Updated: Jul 29, 2020
This weekend I watched some of the Glastonbury reruns that were being televised to mark the 50th anniversary of the festival. Standouts for me were the Beyoncé set from 2011 and the Adele set from 2016. Whilst the performances were quite different, both artists were exceptional and performed in their own unique way.
I am in awe of people who can sing and perform in front of vast crowds like that. Both these artists have admitted to having nerves beforehand, yet their skill and talent is awe-inspiring. I can remember standing on a stage at school. My friend Susan and I were to sing the milky bar kid song as part of a play. I was nervous, my mouth was dry, the music started, I opened my mouth – and no sound came out! Luckily, Susan carried on regardless and I eventually joined in. Did anyone notice, probably. Did they mind, not at all. We still got a round of applause at the end.
On Saturday Adele sang, chatted, and apologised for her, “potty mouth.” She was funny, engaging, and talented and the audience of over 100,000 cheered their applause. The standout moment for me though was not her amazing voice or the clever lyrics of her million selling hits, it was how she handled a less than perfect start to one of her songs, River Lea.
About three lines in she stops singing, stops the music and says, “sorry … start again… I’m a bit out of breath.” She turns to the audience and says, “I’d rather sing better for you.” She pauses for a moment and starts again.
Just before the first chorus she falters, swears, laughs loudly, and then belts out the chorus. Does anyone notice? Absolutely they do. Do they mind? Not at all. They love her even more for being human, for being her, for being authentic, and for carrying on.
It reminded me of a time in India last year when I was training with Sue Knight to be an NLP Trainer. I was facilitating a Perceptual Positions exercise and I forgot to ask a (what I considered to be key) question. Who said it was key? No-one. However, in my head I’d got it wrong, and I was kicking myself.
Did the person I was facilitating notice? Absolutely not. Did they mind? Definitely not. And though I had carried on, I was berating myself in my head and continued to do so out loud when I spoke to Sue about the exercise long after the training day had finished.
Her response was to talk about Strictly Come Dancing. She pointed out that even the best dancers make mistakes during performances and what makes them great is their ability to let it go and, “just keep dancing.” Of course they notice their mistake, and learn from it, but they don’t allow the mistake to define their performance or affect the whole show.
Similarly, Adele did not allow her slip-ups in River Lea to define her performance or affect the whole show. She handled it like the great professional that she is. She noticed, and kept, "dancing," or in her case singing. And at the same time she reminded me of an important lesson. That when things do not quite go to plan for us, sometimes the best strategy is to notice, let it go and just keep dancing.