When it comes to things people fear most, surveys continue to show “fear of public speaking” at the top of the list.  Incredibly, our fear of standing up in front of a group and talking is so great, that (in surveys at least), we fear it even more than death!

Does that mean if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy? According to the old joke, yes.

Well, if you want to double-down on speaking in front of a large group – how about singing?

Last week, I was presented with the proverbial fate worse than death: Accompanying my 17-year old daughter on guitar in front of a packed auditorium at her high school’s annual talent show.

It was actually HER idea, and considering in six months she’ll be off to college somewhere, how could I refuse the opportunity (be it humiliating or exhilarating)?

The stakes were high.  She chose to sing “Dear Hate” (the country music song that peaked at #1 on the Billboard Country Music Chartsin October, 2017 . . . It was released by Maren Morris and Vince Gill in response to the Las Vegas shooting massacre).

I got a copy of the sheet music and we rehearsed for a couple of weeks.  We did a run-through the morning of the show with my trusty sheet music on a stand. We did a sound check moments before the show (again, with my trusty sheet music on a stand).

At 6:30pm, the curtain went up for the first of many performers in front of us.  About an hour later, when it was our turn to take the stage, we walked up to the microphones and . . .the music stand with my trusty sheet music was GONE!  (Much to my dismay and panic).

But there we were, spotlight in our eyes – she had the lyrics memorized, but I hadn’t committed the music to memory.


On stage.  In front of a packed auditorium. With my daughter in front of her friends and teachers.

Some say: “Fake it ‘til you make it.”  Not an option.  

Instead of faking it, draw upon past experience, and improvise. . . innovationin its purest form – to solve the problem at hand.  Among the many treasured experiences from my 12 years in Los Angeles, I learned a lot from all the times I got on stage at The Improvin Hollywood, as well as the The Laugh Factoryand The Comedy Storeon the Sunset Strip.  You don’t fake it.  You make it . . . work.

Use the accelerated heart-rate as fuel to ignite some creativity. I remembered the first two chords.  So far, so good.  When I got to a place where I had no idea what chord came next . . . I stopped playing and did a little “bongo drum” tapping on the body of the guitar. Next time I got lost, how about a long slide across the top E-string.  Not faking, just making.  Stage craft. Full commitment.  The show must go on.

The final result was magical (Proud Papa Alert: thanks in no small part to my daughter’s amazing vocal performance).

Success Follows The Prepared Person, as the saying goes, but leaving enough room for the unexpected (so you can embrace it) is part of creative problem-solving, too.  A philosophy we hold sacred here atUpstream 360.

Trust your instincts and surprise yourself.  Listen for the answer and triumph, as the song reminds us, “through the chaos and the noise.”