Being a performer means being in the spotlight. This means you are an easy target for criticism. As many of you know or may not know, I am a well-corn-fed boy (that is just a nice way of saying that I am fat). The part that I play within T Minus 5 is the physical humor. I am known from time to time to dress up in spandex as the Redneck Avenger, the defender of cows and rednecks, or do a dance complete with gyrating hips, toe touches, river dance, ballet, and any style of dancing that I can make look ridiculous. I do this because I love to make people laugh and to make them feel better about themselves.
Recently after a show I got an email from a lady saying how appalling she thought my performance was. How she was afraid that my pants were going to split and see something she shouldn’t. How unprofessional my performing is. My first emotional response to this criticism was anger. Who was this person who could attack me and what I love so much? I wanted to send a nasty email back and perhaps shave her hair off in the middle of the night. I restrained myself from sending the email and I couldn’t shave her hair off because, well, I didn’t know where she lived. My second emotional response was depression. I started to doubt my lifelong career and abilities. I thought to myself, “Am I really misreading the audience that much?” The audience was laughing and I had several people pull me aside to tell me how good my performance was and how I elevated the rest of the group. I even got a phone number, not from my choice, from a larger crazed momma who basically violated me as she told me, “You make me hot!” I am still having nightmares from that one. Recalling these stories and memories, again, I thought, “Have I been reading my audiences wrong for all these years?”
After my emotional rollercoaster was finished, I looked at the problem methodically to gain a better understanding of how the lady felt and hopefully, up my game as a performer. To do this, I asked people who I could trust, who were at the same show, and who would give me an honest unsugar coated answer. I asked religious figures, political officials, school principals, professors and many more. These people all said their favorite part of the show was my “out of the box” antics and my ability to mold back into the group to a supporting role. These opinions directly contradicted how the lady felt. I was placed in a dilemma who to believe and what to do?
My answer came to me when I was listening to a radio sports talk show. Charles Barkley the retired NBA All-star and now basketball reporter was being interviewed. He said, “In this business half the people will hate you and the other half will love you. So be yourself because you will be happy.” Another saying within the recording world is the 90/10 rule. Meaning if it is 90% perfect you should move onto the next item to record. Performing is much the same. If you are pleasing 90% of your audience and yourself why cater to the minority?
Whether your goals are to be the next superstar performer, CEO, music educator, or just a friend, you will be faced with criticism. When dealing with criticism always evaluate it, see what you can learn, pull out your clippers to shave some hair, but the main thing always be true to yourself. How have you dealt with criticism of yourself or your group?