He (or she) who hesitates is lost. This should be the mantra of every singer.

Plunging into scary, risky situations is what propels us and helps create musical breakthroughs.

In this episode, John discusses why you should push hesitation aside and embrace the fear of the unknown.


Penn’s Sunday School Podcast

Episode Transcript

Episode 127 – Don’t Hesitate

Hey there, this is John Henny. Welcome back to another edition of The Intelligent Vocalist. I do so appreciate you spending your precious listening time with me. All right. I am still currently in the midst of an absolute crazy time where I have essentially two major projects releasing at the same time. This wasn’t really my plan, it’s just I had two big things on my plate that I really wanted to get done and launched and the progression of both has just intersected in that I am in the final push for both of them. And if you’ve ever done a big project, especially creative project, that the final push is really the tough one. The initial inspiration, initial – let’s say that properly, inspiration, has run its course and it is really digging in and fixing things and making decisions, which is rather profound because when you’re creating something, you can decide anything you want and then you want to second guess yourself. So I’m really being disciplined, making myself take fast action, make decisions, decisive quick decisions rather than going back and forth and wasting time.

These projects will both die if I start falling into that trap. But in the final push, it’s the work really comes into it. And with two things, I’ve never done this before. I don’t know if I’m going to do this again, have two things launching at the same, approximately the same time. I’m going to delay the launch of my book a little bit. I know I said I was going to get out in October. I’m now looking at the first or second week of November just because trying to launch two things at the same time is not a good idea. There’s the story of when Paul McCartney was going to release his first solo album and the Beatles’ Let It Be, had not yet been released, even though it wasn’t their last album they recorded; as almost everyone knows, that was Abbey Road.

Let It Be had been delayed. And so Ringo was dispatched to Paul’s house to tell him to delay the release of his solo album so that it wouldn’t conflict with Let It Be, at which point Paul threw Ringo out of his house, and the Beatles were pretty much done at that point. Neither of my projects is a Let It Be or on that level, but still I don’t want to try and be doing launches of the same thing at the same time. So the book’s going to be delayed just slightly and also give me a chance to really– I’m creating online materials, members’ materials for the book. And that book is for voice teachers, voice teachers who want to expand their influence and even look at creating a passive income beyond being behind the piano all the time to make their living.

So that book, Voice Teacher Influencer will be coming. But my Boldly Belting course, I’m on track to let beta testers jump on this coming week. So if you are interested in being one of the very first to see the course and your input being heard and you can, as I make corrections and make changes, you can be a part of that. Get on my email list, go to johnhenny.com. Just sign up for my email list because this offer’s only going out to my email list. This will not be available to the general public. All right. I’m super excited about this course though. I really, really am and I’m really looking forward to getting feedback, positive of course, but also things I can do better. I really want to make this course great and you have to test things. People have to go through it. And I have to see how it works for them so I can make adjustments. But Boldly Belting, the beta release, coming next week.

Today, actually this morning I was putting together, I’m loading all the tracks onto the course and typing text, and just to have something in the background to occupy my mind since some of this is busy work, I was listening to Penn Jillette’s podcast called Penn’s Sunday School. Penn is, of course, the taller half of Penn and Teller, the magic act. And I’ve always been a huge fan of Penn’s. He’s a free thinker to say the least but a really bright guy and just takes an interesting look at things and very funny. And I was also listening because he had as his guest, and he wasn’t interviewing him, but he had in the studio Ray Cronise, or Cray Ray, as Penn calls him.

And there’s not many people that most of us can point to and say that person saved my life, but Cray Ray saved my life. He’s the one that took me from morbid obesity– two years ago I was over 370 pounds. I don’t even know how much over, because I was afraid to step on the scale. And I’ve talked about it before in the podcast, but the health issues, which had really delayed themselves, I mean, I was heavy for a while but it really delayed themselves, but they were starting to show. And Cray Ray helped me lose 150 pounds in eight months. He’s got some different ways of looking at weight loss. Fascinating guy. He and his partner, Julieanna Hever actually have a new book coming out soon, which I would recommend to everyone called The Health Span Solution, and it’s not a diet book per se. It’s more how to eat to increase your health span as opposed to lifespan.

And he solved all my health issues, really broke my addiction to foods. Foods really had a hold on me, and in a very profound and strong way. And for the first time in my life I have escaped that matrix. And I am very happy to eat healthy food and I can smell unhealthy food and pizza certainly smells good to me, but it’s much like the way that you would smell a nice fragrance or potpourri. It smells nice, but I’m not driven to eat it.

I have no desire to consume a pizza. I’m happy to say. But listening to Penn’s podcast, he talked about, and I’ll put a link to the episode if you just go to johnhenny.com/127 for episode 127. He talked about doing a trick at a magicians’ convention that they’d never done before. And in true Penn and Teller fashion, the trick was pretty wild and over the top. And it would basically– it involved an audience member coming up and giving, onstage, although they shielded the person I think with a towel or sheet, but giving a urine sample, which then they made disappear. So I know this is crazy, but he was expecting when he asked for a volunteer, you know, a frat boy or some kind of wilder personality, and he got a female in her twenties who did this rather scary thing on stage.

And as he relays the story, as they’re doing the act, and then someone else was talking. He had another magician on with them. He had a moment with this young female and she said, wow, you really do have to give everything, for the laugh for the bit. And he said that was a profound moment. And because this trick was new and it was kind of on the edge and they didn’t even know if they’d get a volunteer. He felt nervous doing this trick. But it was also exhilarating. And that’s the thing that we will try and avoid as creatives is this being scared. This being nervous. But Penn, because he is a professional, he welcomes that feeling and he uses that feeling. That is what gives the juice and the adrenaline rush.

