You Are Only As Good As Your Last Performance

You are only as good as your last performance…

Thats what my old vocal coach used to say.

I fondly remember performing at the International Festival at Bayside High School my sophomore year. I sang the Kelly Price rendition of “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow. ” This sharp dressed Sisqo loving Junior came up to me after seeing the rundown for the show and he said, “If you’re good enough to sing THAT song then you’re good enough to sing with me!” I loved the boldness and accepted the challenge.

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No limitations

The night of the International Festival we performed “We Can’t Be Friends” by Deborah Cox and RL. If I do say so myself,  we sounded AMAZING! The vocals, the riffs, the range, the strength and the talent was undeniable.  I remember my navy blue velvet form fitting dress.  I felt so confident.  When we were done, the accolades never stopped.  When I got to chorus that Monday,  my friend Tareaphe (who is now a music engineer) said, “Do the talent show.  No doubt you’d win!” I appreciated the vote of confidence.  I accepted the challenge.

I went to the auditions and I sang some Barbara Streisand song my mother made me do. No one knew it but they didn’t care. I guess it was an advantage because they didn’t know I messed up either. It sounded good so I made it through!  I was so excited. A senior on the football team whispered, “Yo, you’re going to beat the main broad this year.”

Ha! I can laugh at that now. Who was the “main broad”?! The main broad I’ll leave nameless but we can just say her voice was strong and even though she was no Whitney Houston. . .she was CONFIDENT!

So I went to the talent show determined to beat the “main broad. ” I sang “Nobody’s Supposed to be Here” by Deborah Cox.  I stood there effortlessly singing my heart out and then I got to the climax in the song.

” No no no no no/ no no no no no/ no ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh …

Everyone in the auditorium stood up! All the air in the room when straight to my head! People were screaming my name. So I took the subliminal vote of confidence and I went up another octave. 

“Oooooooooooo ohhhhhhhhhh yea oh yea…”

My left ear popped. Couldn’t hear the music. I went temporarily tone deaf. I couldn’t get back on track. Everyone who was standing started to slowly and awkwardly sit down. I was instantly alone and mortified. 

Well  needless to say, the “main broad” won and my god brother took me to dinner to cheer me up but it didn’t work.

I share this with you because it is a lesson I am still learning.  Stay humble.  Be prepared.  Be smart. Remember that fans are not necessarily friends and they may desert you during those awkward moments when it isn’t cool to cheer for the loser. When you hit the high note but you feel low remember you need to be your own biggest motivator. Just like my couple of days of “stardom”, consistency is important. In this world where moral challenges are prevalent and the unemployment rates are fluctuating YOU have to be able to dig yourself out of temporary funks.  There will always be disparaging remarks but you are only as good as your last performance. 

The world is your stage!

By: Shaun Nickens

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(Breathe)

It happens in every film.  It happens in every piece of literature.  It’s that moment when your back is against the wall.  You don’t know what else to do. You’re frozen and you can’t even breathe. 
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You’re exhausted. There is barren land where hope used to grow.  Home is a faraway place that only exists in your memory. Maybe money is keeping you captive (or lack thereof.) Maybe someone is chasing you.
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You had a plan. You executed it to the best of your ability. There was cause and effect. Desire fuels you. You stand there at the end of the line. You fought, you ran, but you have been cornered. There is nothing left to do.

No proverbial bullets left in the chamber…

You take a deep breath…

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…and you say, “Here goes nothing!”

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You take a chance at landing on your feet.  You take a “leap of faith” and all the while you are still holding your breath.  You have no idea what the outcome will be but you know what proceeded this trial.  You know you can fail.  You know this can be fatal.  What choice did you have? Fight or flight right? Some don’t understand your decision. Some don’t understand your loyalty. Some don’t understand your commitment or lack thereof. 

What happens if you stand and fight? What happens if you win? What happens if you claim your prize now? Do you deserve it? Did you earn it? Did you really do your best? Did you sacrifice? If it doesn’t “make you stronger” and it kills you, what will your legacy be? Do the people you love feel loved?

Are your feet bleeding from running, jumping, hiding? Are your legs sore? What if you stood in a fighting stance, left lead, fast jab and pursued your predators diligently?

Do you know?

Why don’t you find out?

(Breathe)

Ready? Set. Stand. Fight.

-SMN

Jealous or joyous?

