going to a competition, pay your rent. If you think that winning a competition will change your life… it won’t. Spending money that you can’t afford to lose on something that you very likely might not win, sounds a lot like gambling to me. Wait until you can afford it. After all, winning competitions does not a career make.
On the flip side, if that isn’t your trouble, but you can’t seem to win competitions… Stop giving a f**k and see how far that goes. Maybe the f**ks you are giving aren’t financial. Possibly it’s pressure that friends are winning, or that your high C seems to be there in practice rooms but not in auditions. Maybe it’s simply the pressure you put on yourself to succeed.
I have many friends who won some of the big competitions, Gerda Lissner, the Met, and other big competitions, and had been singing for them for years. After the first few years, they stopped giving a f**k, and that seemed to do the trick many times.
There is also the big point, and maybe the most important, that even if you stop giving a f**k about everything, and sing your best for you, that you still might not win anything. In that case, not giving a f**k will make this process so much more bearable.
Not Giving a F**k in General Auditions
This is really hard to do. You want that job. You may think you are best qualified for it. And actually, you may be best for the job! But if all you can think about is how bad you want it, you’re not focusing on the job and giving too many f**ks.
If you think that this entire audition rests on your ability to sing that high note perfectly, you are giving too many f**ks.
I want you to sit and imagine a scenario where you go into an audition, not caring about who you are singing for, but are just there for the joy of singing. Honestly, stop reading this right now and use your imagination to visualize this scene.
Imagine that you are not only going to love the performance you give, because performing is why we got into this business in the first place, but you are also going to love the cracks or squeals that might accidentally come out, because at this point, you don’t give a f**k.
How sweet is that feeling. After you are finish your audition, go buy yourself a drink and celebrate just how few f**ks were given.
The Reality of Not Giving a F**K
Well, unfortunately it’s not always that easy. And it is not going to be that easy at first. The pressure to perform is high. It is our living. It’s how we pay bills. A lot is riding on these auditions. But not giving a f**k starts with a subtle mind shift.
First, try to understand just how many f**ks you are giving and who you are giving them to. Heck, go ahead and make a list if you want. Look at that list and ask yourself, does worrying about this make my life easier or better? Does worrying about this change the outcome for the worse or the better?
I know when I am in the spotlight, whether performing or auditioning, if I have items I worry about, I become more tense and perform worse. Maybe you aren’t like me. Maybe you thrive on the pressure. The stress of the business makes you feel alive! If so, thanks for reading to this point! ha.
The reality of the matter is that, like any problem, being aware of how many f**ks you are giving is the first step to not give them anymore. Try practicing visualization techniques. Be aware. Meditate on it. Take a xanax. Whatever you’ve got to do, try it. I think the art of not giving a f**k not only looks good on all of us, but is the key to having a happy career and life.