Practice, audition, and performance

These are three very different experiences with different goals.

When you practice, the goal is to improve. It’s as much a safe space to try new work and techniques, as it is a space to refine your current techniques. Having fun and gaining energy is critical to maintaining a good practice. At this stage, you are paying with your time—and sometimes your money—to improve your practice.

When you audition, the goal is to make a good impression and gain the opportunity to perform. You want to demonstrate not only that you deserve the opportunity, but that you’ll stick around and deliver amidst turbulence and setbacks. At this stage, you will be paying for the materials and travel to audition. 

When you perform, the goal is to deliver your best work possible. The more comfortable you are, the better you’re going to perform. Sure, you may take a calculated risk every so often, but you’re not going to try something entirely brand new—unless that’s the point of your performance. At this stage, you are getting paid for your performance. As your performance improves, and your reputation for delivering improves with it, the more people will be willing to pay.

Whenever you work, you’re doing one of these three things. You want to make sure that the people you’re serving know what you’re doing—and that they agree.

For example, when you deliver a polished deliverable to a client, they know that you are delivering a performance-level piece of work. They have seen you practice and audition (pitch), and some of your rehearsals for the performance (through syncs and reviews), and now they are seeing your performance. You both know that this is the final work, and so you deliver like it and they will review like it. Then, both of you will be happy, they will pay you happily, they may offer to take you out to celebrate, and they will approach you with new work (because the reward for good work is more work).

By contrast, when you think you’ve delivered a good performance—and deserve applause—when the people you’re serving believe you’ve really just delivered a good audition—and are expecting to see more—then there’s a disconnection. You’ll feel like they’re being ungrateful, and they’ll feel dissatisfied with your work. Nobody will be happy with this working relationship. You will need to reevaluate if the other people are being fair or not, and adapt accordingly—either by going along with their perspective, or communicating the disconnection.

These types of classification aren’t always said out loud; sometimes, you’re discerning the other person’s expectations from their responses—and every so often, you earn a chance to ask.

Sometimes, if someone sees you practice (in public) and starts to believe that you can deliver, they won’t need you to audition—they will try to see if there is an opportunity to work together.

Other times, if you gain an opportunity to level up and enter a new league, your performance will be as good as a competitor’s practice. You can either go back into a previous league—and be the best—or you’ll need to invest heavily in improving your practice so you can perform at your expected level. You will be going from getting paid to paying money again. It’s a humbling experience.

The more clearly you can see whether you need to practice, audition, or perform—which requires discernment and honesty—the smoother your working experiences will be.

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