You Don’t Have To Be Perfect To Get On Stage

It’s been a week of synchronicity. Barely hours after my post about believing in your own progress as a man, Obsidian at Just Four Guys posted a tome on Inner and Outer Game and their advocates. I quoted Alexis de Tocqueville in my post; Roissy riffed on a different quote from the same public philosopher, with further commentary from Vox Day at Alpha Game.

One of my points in my last post was that you don’t need to reach some arbitrary goal before you can feel good about yourself or before you give yourself permission to start deploying your game to the women of the world. Some guys get into a frame of “I can do X once I am finished with Y” and then it’s only a slight shift to start moving the goalposts to avoid taking the next step; “well I don’t look as good as I thought, I better bulk up some more before I talk to some girls,” or “I’m going to start approaching once this summer project at work is over and I have a more clear career plan.” It doesn’t have to be approaching per se, it can be developing a better social group, or even going after some personal passions you’ve put off in favor of improving your baseline health and wellness.

This behavioral block plain and simple prevents you from taking further action; you’ve leveraged one self-improvement project to block the execution of another, and you’ve done so intentionally (if subconsciously). One other flaw of this pattern is that you get into a Nice Guy way of thinking, where you believe you “deserve” a “reward” for whatever arbitrary metric you have reached. and then you set yourself up for resentment when you don’t get the reward you think should be coming to you.

Sure enough, yet another blog post published on January 15 dovetailed into the same idea expressed in my post. Peregrine John tells of his friend, a drummer, who lets him in on the secret of gigging as a small-time band:

It was Mariano who explained to me, years ago, that it’s not necessary to have a chart-topping band in order to get regular gigs, it’s only necessary to be good enough musically, and enjoyable to watch. Like a lot of classically-trained musicians, I have this idea that you shouldn’t even think about getting onstage until you’re closely approaching perfection. That includes the arrangement of the music, the skill in delivering it, and the show aspects. As any perfectionist and most musicians will attest, these are good things to aim for but take a good while to bring about. More to the point, waiting for that will both slow your abilities (which do require performance to fully develop) and cause you to pass up perfectly valid opportunities to play.

…If the audience is happy with Good which is striving to be Very Good, or Very Good on the way to Great, there is no reason not to look for paying gigs as soon as reasonably possible. Plus, if you take your music and showmanship seriously, odds are strong that you’ll be on the short list soon enough.

We don’t have to be the second coming of Aerosmith or Van Halen to get gigs. We just have to be the best choice the venue has. That’s definitely good enough. And the bar is sometimes lower than we figured.

As a musician myself, I certainly identify. I always wanted to be spot-on and perfect before taking my skills onstage or even playing in a band. I learned very early, however, that I had to put that insecurity behind me and just start playing with other musicians, compensating with energy and stage presence (and in our case, exceptional songwriting for our age and experience), and then hone my craft further in the context of the rock combo. In point of fact, it made me a much more confident and creative musician, knowing that I didn’t have to be perfect at every note and that I could be a successful performer while still improving and developing my style.


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10 responses to “You Don’t Have To Be Perfect To Get On Stage

  1. I’m right there as well–I’ve just started performing with my dad’s band as a guitarist and singer. I’m nowhere NEAR perfect at either–but my dad and my uncle are so clutch and used to playing that they can cover for me. My role is essentially to be the the band’s youthful, good looking twenty-something (since they are both older now) who keeps the older ladies more engaged in the performance. I’ve come to peace with my role and I’ve gotten noticeably more comfortable on stage during the past year.

    I also believe that a single performance is worth 10 practices–it’s a positive feedback loop. You can’t get better at something standing on the sidelines. No matter how many practice reps you take, the game is always going to be different.

  2. You’ve been saying some really insightful stuff lately, keep it up.

    I miss the GNR posts, though.

  3. Right on. Experience trumps practice, and practice trumps plain theory.

  4. Professor Highbrow

    By getting out there and approaching (or whatever example one wishes to relate to), despite not being where you want to be yet, you are honing your skills. If one was to wait until they achieved their ideal physique to start approaching, it may be six months or more before that happens. Meanwhile, they could have been out there approaching and getting educated on how to seduce women.

    There is no substitute for experience.

  5. Armchair Quarterback

    I think there’s a way to carry the analogy further also. As a musician I find learning and performing a new kind of music creates more growth than playing the same type songs you’re comfortable with. And believe it or not, simply watching a video of your performance can be very instructive. A more I thought might look cool (guitar solo move) really didn’t convey as well as I thought it would – and I had not idea until I watched my own performance.

  6. “You Don’t Have To Be Perfect To Get On Stage”


    i need to remember this to motivate me to do a photography exhibition. my pictures aren’t perfect, but they are good enough to be on stage.

  7. Ton

    See this same mindset in powerlifting and strongman all the time; I’ll compete when I squat X or can run the stones in X amount of tims etc etc

    Truly a self limiting mindset.

  8. Pingback: Don’t Let Perfect Be The Enemy Of Better | The Badger Hut

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  10. “See this same mindset in powerlifting and strongman all the time; I’ll compete when I squat X or can run the stones in X amount of tims etc etc”

    I think being the coach of a team sport has helped me move around this limiting mindset. We don’t have the luxury of procrastinating until we feel “ready,” we have to compete on Friday (or Tuesday or whatever) and don’t have a choice but to find a way to win with whatever performance we can get on the field from the players. If we have to cover for someone we do that, but we can’t just shrug and not play.

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