I’m a podcast junkie.* This week, I’ve been catching up on the TED Radio Hour, and today’s post is courtesy of this gem. (Don’t worry if you don’t “do” podcasts. Just click through to the web page and listen!)

TED Talks videos are amazing things, but I don’t always have the time to devote to visual media. Not only is the Radio Hour a wonderful companion on my commute, the producers do a terrific job of knitting together material from multiple talks in a way that often creates added meaning. Such is the case here.

2013-03-18 08.14.37-1Today, my main take-away was this, from BrenĂ© Brown: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

When I tell people that I work with opera singers, they often remark on how difficult it must be to deal with over-sized egos. Now, there are egotists in every walk of life, and opera is no exception. But introversion, vulnerability and humility are surprisingly common among performers. The public often thinks that artists have to build up bullet-proof exteriors and pump up huge egos. And truth be told, some do. But not the best ones.

The best ones have steel in them, but it’s on the inside. On the outside, there’s a soft, flexible and vulnerable exterior that opens them up. It’s how they reach us and help us see the world in a new way.

And then there’s the practical aspect. An opera singer shows up for work, puts on whatever clothes and makeup someone else has decided s/he should wear, executes his duties in the context of a machine run in unforgiving real time by over a hundred other people, does it all in front of thousands of people (many of whom aren’t exactly predisposed to wish him success) and runs the risk of public excoriation in the media by someone he’s never met.

The audition season challenge in this? Strut yourself again and again and again in front of judgmental and cranky potential employers without developing a hard exterior that limits your potential as an artist and your sensitivity as a human being. Accept criticism without being defensive and view honest mistakes as the price of growth. Stay vulnerable.

*Not a podcast addict yet? Start here: Radiolab, This American Life, Freakonomics Radio, 99% Invisible, Here’s the Thing, The Moth, How to Do Everything, StoryCorps, TED Radio Hour.



One Comment


Love this article! It is practically impossible to explain to people who do not work in the business how humble and generous performers can actually be and in most cases, are. It seems that a prevailed public opinion is that we are obliged to live up with these social stereotypes in order to deserve to be called artists.

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