“JOY IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF SADNESS”-MY PASTOR

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Joy is finding peace during the most turbulent times in your life.  Joy is learning to smile so much through your pain that you convince yourself you are happy. Happiness is a fleeting emotion so don’t be frustrated with yourself if you don’t have some invisible joy juice that everyone else seems to have a lifetime supply of.

This is the time of year where you get holiday cards. You get pictures of former co-workers’ children.  You see empty boxes on the curb from lavish gifts. You get solicitations to join bourgeois gyms so you can fulfil your new years resolutions.  Does envy creep in? Does it block your joy?

One year I got an email from a former close friend.  I hadn’t spoken to her in over 5 years. She apologized for a falling out we had.  She proceeded to tell me she was married but going through a divorce.  She said she would find used condoms in her husband’s car. She said he was so physically abusive that she had been hospitalized multiple times. She lost custody of her daughter from a previous relationship.  Her ex was now happily married raising their daughter in a beautiful apartment in the Bronx.  She was discharged from the military.  She hadn’t heard from her biological mother in years. Her step mother wrote her off and was also divorcing her father.  She was alone.  She was dissatisfied.  The correspondence she sent was long. She told me about failed relationships she’d had and how she begrudgingly began to resent me because my life was “so great .” She remembered Christmas mornings seeing me open a multitude of gifts. She hated getting hand me downs from me. She hated tagging along on my family vacations.  I always thought she appreciated my acts of kindness but she resented them.

I was so astounded to receive that email.  It had been so long. There were things I’d heard through the grapevine.  There were things I never knew. I could have responded with an equally lengthy email but I didn’t see the point. The purpose of her email was to use her dysfunctions as an excuse for her deplorable behavior.  I don’t think that’s fair. I got a multitude of gifts on Christmas because my family was compensating. First I was the only child then my sibling was sickly and finally she perished.  She passed on the Fourth of July. If that wasn’t enough, she was in the backseat of the car with me when she died. So while this old friend was jealous of my Barbie condominium with the elevator,  I longed for siblings to play with. I longed for my sister and her exuberant smile.

I went to a private university but I took out loans to do it. I only received a $2000 scholarship.  She had better grades. She was more disciplined.  She could have gone anywhere she wanted but she conceived her daughter on prom night. She decided she couldn’t juggle parenting and studying.  She quit and she followed one man after another. 

We cannot blame others for our lack of joy. We cannot use our handicaps as excuses for our hangups. Dysfunction is true normalcy.  Its just that it takes a lot of courage to be honest about your hurt. There’s victory in vulnerability.

This was a rough year for me. I’ve been through way too much to type.  I’ll tell you what though! Next year will be better. I love getting pictures of my friends families.  I love seeing others unwrap their hearts’ desires. I pray diligently. This holiday,  I watched reruns of “Martin” with my 6 month old. I cleaned her up and dressed her in warm pajamas.  I told her about Santa and Jesus and rocked her to sleep. I sang Mariah Carey’s version of “All I Want for Christmas” and I wrapped a few gifts. 

The lights flickered on the artificial tree and I think I felt it pass through me…I felt joy.

Merry Christmas ♡

-SMN

A Bisness or a Business? (Cold sweat series)

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While at a stoplight the other day I saw a sign. The sign read “Support small bisness. I employ 7 local people.” It was one of those moments when you second guess yourself. 
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“Wait…how do you spell business? ”

I sent a text to myself just to use the spell check.

Once I reassured myself of the spelling (my second grade teacher Mrs. Kunz would be so disappointed) I then became angry.

Why didn’t someone (preferably one of those 7 employees) tell that “bisness” owner that his sign was incorrect?! As a consumer I have always been infatuated with marketing.  I like aesthetics.  I used to drink Nuvo just so I could save the bottles.  My business cards for this blog are gorgeous.  The   logo is in the center with a glossy finish.  Ambiance is everything. Your product can be average but the way its packaged will determine what target audience it attracts. 

My grandmother was a small business owner.  She had a wedding and party center. She was a very proud woman.  She poured her life into that little shop on Farmers Boulevard.  There was no official closing time. All Occasion Decor Inc closed when all orders were done or when diet Pepsi couldn’t keep her awake anymore.  She would then go to her nearby apartment and eat Breyers vanilla ice cream and fall asleep with the TV watching her. She was dedicated but was she studious and detail oriented?

She left a legacy. The hood still misses “The Balloon Lady.” There was standing room only at her funeral.  Yet I wonder if she ran a business instead of a “bisness”, would she have been more successful?  Orders could have been more timely.  Bookkeeping could have been tighter. I’m sure there were seminars that could have been attended or more books to be read. Meanwhile, she missed crucial turning points. We were family owned and operated because that was the only time we could spend with her.

