What if Being Nervous Could Work to Your Advantage?

Nervous cartoon


Nerves. Jitters. Stage Fright. Fear. Performance Anxiety. No matter what you call it, I’m here to tell you that the experience is valuable and even helpful.


Nervous man pulling at his collar onstage



SAY WHAT?! Stop talking CRAZY Dana! Are you saying that my butterflies, shaky hands, sweaty palms, dry mouth, or tight throat can actually help me?






I heard this fantastic quote last week from the great tennis player Roger Federer during his post-win interview during the Australian Open quarter-finals.

During the interview, he was asked if he was going to watch the next quarter final match of his opponents Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori before he played his semifinal match. His reply in the video below is fantastic.

“As a fan, I’m going to watch a little bit because it’s great tennis. As an opponent, I’m not gonna go crazy watching the match (of Nishikori and Djokovic) otherwise I’ll get nervous too early. I’m going to need those nerves during the semis!”

Why is this so fantastic? Because it means that he actually sees being nervous AS A BENEFIT that he uses to his advantage.

This brings the experience of nervousness to a whole different level.

Instead of trying to get RID of the symptoms it is actually creating a RELATIONSHIP to the experience.

Ask yourself the following:

  • How can I be curious about how my body reacts when I get ready for a high-pressure situation?
  • How can I use this to my advantage? Is it a boost of available energy? Can it help me with stamina? Focus?
  • What if my nerves were actually trying to help me? If they could tell me something what would they say?

I tell my clients that what we call being nervous or even call anxiety*, is actually a blanket label we don’t challenge. (Keeping in mind that I’m not speaking about clinical and debilitating anxiety that may need more professional help.) But when it’s the more common stage fright or nervousness, we just assume the sensation is a negative experience and thus try to make it stop or get rid of it.

Instead, what if you could be curious? Observe it?

Excitement and nervousness involve the same process of the nervous system. The only difference in the experience is our own perception of it and the meaning we give it. This determines whether that physiological experience is interpreted as “good” or “bad.”

It’s experienced as “good” when we’re focused on what we want to happen, such as excitment to go see a rock concert or travel to a new country. We experience that same energy as “bad” when we are focused on what we don’t want to happen such as fear of making a mistake, having a memory slip or being rejected.

What if you could take the feedback from your body and learn from it?

First and foremost, fear is telling you that what you’re focused on is the worst possible outcome and the nervous sensations are telling you that your body is going into fight or flight based on the thoughts you’re thinking.

What if your body weren’t working against you but actually trying to help you?

The truth is that when we are on stage, we need more energy than in other everyday experiences.

The performance space is bigger than a practice room, there are exponentially more people whose eyes and ears are focused on you. To project your being, your sound, your story to the back of the hall requires a great deal more presence and energy than say, you by yourself in a practice room.

It reminds me of the advice about camping and grizzly bears. You know how they say if you’re out in the woods and you come across a Grizzly Bear (and if you’re in a situation where you can’t run), it’s advised to throw out your arms and roar and make yourself as big as possible? Well, that requires energy-physiologically, emotionally and mentally. We do this on stage, too!

So what if you could practice using energy to your advantage?

Let’s say you’re getting prepared for an upcoming performance and you start to feel nervous.

Start by asking yourself:

What am I focusing  on?

If it’s fear, then name the fear. “I’m afraid I’ll drop the bow.”

Then ask yourself, what will happen if you drop the bow?

“I’ll be a failure.” (Is this true? How can you be sure? Who decides that?)

Then instead of replaying the fear, try playing out the best possible situation, such as picking up the bow and getting right back to performing and no one notices or cares. Or perhaps the moment is comical and people are looking to see how you handle it, so you smile, pick up the bow and keep on going. After the performance people come backstage and congratulate you on your stage presence, how poised and flexible you were and how much they admired your ability to focus and not get derailed by dropping your bow.

If you can focus in great detail on what can go wrong, you can actually focus on what can go right too. Since it’s projected thinking about a potential future that hasn’t happened yet, it might feel better if your thinking is focused on ever greater details of what you WANT to happen and how your preparation can fulfill that, vs playing out a potential nightmare over and over.

