Generous Performance

I can tell you why Ifirst stepped onto a stage. It wasn't to help people. It wasn't to say something. It wasn't to show people how awesome I was (I wasn't). It was toget something I desperately needed - proof that I mattered. If you want aquick and efficient way to prove to yourself that your life matters, just lookfor the nearest big stage and get yourself up on it. Even if you suck, if thecrowd is big enough you'll get all the praise you can handle. I think if we'rehonest (I'm talking to performers, speakers, and other stage-dwellers), mostof us stepped onto the stage to get something. Not to give something. Andit makes sense. Who of us really had much to give the first time we stepped onthe stage? Maybe you were like me and you needed to prove something toyourself. Maybe your dad never approved of you and you figured "screw him if Ican get 10,000 people to all approve of me". Maybe your spouse thinks you're ahack... but they don't. They love you. Maybe you feel validated when a crowdwill do things you tell them to do (I'm looking at you, alter-call addicts).It is what it is. Most of us stepped onto the stage for selfish reasons. Weall probably belong to some group of insecure crowd-seekers in a psychologybook somewhere. There's probably some long official term for us, but I'll juststick with "crowd-seekers". I don't think this is a problem. The world needsperformers. It needs prophets. Throughout history, mentally messed upperformers and prophets have taken the stage and said the things our culturesneeded to hear to move to the next stage of their development - to reach theirpotential. The result is good, regardless of our unhealthy motives. But I'mlearning that there's a next stage for us too. Just as we're trying to moveour culture forward, I believe we can't stay where we are. We start selfish, but eventually we've got to become selfless. We've got to becomegenerous. Before I explain generous performance, let's clarify one major rule: As long as you need something from the crowd, you can't be generoustoward them. Your decisions, your words, your facial expressions, everythingwill run through one of two filters: (1) "How will this affect these people?"or (2) "How will this make me look?" The best way to pursue generousperformance is to stop needing from the crowds you perform for. Easier saidthan done - especially since you've built your life around these "fill-ups"from the stage and slow trickles between appearances. But it's your callingas a performer to move from crowd-seeker to generous performer. It'sdifficult, but it leads to something much, much better. Let's try to make adistinction between a crowd-seeker and a generous performer. A crowd-seekertakes the stage. The crowd is wild. The performer gives them what they want.He rocks their faces off and they love him for it. They leave feeling they gottheir money's worth and the performance impacts them deeply. They live theirlives differently because of what they heard. The performer gets about 5035high-fives and is filled up (until the next morning when he has to startlooking for his next crowd). For the most part, this seems like it works. Butthere's something missing. A generous performer takes the stage. The crowdis wild. The performer starts from ground zero (not a deficit). He isn'tclouded by his need to get something from the crowd. As a result he takes aclear, deep look at the faces of the people who are there. He disassembles theblob into a bunch of individual humans with individual personalities andpassions and fears. (This is where it gets debatable but whatever, it's myblog post.) He senses who he's performing for and adjusts his tone,stance, even material on the fly for them. The message isn't just relevant,it's personalized. No one has ever been given what this performer isoffering at this moment. Not only is the material unique, but because hedoesn't need anything from the crowd he's able to be completely honest withthem. I can't say this strongly enough: Honesty from the stage comes at aninfinitely high emotional cost. It requires you to stand naked before peoplewho may accept you, or may laugh at you, or may kill you. It's handing out10,000 guns and saying something that will probably piss everyone off. But youdo it because it might help. You can't do this if you need something,anything, from them. Personalization and honesty is something a crowd-seekercould never do - but it's the way of a generous performer. It's the only wayto perform. Otherwise, what's the point? Back to our situation: The crowdleaves getting their money's worth, plus something they didn't expect - apersonal message for them and a new idea, that maybe they're not alone afterall. That it's ok to be honest with other humans - even if you're a big famousperformer. They see their world and themselves differently, and sometimeseverything changes. The performer leaves, with or without high-fives,empty. Tired. Spent. He has no need to start looking for the nextperformance - instead he starts filling up his tank with time with family andfriends, in prayer and in quiet, in creating and in playing. His hope is toget filled up enough before the next performance at which point he'll have toempty it all out again. It doesn't pay to be a generous performer the way itpays to be a crowd-seeker. In fact, it costs. But the cost is worth thepayoff. While crowd-seekers serve a purpose and can even change the world,generous performers can restore it. They're prophets. They're God's voice toa world that's desperately looking for a sign that He still speaks - even to them.

Don't give up. Don't settle. Be that voice.


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