The Power in Saying Yes Before You Are Ready

When I was in my mid teens, there were a series of concerts that were broadcast on tv and simulcast on a local FM radio station. The one I remember most clearly is Elton John performing with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. I was enraptured by the orchestral arrangements of his songs that I only knew from their straight ahead pop and rock recordings.


From that point forward, if you had asked me if I’d be interested in one day conducting an orchestra I would have enthusiastically said yes, but I had no plan or idea of how to make it happen.


Jump forward three decades to July 2018 when Robyn Archer sent me an email asking if I’d like to work with her on a gig with a symphony orchestra in the final week of August 2019. “There’ll be some transposition/arranging work to do in advance,” she said. “I’d like to think you can MD/conduct as well.”


I considered the invitation: Robyn Archer – an artist I greatly admire who always creates interesting projects, this flagship orchestra – the finest group of musicians in my hometown, and I accepted immediately, telling myself I had a full year to work out how I was going to pull this off.


Had I written arrangements for a full orchestra before? Just one, about 15 years ago. This project would require 9 brand new arrangements for orchestra and the transposition of a further 4 published scores.


Had I ever conducted a full symphony orchestra before? Never. Not even close. I do own a baton and I waved it for a touring production of The Sound of Music, but this orchestra would be 4 or 5 times the size of that one, and they were used to serious, experienced conductors.


If I had been playing it sensible and safe on that day, I would have thanked Robyn for the offer, and explained to her that I didn’t have the experience to handle this project.


But I didn’t. I said yes and set out on a thirteen month learning curve.


The performance happened on Friday night last week – and by many measures it was very successful. I learned a LOT. I had to. This experience allows me approach any future orchestral work knowing what will be required of me and how to do it. Next time I will begin with the confidence of having done it before.


But in reflection, one of the greatest takeaways from the experience is this. At no point did anyone at the orchestra ask me “Have you done this before?” or “Are you qualified to do this?” Even though they would have been perfectly legitimate questions, they were never asked


Robyn suggested me, the orchestra took her at her word and offered me a tremendous opportunity.


The orchestra trusted Robyn. Robyn trusted me. Therefore the orchestra trusted me.


Grateful as I am for the outcome, I’m keenly aware of my responsibility to pay this forward.


Who trusts me? And who do I know who could thrive if they were given an opportunity to do something they’ve never tried before? How can I put them together?


Continuing to do what you know without taking any risk is like saving your money in a regular low-interest bank account. The interest paid doesn’t even keep up with inflation. You’re barely keeping up. It’s by taking leaps and saying yes to things before you are ready that you can really advance in the ways that are meaningful to you.


Who do you know that is ready to take a leap? How might you leverage the faith, trust and goodwill you’ve earned with the world to help them find an opportunity to grow and thrive? 


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