While this blog is by no means conclusive on the subject, it is a starting place to challenge your assumptions and automatic habits of thought and perceptions about the somatic experience we label “nerves.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Happy New Year!


Wow! What a year it’s been. It just takes my breath away.

I’ve fallen off the grid a bit with this blog. But I’m back now and I appreciate you for hanging around.

How were your holidays?

For me, the holiday season has been eye-opening. I’ve had an unusual amount of downtime and also alone time. This is a recipe for self-reflection and I was surprised by what I discovered though I suppose deep down inside I knew it all along but didn’t want to face it.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were quiet uneventful holidays where I didn’t get wrapped up in the season’s hustle as I have in years past. I spent my December birthday at a training seminar on psychology, personal development, human behavior and values. This was the most inspiring way to spend my birthday as I absolutely LOVE learning, particularly about how to help people self-actualize. This surprised me as usually birthdays are awkward at best.

I look back at this year and am stunned to see that nearly everything I put in my 2015 master plan has come to fruition. This validates the power of goal setting and writing down your dreams.

What I didn’t put in my master plan, however, was self-care.

This year I ran on what I call “soul crack”. It’s like running on fumes, but fumes of inspiration. Get it?

I was so inspired about my client work, about new speaking opportunities, interviews, workshops and other work opportunities.

AND I found myself exhausted. Things were falling through the cracks-particularly my health and wellness. Sleep was ok, but exercise-what’s that? My friendships also got neglected. And even my cat got sick.

I had to really stop and look at the price of success. I was shocked to discover that I actually found taking care of myself inconvenient and distracting from the work that inspired me. Go figure. I’d rather drink another cup of coffee and eat at my desk than stop what I was doing to go and take a break and think about what I was eating and whether that butter croissant and third cup of coffee really was the most optimal meal choice.

So here’s what’s got me thinking.

I had to face the fact that underneath all of my inspiration was that dark, insidious, hidden little belief that “I’m not enough. What I’m doing isn’t enough. It’ll never be enough.”

UGGGGGHHHHHHHH. Boom-there it is.

So THIS year, among other things, my goal is to learn how to have success that is a natural result of being myself, taking care of myself and honoring myself, rather than because I’ve sacrificed myself.

I invite you to do the same.

What if you could start the year out knowing:

  • You are ALREADY enough.
  • You are amazing.
  • You are unique and have something important to share with the world.

What if all you have to do is just have the clarity to know what you want and go after it?

Set goals that are true and congruent instead of shoulds and oughts.

Here are some suggestions for how to start your year off right:

  1. Make a wish list. Notice how you respond to each item on the list. Do you get excited and inspired at the prospect of it coming true or do you feel heavy and overwhelmed at the idea of all the work necessary to get it done.
  2. Schedule downtime NOW. If you’re anything like me, you might not notice you’re burnt out until you’re passed burnout. So, schedule your vacations, long weekends, date night, play time, or open space to read, reflect, journal, be curious or go on an adventure.
  3. Find a mentor. Read, listen to podcasts, go out and find someone to learn from. Particularly someone who has already achieved what you dream of doing. Successful people LOVE to teach what they’ve learned.
  4. Find an accountability partner. Find someone you trust and respect. Form a mastermind group. Hold them accountable and make them hold you accountable.
  5. Celebrate your success. As a driven perfectionist, I know it always feels like things are never done, never good enough, and there’s always MORE to do. BUT, it’s a LOT easier to keep growing when you are inspired by what you have accomplished as opposed to the guilt and shame of “not-enoughness.”

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -M. Gandhi


THANK YOU for being a part of the WholeHearted Community.

I wish you a phenomenal new year where you have health, well-being, discovery, play, connection, fulfillment, growth, and inspiration.

Happy New Year!!!


Fear or Love: Which Do You Choose?




bandiera e Tour vintage

Last Friday during a break in a busy day of clients, I went to check my phone and see a text pop up on the screen from my step-daughter saying “I’m alive.”

I stop what I’m doing: “WTF?!”

I unlock the screen and see another text saying “It’s horrible what’s happening here.”

I instantly write back asking, “Are you OK?! What’s happening?!”

I get no response and instantly go into a state of panic. I go online and google “Paris.”

I see the news and the live video coverage of the shootings, the wounded and general state of fear and chaos.

