What’s The Point?

512px-Grimace_2We have far more to offer than we allow ourselves to give.

So many of us are holding back from something we’d love to give because we feel we aren’t yet good enough to give it.

I’m a late starter to the music world even though I’ve written songs since I was ten or eleven.

It took me nearly a quarter of a century to get out there and share them through regular performance. I really regret that.

Why the wait? I didn’t think I was good enough.

I see the same thing in others. They speak about something they’d like to do, but they don’t do it.

They wait. They hold off. They say that when they are better at it, they’ll do it then.

But not now. Later.

They refer to others who are so much better than they are.

I can relate to this. The number of times I’ve sat in a green room pre-gig, as someone sits with a guitar playing it like I can only dream of.

Every note they played yelled the word “fraud!” at me.

I spent years hating green rooms for this reason. They were intimidating places, perfect for confirming my own misgivings about myself.

Yet these days, I feel okay in them. Not because my own musicianship is now equal to those green room virtuosos.

But because I now realise that I was missing the point the whole time.

If you are waiting like I did, you are probably missing the point too.

So what’s the point?

My realisation is that it’s not about technical skill.

When you offer something, the person at the other end of the offer is after a couple of key things from you – their core needs if you like.

So while you feel you have to improve on something before you can begin, they typically don’t give two hoots about that thing.

What they need from you is usually very different from the thing you are anxious about.

So in my field, musical performance, here is what I believe an audience really wants and needs.

  • They want to be entertained. That is, they want their time to pass in a way that is engaging rather than boring.
  • They want to be touched in some way – maybe moved or energised or given a new way of thinking about something.

And that’s pretty much it.

So it doesn’t bother me anymore that I’m not Hendrix. I never will be. And that’s okay.

I now realise that being a virtuoso is just one of many vehicles to making sure that the two things the audience needs happens.

And my vehicle is different. My vehicle is story telling, the nature of the stories I choose to tell, how I convey them, and my rapport and interaction with the audience. And for that, my musicianship is more than enough.

So it doesn’t matter that there are those who are much better musicians than me, so long as I entertain and touch my audience – because doing that is the real point.

My storytelling and their incredible musicianship are just different routes to that same goal.

I know this because I have witnessed truly outstanding musicians who have neither engaged or moved their audience, and their audience have been only too happy for them to leave the stage.

It’s the virtuosos who use their virtuosity in a way that is entertaining and moving who delight audiences.

Virtuosos who take their vehicle to a different destination miss the point and so don’t satisfy the core needs of their audience.

Being clever in itself isn’t the point when it comes to performance, or else we’d all be paying huge amounts to watch mathematicians solving complex sums.

But we’re not. Because we need something different. And it’s not necessarily technical skill.

There is no need to be intimidated by the skills of others. You simply have different skills that will take you to the exact same point.

So, instead of keeping your offer unshared while admiring someone else’s vehicles, get in touch with what the point really is when it comes to your offer.

Get in touch too with what your own vehicle is, and how equipped it already is to meet the core needs of your people.

Don’t assume you must have more expertise than you need. If I’ve a hole in my bucket, I just need my bucket mended. If you can do that, then you’re enough. If you can do more than that, good for you, but I’m really only interested in getting my bucket fixed.

So what are your own audience’s core needs? Think it through from their perspective, and then ask only if you are able to satisfy those core needs. Because that’s all that really matters.

Let’s take a non performance example to finish with.

If I want to receive music therapy, I really don’t need the world’s greatest clarinet player.

I’m simply needing someone who can provide a safe environment to explore my feelings, and who can play just enough so that the music can be a platform for me to talk from.

Those are my core needs. So if you can do that, you’re already enough.

By keeping on waiting like I did, you’ll be withholding something valuable and needed from being shared in the world.

So don’t make my mistake. Get started. The world needs you and is waiting for you.

