Friday, September 18, 2015

Releasing your song

The streets of Riga...
Some years ago I found myself in a bar in Riga, Latvia with two of my closest friends. It was a quirky locals bar off a backstreet, but we didn't feel unwelcome, and we were swapping stories and reminiscing as old friends do.
"Some years ago I found myself in a bar in Riga..."
As the minutes stretched into hours the bar filled up, but we weren't really paying attention so long as we weren't getting in anyone's way and there was space at the bar to order the next round.

All of a sudden the place erupted into song, catching us quite off guard. We hadn't noticed that as people had arrived many of them had brought instruments with them, and now we found ourself in the midst of an uplifting and moving moment. Rich vocal harmonies blended with folk instruments and much foot stamping and table thumping, and I for one was captivated by the emotion, the passion and the music.

It was honestly one of the most memorable and moving moments of my life, and every now and then the memory surfaces and a smile creeps across my face. I later read that Latvia has a proud musical tradition, and that certainly came across during that experience.
"...all of a sudden the place erupted into song"
"Alas for the one that never sings but dies with their songs still in them" - Anon

Like the Latvians that night, we all have a song in us of one kind or another. Not necessarily words and music, but that thing that makes our soul sing. Alas indeed if we never manage to express that. 

Are you thinking in terms of hits and misses?
One limiting mindset that can inhibit us in releasing our life-song is comparison with people who excel in our chosen area. 

We can get sucked into thinking of life as hits and misses. Unless we're a hit then we must automatically be a miss. 

And of course, if you grew up in the late 20th century then you know that hits are few and far between.  Thinking in this way can stifle our own song, perhaps we even choose to keep it in rather than be an automatic miss.

"We all have a song in us of one kind or another"
The thing is, as we've moved into the 21st century, the idea of hits and misses has been completely turned on it's head, a concept that Chris Anderson explores in his book The Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand. Unlike the TV and radio age, when hit makers filtered and selected what they considered would be a hit, in the internet age it's all about unlimited choice. Chris Anderson calls this the long tail - the bottom of an exponential graph as it tends towards zero. The funny thing is that given this abundance of choice, many people aren't choosing the hits, but instead they're looking for specific niches in the long tail. 

Big retailers like Amazon and iTunes have found that a significant proportion of their sales are from this long tail - from all the niches. Niches that would have been "misses" in a previous age, but which can now reach their full audience through the empowerment of distribution that the internet brings.
"What this means for you and me is that we don't need to be intimidated by the hits we see around us."
Don't wear someone else's armour!
What this means for you and me is that we don't need to be intimidated by the hits we see around us. We shouldn't hold in our song, but fully express it, in all our quirky individualism. Why? Because other quirky and individual people will appreciate it! We don't need to feel pressured to copy others, instead we are free to release our own song.

I'm reminded of the story of David and Goliath. One detail in the story is that King Saul, the big hit in Israel - the King himself - suggests that the shepherd boy David wears his armour. David tries it on but it doesn't fit, it's too heavy. 

David ditches the king's armour and faces the giant in his own way. We all know the end of the story.

You don't have to wear someone else's armour. You don't have to sing someone else's song. In the age of the long tail there is space for all of us to be completely ourselves. To contribute our own voice and allow our own soul to sing. 
"So don't stifle your soul song"

You're probably not Latvian. You may not be a hit or a king. But one thing you're not is a miss. So don't stifle your soul song, but ditch comparison, ditch the king's armour and go be all you're made to be.


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