Never before has it been so hard to be apart from my family in another country.

At the same time, I feel such gratitude that during such an event I can receive texts on my phone letting me know that she is safe.

I have to tear myself away from the computer and force myself to breath, drink some water and shake it off otherwise I’d be frozen in fear.

It reminds me of September 11, 2001. I woke up to my husband shouting from the living room to “COME!”

For hours, we stood frozen in front of the television watching the news replay video coverage of the planes colliding with the twin towers over and over and over.

Moments like these disrupt normal reality. And how fortunate I am to say that my normal reality does not include bombs, shooting, murder and torture. I know many people in parts of the world where they face this every single day.

I am left with fear and a sense of hopeless and helplessness. What can I do?

I study the arguments on social media and notice that for every person who stands for one thing, another person argues it.

“Pray for Paris! Don’t pray for Paris, pray for all the countries that have been terrorized that no one pays attention to!”

“Pray for the world! No don’t just pray, do something! Humanity caused this, humanity must fix this!”

“Fight terrorism! No, ‘an eye for an eye has never worked. Have more love in the world!”

What then? How do we make sense of the fact that we live in a world where war, terror, torture and senseless killing exists?

Sitting in the middle of fear and a feeling of helplessness, I notice I have a choice.

Being frozen in fear is not going to help anyone. It’s only going to compromise my own quality of life and reduce my capacity to help others.

Instead, I have chosen FIERCE LOVE AND GRATITUDE.

I have to ask myself, what is my life REALLY about?

If I died tomorrow would I have regrets about how I’ve lived? 

Usually, the first instinct is to call everyone I know and say “THANK YOU. I LOVE YOU.”

And then I take stock: what is it that ACTUALLY matters? What is it that is REALLY important? Have I truly lived?

In my last post, I wrote about having “high-quality problems” compared to the people living in third world country on as little as $1 a day.

Recent events add to an even deeper internal reflection.

There are no easy answers and each person has to come to those answers for themselves.

What I can say is that I’ve had fear in some form or another for most of my life and apart from freaking me out and keeping me worried and frozen, it’s never been that helpful. In times of danger-YES, that fear was VERY useful. But when it’s been hypothetical fear, that “what if?” kind of thinking…that fear based thinking has only stopped me from living fully.

If I can’t take for granted that life is a given, then I have to be accountable for how I live each moment I have.

Today, I choose fierce love and gratitude.

Music is more precious than ever in times like this with its ability to say what words cannot, to give us permission to FEEL what must be felt and to bring people together when community is essential.

I invite you to join me. Great music needs open-hearted people. And the more people choosing love instead of fear invite others to do the same.

In that spirit I express to you THANK YOU. I LOVE YOU.



Could You Live on a Dollar a Day?

I caught myself falling into a deep pit of self-pity, worry and fear-the trifecta of anxiety and the death of inspiration and creativity.

It seems that no matter how many times I help others conquer their fear, I freak out and get into catastrophic thinking when it’s my life and I’m in a transition of massive growth and evolution.

So there I was getting consumed with worry when I saw this documentary on Netflix called Living on One Dollar.

I watched the whole thing and got humbled.

Then I got inspired.

I recommend it. These college kids go down to Guatemala for two months to experience first-hand what it’s like to live in extreme poverty. They filmed it and eventually turned it into a movie and now a philanthropic cause including education and micro-financing.

It reminds us of what we have as well as the power of creativity, ingenuity, perseverance, determination, generosity, love and acceptance.

Suddenly my problems seemed like high-quality problems, a privilege and luxury compared to the people in the documentary. My gratitude for my life became overflowing and I am inspired once again to make a difference and do what I can to make an impact and be of service to others.

I hope this will help you do the same.

3 Ways to Kick Fear to the Curb


Fear is something we all deal with. Yet no matter how familiar we are with this emotional plague, it doesn’t stop us from getting knocked upside the head with it. Fear has value.  It’s a necessary survival mechanism that makes sure we stay alive. But most of us have taken it out of context and confused playing on stage or public speaking or taking an audition with the same kind of life-threatening danger like getting hit by a bus.

Here are three suggestions to get you kicking that fear to the curb and moving in the direction of your dreams.

1.) Play fair.

Imagine a horror movie, say the music video THRILLER with Michael Jackson for example.