Photo: By Zara J from Canada ([1]) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

#core needs#delay#good enough#until


  1. Devils Advocate - December 10, 2013 @ 9:54 am

    and what if you are both a virtuoso musician AND storyteller OR a virtuoso storyteller AND musician?

    surely, there is a ‘standard’ to achieve before expecting to be appreciated becomes a charitable exercise?

    and what about all those obviously talented X Factor types who are ‘out there’ believing they have something valuable to offer the world?

    just a few thoughts to ponder….

  2. alunparry - December 10, 2013 @ 10:35 am

    Hi DA

    Thanks for your thoughts and interesting questions.

    If you are both a virtuoso musician AND a storyteller, well first of all I’m jealous of you! :-)

    But if you’re both, fabulous!! I’d advise using both. Use your virtuosity to tell your stories more beautifully. Or use your storytelling to give context to your virtuosity.

    Either way, if you’re both a virtuoso AND a storyteller, yet you neither engage nor move your audience, then you’ve missed the point.

    And that’s powerful, because it means you don’t have to be either of those things if you have a way of satisfying the core needs of your crowd, whether that be musical or otherwise.

    Take my hole in the bucket example. If two people are stood before me and both can mend my bucket, it doesn’t really matter to me that one is one of NASA’s top technicians and the other works in the local DIY shop. They’ll both mend my bucket and I’ll be happy either way.

    If the DIY person feels (s)he won’t mend my bucket until (s)he is also one of NASA’s top technicians, that’s a problem. Because there’s now one less person out there who could solve my problem. Not because they can’t, but because they won’t, because they’ve lost sight of the real point, and has become so intimidated by the different skills of others that they refuse to help me.

    That’s no good for anyone.

    As to the X Factor types, I don’t watch X Factor so don’t know the standard. But I do think we all have something valuable to offer the world.

    The key is to remember what the world *really* wants, because we tend to inflate that through our own lack of confidence.

    Because of that, we stop being available to solve people’s problems and that benefits nobody.

    It’s a bit like one of those gadgets that has more features than is needed.

    Back to my hole in the bucket scenario.

    If the NASA person said “I can mend your bucket AND launch your space shuttle”, I’ll be interested in the bucket stuff, but I won’t care that he can launch my space shuttle.

    But sadly, the second person then refuses to mend my bucket until they can launch a space shuttle too.

    We care too much about other people’s skills, and lose focus on satisfying our crowd’s needs.

    With this post, I’m trying to remind people that you can solve many needs right now. So there’s no need to wait. And I’m trying to remind people that, in fact, what people really want is often very different from the stuff that intimidates the hell out of us.

    I don’t care about a space shuttle launch expert who can’t mend my bucket. And audiences don’t care about virtuosos and story tellers who don’t engage and move them in some way.

    It’s about getting in touch with what is really important, and realising that there are many ways to that goal, and that we’re all already ready to contribute to the world right now and solve people’s problems.

    We don’t have to hide ourselves away because we feel we are stood in the shadow of somebody “better”. Often, that thing they are “better” at is irrelevant anyhow, or just different.

  3. Pablo - December 10, 2013 @ 11:37 am

    Hi Alun,
    In Spanish we have one expression that reflects your thoughts here (probably there is also one in English): “The best is an enemy of the good”; meaning that if you keep waiting for “the best” to arrive you are likely to miss many “good things” in the process.
    If my own case tells anything, you may recall that I have been posting my views (mostly, but not only, about football) in English, it being not my first language; moreover, being my English weak at times.
    I was tempted to “wait”, to improve my English first. But ultimately I thought (still think) that if my English is good enough to more or less convey my views, even with flaws, then there is no point (using your words) in waiting until it is perfect. I will never be a virtuoso in English, just like you will never be a virtuoso in music (your words, again).
    In the end, I even published in English. If it is of interest for anyone, even with my (many) mistakes, then I would have offered something. If not, no one (except maybe Shakepeare in his grave) is harmed by my efforts.
    And, in that process of offering something, my English is being improved. Just like your musicianship is surely improving as you keep recording your songs and performing on stage.