Ask yourself this…

Are you going to leave behind generational wealth or debt? Are you a “bisness” or a business?

How do you market yourself?  Are there poisonous pessimistic pissy people pushing you down?

What fear causes you to wake up at night in a cold sweat? 

Are you a small “bisness” with the potential to be a large globe changing BUSINESS? 

~Shaun M. Nickens

 

God Forbid. . .Knock on Wood

I am currently reading a business plan guide.  In one of the chapters, the author asks, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”  I struggled with the answer.  The arrogant side of me doesn’t think I’d fail at anything I genuinely attempted.  In reality I can admit I’ve always wanted to write and FINISH a book. So why haven’t I done it? There’s so many things to consider.  There are so many doubts I have never admitted I had.  Who will read it?  What will I write about?  Depending on the subject matter, what qualifications do I need to prove that I am knowledgeable? How will I publish it? When will I have the time to write it? If I die, my readers will pick apart my words. They’ll construct invalid theories. They’ll think they have ascertained a base of who I am. They’ll be wrong.

Its hard to admit when you are afraid.

A week ago I lost a crucial segment of my circle of trust. My significant other lost his brother suddenly.  This man was kind,  friendly,  humble,  reliable,  God-fearing, well read,  and family oriented.  He was one of the warmest people I have ever met. He was also one of the most complex people I have ever known.  He would often ask me just one or two questions and then just sit back and listen to my tirade. I think that was his way of counseling.  Like a therapist he would bait you with a question and the next thing you know, you’re on the couch delivering a monologue. There you are exerting brilliance that you rarely tap into. There you are grateful for a captive audience. I feel as though we were both always so grateful to converse with someone who truly wanted to hear what we had to say. What a privilege it is to be listened to. To feel important.

Tonight I drove through a neighborhood and looked at the houses.  I looked at the white picket fences. I looked at the dog houses in the back yards. I looked at the family automobiles parked in the driveways. I looked at the lights flickering from the televisions that were probably arbitrarily entertaining a sleeping couple. I hope they fell asleep after telling one another about their day. I hope they fell asleep after making love.

People often say ” I want to spend my life with you.” Then we wait for some plan. Then we wait for a vision. I have missed out on a lot in my life because I was afraid. I didn’t commit to boxing because I was afraid of a severe injury or people saying I wasn’t good enough.  I was afraid to travel because I didn’t want to be away from my loved ones. What are you afraid of? Trusting?  Yes he could be cheating on you right now. He may also be thinking of you and conjuring up new ways to make you happy. What are you afraid of?  Quitting a job and starting over? Yes Its a recession.  Yes you may fail. You’re in good company!  There’s thousands of people exactly where you are. They’re scraping their knees and getting up again. They’re trying.  They’re fighting.  They’re doing their best because life is happening right now.

I’m in good health…*knock on wood*

God forbid … but if anything should ever happen to me know this:

I LOVE being a mother. It is the most exhausting but rewarding feeling in the entire world! I LOVE love. God put Adam on this planet and he knew he couldn’t enjoy Eden without companionship.  The man I want to spend my life with is unique and passionate. He is deeper than the core of the earth. I love writing.  It clears all the cobwebs. It pours out of me. It is my drug. I am proud of my accomplishments. I am dissatisfied with my life in its current state but I will continue clawing my way to the existence I see fit for myself.  I fear the dark.  I have very few secrets. I get anxious when I am preparing to give a gift.  I don’t want to be compared to another woman but it has probably already happened and it will happen again in the future. I want to feel indisputably beautiful…Every day.  I am proud of my sister. She is the adolescent I never had the courage to be. I knew she would be special since the day she was born. I HATE working for other people.  Yet, I have held every job imaginable (except for food services.) My father blessed me with an amazing childhood. My mother is the strongest woman I have ever met. My grandmother is the most selfless person I have ever met. I strive to be a conglomerate of the two. I cry a lot…and I don’t think its a sign of weakness.  Its emptying out the sh*t of the day. Its regulation.  That way you have room for tomorrow’s challenges. 

That’s all I’ve got for now. That’s enough.  That way…God forbid. ..you won’t have to come up with anything profound.  That’s me in a nutshell minus favorite color or song. That’s me. Typing this on my phone with my kid sleeping on my lap. Typing with my night light on. Holding on to hope. Admittedly afraid.

★Shaun Nickens