Just when the ghouls and monsters are coming out of their graves and stalking young Michael and he gets outnumbered and he feels like there’s no way out someone hits the pause button and the music is screaming terror. And then it’s like a broken record getting played over and over.

When we worry we often get trapped in a thought loop that freezes at the worst moment and plays on repeat track. This puts the nervous system into fight or flight and causes us to get in a very primitive state. All we are focused is on the worst case scenario and it’s impact frozen in time.This is totally unfair because 1) you don’t get to see how the movie ends and 2) you don’t get to create and escape plan.

Here’s what do instead.

Since fear is a “worst case scenario” kind of thinking, it’s important to remember that your mind is MAKING IT UP. The mind is creative.  Let it also make up the BEST CASE SCENARIO with just as much detail and certainty that you give the fear and catastrophic thinking.

transform fear into action concept on blackboard

2). Have an action plan.

Just like the earthquake emergency plans we have here in CA, it’s important to be able to answer the question:

WHEN X happens, we’ll do Y.  When the power goes out, we’ll go to the garage and get the flashlight and candles.  When I drop my bow, I’ll bend down, pick it up and keep playing.

Here’s another example from an interview of the young Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai with John Stewart. He asks how she handled her fear that the Taliban would try to kill her and she responded:

I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ Then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well,’ and I will tell him, ‘that’s what I want to tell you. Now do what you want’.

3.) Accept the fear as FEEDBACK.

Fear is a sign that we have incomplete awarenesses.

There is no such thing as an experience that is all bad or all good. I know from my own experience that even the things that were horrific, humiliating and terrifying also helped me learn, course correct and grow.

The really phenomenal things that have happened also had lots of challenge and drawbacks.

So when we are focused on worst case scenario outcomes, we are blind to the upside.

The best thing you can do when consumed by fear is to not take it seriously or assume that your thoughts are REAL.  Instead, start asking higher quality questions such as:

  • What is this fear blinding me to right now?
  • How is this benefiting me?
  • How is this helping me grow?
  • What am I learning from this?
  • How is me experiencing this going to help me help others?

Get out that pen and paper or open up a new word doc and get to work flushing out your vision. What’s the best possible outcome? When challenges occur, what is your action plan? When you experience fear, ask the questions necessary to flush out the whole picture.

When your WHY is big enough, the HOWs take care of themselves.

This means that you can create the outcome you want with clear, detailed and organized thinking. YOU are in charge.

Fear is expected. Don’t try to get rid of it, but instead just let it work for you. Take that energy and utilize it for the outcome you want.

The Power of WHY.


I just discovered this phenomenal YouTube video by the comedian Michael Jr. titled “Your ‘why’ vs your ‘what.”

  • In just a few short minutes it describes the most essential element of absolutely everything we do.  Take a moment to watch it:

The most essential thing I want you to get from this video is the difference between the WHY and the WHAT.

If you watched the video you will see the extreme difference between the gentleman’s two performances of Amazing Grace.  The first performance was focused on the WHAT: singing the first few phrases of Amazing Grace. You’ll see that it is well sung, well phrased, in tune, in rhythm and you might thing: “Hey-he can really sing!”

The second performance was about the WHY: WHY Amazing Grace had meaning.  WHY he needed to sing it and the history behind it.  It is inspired, moving and a total game changer.

I encourage you to watch the video again.

This time as you do, focus on how the audience responds differently to the two performances. There’s a profound difference in how they listen, receive and are impacted.

So many people come to me and focus on the WHAT.

  • How do I get more concerts?
  • How do I make more money?
  • How do I win the audition?
  • How do I get sponsors?
  • How do I build a board?
  • How do I stop shaking?

But in the end they realize what they are really seeking is the WHY.

  • WHY do I love playing music? (human connection)
  • WHY do I want to make more money? (so I can make better art and impact more people.)
  • WHY do I want to teach? (to empower humanity by helping each student express his/her own unique voice.)
  • WHY do I compose? (to tell a story that impacts people and educates them to new creative possibilities.)

When you know your WHY, then the what (your marketing, networking, mission statement , your teaching, playing, speaking, etc.) reflects it.