  4. alunparry - December 10, 2013 @ 11:51 am


    I love your sentiments. Yes there is a similar saying about the perfect is the enemy of the good.

    A favourite story I tell is one about the New York film director and screenwriter Woody Allen.

    Each year students from the local university meet him and someone always asks the same question: “how do I become a playwright?”

    His answer was always the same. “If you want to be a playwright, you have to write a play. Then you’ll be a playwright.”

    I think your experiences are a great example. Your English is good enough to convey your views. You rightly decided that we didn’t need a perfect English speaker. We just needed someone who could get their point across.

    And what happened? Well instead of hiding in the shadows, you appeared frequently as our international correspondent for the LFC KopCast podcast show, you were my first ever guest blogger discussing the life and legacy of Gerrard Winstanley (https://parrysongs.co.uk/go/2012/09/wigan-diggers-festival-guest-blog-from-madrid/), and your words were then read out at the Wigan Diggers Festival to hundreds of people to huge cheers.

    Imagine what we would have all been robbed of (you included) if you had chosen the other option?


  5. Devils Advocate - December 10, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

    …i don’t disagree with any of your scenarios on a philosophical and theoretical level but ‘scenarios’ (i.e. holey buckets etc) are just that and are therefore only practical in the real world if one favours the argument being represented by those scenarios..

    you see i also agree with the pursuit of excellence – in storytelling, guitar playing of rocket manufacture – and that means we all have to use our very limited time on the planet very wisely – so while your ‘point’ can appear to be often ignored or missed – it can also be a matter of necessary and selective choice of application and knowledge in order to achieve the level of excellence either required or desired.

    history has shown that a Utopian all-caring AND self-fullfilling way of existence appears to be just that – Utopian…

  6. alunparry - December 10, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

    Hi DA

    I wonder if you’re thinking that I’m promoting shoddiness. Not at all.

    But if I can give a better show than someone more musically skilled (and this has happened), then it begs the question of what I am needing to be excellent at.

    The answer to that question will be the point.

    In music performance, I think that we need to be excellent at engaging and moving the audience.

    Excellence in other things is irrelevant unless they assist with doing that.

    I’ve been bored to tears by people who are excellent in other things but not those two.

    We can often miss the point, like a chip shop owner obsessed with getting the best quality vinegar. Like you say, time is short, so let’s focus on the chips and not the vinegar.

    If your chips are great and you long to spend your life making chips for people, do it. Don’t hesitate because someone else does better vinegar. Who cares? Do it. You’re already enough.

    If we aim for excellence in the irrelevant then there’s no point to our excellence.

    Nobody cares if Steven Gerrard is also excellent at tiddlywinks.

    There is also a difference between excellence and perfection.

    Sadly, many people who would meet the needs of their crowd (and excellently), nonetheless don’t do their thing for fear of perfection, or because they are intimidated by someone else’s (sometimes irrelevant) skills.

  7. morag - December 12, 2013 @ 11:01 pm

    Pablo, I love that phrase, thankyou, I will remember it.
    Another great piece Alun, 100% agree & will try to live by ;-) it seems you’re missing the point perhaps DA? Alun’s not saying don’t worry about being technically good, just do any old thing as long as it’s popular. It’s not a mutually exclusive thing, you can be technically brilliant & engaging, or not very technical & very engaging, or not very engaging whatever the skill level. In my field, poetry, some technically brilliant poems are dull as dishwater if read out boringly, some less technical poetry is enjoyable & stipulating. My own is at its best when it combines the two, in my opinion.
    Everyone has a pop at x factor. There’s lots wrong with it but it’s a singing contest at the end of the day & they get some very good singers on. I watch it & have no issues saying that. Why should talent only be recognised in certain formats?

  8. morag - December 12, 2013 @ 11:04 pm

    *stimulating! (bloody predictive)

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