People connect to you because of your WHY not just the WHAT. The WHY is what people feel, are drawn to, are hungry for.  It helps you attract your ideal tribe, the people who are seeking YOU, exactly what you’re about.

Take a moment and ask yourself the following:

  • What is my purpose?
  • Why do I love music?
  • Why do I love performing?
  • What do I want my audience to experience?
  • What life experiences have impacted me in such a way that it’s profoundly influenced my musical voice and performing?
  • What is the legacy I want to leave the world when I am gone?

When you know your WHY, your WHAT has more impact, because you are walking in and towards your purpose. -Marvin A. Jackson


Why THANK YOU Matters.


YOU ROCK! red Rubber Stamp over a white background.

Why is it so hard for performers to (genuinely) accept compliments after a performance?

We’ve all been there. Someone comes up to you backstage after a concert and tries to tell you how beautifully you played. “That was GREAT! BRAVO!”

But rather than being able to hear them or receive their compliments, those internal gremlins are saying things like “Oh, they’re just being nice.  I know where I messed up. I know it wasn’t that good.”

You politely say thank you, but inside you feel like crap because YOU KNOW it wasn’t how you wanted it to go.

Sound familiar?

That’s messed up.

We spend HOURS in the practice room haunted by our demons and critics, all so we can receive that hard earned praise.

Yet when it comes, it’s not enough. It’s not sincere enough, or from the right person or said in the right way. It’ll never be enough to fill the void left by the critic. The very thing we crave is the thing we can’t receive. How messed up is that?!

THANK YOU matters.

Back in my conservatory days I had a classmate who was a GORGEOUS cellist-his sound was like dark melted chocolate that gave me goose bumps it was so beautiful. His playing would take my breath away.

He was also one of the most insecure people I’d ever met. I would go to compliment him after a performance and he would REJECT my compliments.

I would come backstage, sometimes moved to tears, and go up to tell my friend how amazing he was. He would make a face, tell me how horrible he had played and then walk away. It was crazy negative and intense. It was as if he hated himself, his playing, and me for good measure (for actually thinking he had played well.) NO ONE could convince him otherwise.

It felt like getting punched in the stomach.

It finally got to the point that I stopped going back stage and just never said anything. It killed the experience of his gorgeous playing. I started to get mad at him. “WTF?! Get over yourself! I don’t just stand here and give you fake compliments that I don’t mean-I actually love your playing! And you just RUINED it for me.”

I’ve been on both sides of this equation. I remember being so self critical that I would stamp my foot in frustration, shaking my head and scowling WHILE PLAYING. Multiple times. Just to make sure that EVERYONE knew that I KNEW I had messed up. At Oberlin I had a friend who would actually swear F*ck! in the middle of his performance. LOUDLY.

As the years have gone by I see the error in my young ways.

As much as having a high standard is essential to excellence, it can’t be at the expense of the process. We can’t negate what works, what is on it’s way and what is improving because of one mistake or imperfection.

Think of it this way: There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn. Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.
Robert Greene, Mastery

The truth is PEOPLE CARE.

They come to hear you play because they love you or because they want to get to know you or check out what you’re up to. These days you can just stay home and stream it on your computer while you’re doing laundry and playing candy crush. Getting into a concert hall and buying a ticket is a big gesture. Sure there are the haters, but that’s a given.

The people who come backstage CARE. They could be trying to beat the post concert traffic jam in the parking lot but instead they are lining up and waiting to talk to you.

We are in the asking profession.

We write grants. We do crowdsourced fundraising. We ask for loans to buy instruments.

We have to be able to receive as well as give.

You don’t have to agree with someone about your playing. Listening to music is a subjective experience. In a sense it really doesn’t matter what you think about your playing when it comes to relating to your audience. Let them love your playing. Let them have their experience. Keep your thoughts to yourself and work it out in the practice room after a good night’s sleep.

In essence there’s no difference between receiving funding and receiving a compliment backstage. And if you listen to what people say to you, regardless if you agree, you’ll get invaluable feedback that is not in your awareness. People want to support you, invest in you, believe in you and celebrate you. LET THEM.

When a person comes back stage to compliment you they are giving you a gift. Accept it. Take it in. Let it inform you and impact you.

You can practice later.














The Scariest Thing I’ve Ever Done and How I Faced My Demons.



On September 16, 2015 I did the scariest thing I think I’ve ever done.

I played my first concert in nearly seven years. (That’s me on the left.)

I nearly lost my lunch before I walked out on stage. “WHAT AM I THINKING?! WHOSE INSANE IDEA WAS THIS?!”

You see, it wasn’t just seven years without performing, it was seven years without touching my cello for months and years at a time. I picked up my cello now and again to play here and there, and by here and there I mean 5 or 10 minutes in my home office where no one could hear me.

Getting back in shape was TORTURE.

It hurt to hold the bow.  It hurt to hold the cello. (Who knew that callus on the inside of my left knee was really valuable?!)  Speaking of calluses, those babies are INVALUABLE!  And you don’t know it until you don’t have them anymore.

As of August 15, I hadn’t played my cello in months.  I knew the deadline for this concert was looming, but other things took priority.

The motivation has to be REALLY HIGH to overcome the frustration of having once been at an extremely high level and now sitting down and not being able to play for more than 5 minutes at a time without hurting.

So how did I go from not being able to play for more than 5 minutes without hurting to performing a technically challenging cello duet that was a world premiere and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht in less than a month?

Here’s How I Did It.


I knew that expecting myself to play at the level I once could was futile.  So, what was a realistic expectation?

I had performed the Schoenberg several times so fortunately I didn’t have to learn it from the beginning.  However, I was playing with some really fantastic professionals who are all incredible musicians and I knew I didn’t want to hold the group back.

So it went from a goal of “Don’t SUCK” to “walk your talk.”

What does that even mean?

Well, my business The WholeHearted Musician™ is about fulfilling human potential.  It’s about:

  • Being your best self.
  • Focusing on creating the solution, not the problem.
  • Owning your talent and ability.
  • Fulfilling the person, not just the musician.
  • Being accountable to sharing that with the world.
  • Confidence and self-worth.
  • Making the world a better place with music.
  • Creating success by being your very best, rather than trying to be someone you’re not.

So I set goals like:

  • Play the best you can with where you’re at.
  • Be present.
  • Stay flexible and adaptable, not rigid and frozen.
  • Know your part
  • Know your role. (2nd cello in a string quartet does a lot of musical architecture like shaping harmony, supporting solos, leading rhythm, guiding tempo changes…)
  • Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.
  • Remember why you love music.


The truth was, I was so out of shape, I didn’t even KNOW it could get THAT bad.  There was no possible way I was going to going to get back into my prime level of playing from where I was in the time I had.

I work 12-14 hours a day and I was lucky if I could practice 20-30 minutes a day.

I had to be real about where I was and where I wanted to go.


I was under such time pressure to achieve so much in so little time that I literally COULD NOT AFFORD to think negative thoughts.

We had so few rehearsals that I had to bring my A Game. I had to be prepared and ready to go with an open mind and a positive attitude. I couldn’t afford to doubt myself, beat myself or worry if I was good enough. There literally was no time for that.

So I put all my focus on my desired outcome.

Did I falter? OF COURSE.  My demons came in now and again saying nasty things like “Maybe you were never really that good anyway. What are your clients going to think? They’ll hear you and go ‘Ohhhhhhh now I see why she quit.'”

What if I fail?  What if I suck? What if I can’t do what I expect my clients to do? What if I fall flat on my face?  What if I freeze?  What if I can’t express myself? What if I can’t play from my heart?  What if I hate it?

When the moment came to walk out on stage, everything changed instantly. I hear the cheers of my friends and colleagues.  I saw my husband smiling at me. I heard my step-daughter cheering from back stage.

A huge smile burst across my face and tears came to my eyes as I realized in that moment “THIS is all that matters.”

My bow shook, I was nervous. But it just didn’t matter.

The people did. The music did.

And that’s life.

You get to choose in every moment what you focus on in every moment. Courage or fear. Love or defense. Hope or dread.

What matters is how you bring yourself on stage. What are YOU going to choose?



Thank you for reading this and sharing the journey with me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.



The Tragedy of Success: Why You Have to Think BEYOND the Win.

Man jumping across the gap from one rock to cling to the other. Man jumping over rocks with gap. Element of design.

There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.–Oscar Wilde

This quote has been haunting my thoughts the last few days.

I’m just coming off a big victory… I took a huge leap of faith and the rewards far surpassed what I could’ve dreamed possible.

I stretched really hard. I almost gave up. I almost walked away, but that nagging intuitive kept whispering “try a littler harder, find one more option, show up brighter and more authentically than ever before…GO FOR IT!!!!!!”   So I LEAPED…and the net really did appear-more lovingly and profoundly than I knew was possible.

So here I am on the other side.  I am overcome with gratitude, exhausted and trying hard not to deflate.

How do you move on from achieving a big goal?

I have to get to work and do what I tell my clients.

I ask, what’s next?

I regroup, reorganize and reset.  I refine the vision and set bigger goals.

I pay attention-what worked and what didn’t?  What did I learn?  Where can I grow?  How can I improve?  Where do I need to follow up?  How can I be even more effective and efficient?

As musicians we often work so hard for so long that we don’t prepare for life after the goal. What happens after winning the job, passing the audition, earning the prize…. what’s next?

How do you take care of yourself?  How to you keep evolving without crashing? (Crashing can be ok as long as you get back up.)

I’d love to hear from you.  Leave your comments below.

Thank you.

The Hidden Gift of Injury









Tendonitis, carpel tunnel, bursitis, back pain, shoulder pain, repetitive stress injury: these are some of the names of our biggest fears as performers.

It forces us to address the scariest question of all: “What if I can’t play anymore?”

In the fall of 1996 I was attempting to cut open a spaghetti squash, and in the freakiest of accidents managed to slice open the webbing between my left thumb and index finger.  I don’t know how it happened, Spidey senses or divine intervention, but the cut went skin deep AROUND the tendon rather than straight through, making a career ending moment only a temporary pause.

Because of this I had to take 6 weeks off from playing as the wound repaired itself.  After recovering from the absolute terror of almost losing my ability to play, I rejoiced in having a forced sabbatical. I booked a couple of airline tickets and traveled to visit friends and family I hadn’t seen in a long time.

It goes without saying that being a professional musician is a 24-7 commitment.  Most people have an innate sense of guilt when they miss a day of practicing.  Like athletes, we commit a portion of every day to our craft in order to just stay on par let alone advance our craft and mastery.  So being FORCED to take 6 weeks off from playing, rehearsing and lessons was a novel experience.  I don’t think many of us have the courage to consciously choose to take 6 weeks off from playing, so being forced to do so solved the internal conflict.

When I took those 6 weeks off, it was rather amazing.  I did so many things I normally wouldn’t have allowed myself to do.  I didn’t feel guilt because I literally couldn’t practice.

During that time I explored the world as a “normal person”.  I got to explore the world from a totally different vantage point-outside the practice room and off the stage.

It also forced me to ask the question “what if I can’t play anymore?”

What would I do?  How would I earn money?  What other things would I like to do if I weren’t a musician? Who am I when I’m not behind the cello?

This kind of exploration forces us to know our worth and value as a person in the world, not just as a performer.  In my case, I had to address the fact that my entire identity was wrapped up in my musical career.  If I had a successful concert, got into a prestigious festival, won a competition or scholarship then I felt like I had worth and value.  If I bombed onstage or didn’t win an award then my sense of self was in the pit.  It was a weekly sometimes daily rollercoaster of highs and lows.

In addition the time away from the cello gave me perspective, some space from the daily intensity and the ability to ask myself what I really wanted.

Rather than being stuck in the rat-race of feeling behind and stressed and running from one rehearsal to the next concert-I got to experience gratitude for the life I had at that time.  I experienced the opportunity to choose my life in music rather than feel resentful because I didn’t feel like I could do anything else.

Case in point, watch comedian Jimmy Fallon’s experience when he unexpectedly injured his finger, was rushed to the ER, needed surgery and spent a week in the ICU. It’s very moving and really hits home.

Rather than wait for an injury to happen, I invite you to take a week or a long weekend even and explore these questions.

  • What am I grateful for about my life as it is now? The music, people, opportunities?
  • Why do I love music and performing?
  • Who am I when I’m not on stage?
  • If I were forced to take six weeks off what would I LOVE to do with that time?
  • If I couldn’t perform, what other things would I love to do?
  • What are other ways I can make money doing things I love?
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