And if you think about it, if you’ve ever been totally excited, I mean really excited and then you’ve been really nervous or you have stage fright. It’s almost the same energy in the body. And if you really allow yourself to feel stage fright, to feel that nervousness before you take a risk in performing, it’s the same thing as being excited and rather than fight it, you just embrace it. Now he also talks about a Johnny Thompson. This is a mentor of his, a magician who recently passed away and Johnny Thompson said something, I’m going to paraphrase what Penn said, but, ‘only dull people hesitate.’ And that is just a wonderful thing to think about. If something comes your way, and this is the power of yes. If something comes your way that scares you, you have an opportunity, someone invites you to perform with them or record with them, or someone asks you to do a duet on their YouTube channel.

If you are invited as a voice teacher to speak, to lead a masterclass, whatever it is, that feeling of nervousness, that initial natural hesitation, that being scared because we are getting out of our comfort zones, only the dull will hesitate. Only those who, if you want to just stay safe and always do what you’ve been doing and never move forward and never take the risks, there’s going to be a dullness in your life. It’s not that you’re a dull person, it’s just there will be dullness in your life. You’ll never truly experience that excitement, that exhilaration. So what you need to do is you need to embrace being frightened. You need to let go of hesitation. You sometimes need to jump into something where you’re maybe thinking it’s maybe not the best idea. Certainly some part of you is hesitating and saying no, and you just have to say yes.

Just see what will happen. The best things that have happened in my career as a teacher and that have really moved me forward have been absolutely frightening. The first time I’ll go back to when I was in high school and I was a drummer and I practiced drums like crazy. But then I decided to, in high school, get into the jazz band and they gave me a drum solo and the first time I did the drums solo in front of an audience, I almost threw up at the end of it, like a wave of nausea came over me. But I just kept playing, but I lived through it. I got through it. I said yes, I didn’t hesitate. The first time that I sang was absolutely frightening and my voice, my nerves, got the best of me and my voice fell apart.

And I remember thinking the ground could swallow me right now and I’d be okay with that because this song still has three and a half minutes to go. And I don’t think I could live through these three and a half minutes, but I did. And then each subsequent performance got easier. The first lesson I ever taught, I remember frantically reviewing where the transitions were for the female voice thinking, can I ever teach a female? I’m a male. How can I teach a female? Now I feel like I know female voices better than male voices. In fact, my belting course is focused primarily on females. The first time that I spoke in front of teachers, I was terrified and somebody challenged me on an exercise as I was correcting them. I think I jumped to another exercise and this teacher said, why didn’t you just fix the vowel.

And in the moment I was flabbergasted. I was actually a little upset at this teacher for embarrassing me in front of a bunch of other teachers and I walked away from that a little steaming, a little pissy and really thought about it and said, yeah, why didn’t I fix the vowel, and I became obsessed with vowels to the point where my nickname became the vowel man as I went out on teaching trips. Everything has terrified me. Releasing my first book was scary. Doing this podcast, there was hesitation. Putting courses online, there was hesitation. What if– and I got some blow back from some voice teachers when I created an online teaching academy to train voice teachers. They felt no, that you can’t do this. And it wasn’t the majority, it was actually just a couple. But nobody wants to hear that. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being judged.

But I pushed through it and I’ve actually had a lot of people get a lot of benefit from my teaching academy. And I think I was one of the first to do it. I believe there are others now. I’m not gonna say that mine is the best cause no one’s is the best, but it’s just my particular way of teaching. And people that connect with me have found it very, very helpful. Whenever you go to do something, and I was recently speaking with an absolutely brilliant voice educator, and this person was hesitant about going forward on a project because they spoke about impostor syndrome. And I’m thinking, this person has impostor syndrome. My goodness, this person is so brilliant and knows so much about the voice, but it’s that voice within us that chattering captured by thought critic that will just hold us hostage and just say the most horrible things and make a stop and I can’t do this and people are better and who am I, and that voice wants your life to be dull.

That voice wants to hold you down. I don’t know why we have this voice, but that voice is there for all of us. And there are those that break through that voice, that basically tell that voice to get lost and ignore and push through. And there are so many rewards on the other side of that fear. And another beautiful point that Penn makes is about performance, is about art in that we can step into these seemingly terrifying situations. And I love the fact that Penn, as experienced as he is, can still have moments where he’s terrified on stage and he relishes those moments. He loves those moments. But you can step in and be terrified and you’re completely safe. If you go on stage and your voice cracks and you give a lousy performance, you’re going to be okay.

I’ve done it. I was okay. You’re not going to be arrested. You’re not going to be taken out back and beaten. You’re going to be perfectly fine. This is not jumping out of a plane with a parachute because a parachute can fail if something goes wrong. You’re in mortal danger. There is no mortal danger. There’s only your fear. There are our primal fear of rejection. This old lizard brain of ours that still worries about being rejected from the tribe because thousands of years ago, if you were rejected by the tribe, you would die alone. But in modern societies, that is no longer the case. It used to be, we wandered around in tribes of about a hundred or so, and once we got much bigger than a hundred, it would tend to break down and then another tribe would form. And we developed the ability through laws and institutions to create very large societies that we live in.

Now and you can go on and you can stink up the joint and you’ll be okay. If you’re a voice teacher, your first book is going to teach you so much about your second, your first course you release will teach you so much about your second. You got to do the first to learn. This is all experiential. You’ve got to get on stage. You’ve got to get in the recording studio. You have to release stuff online. You have to say yes. You cannot hesitate. I don’t want your life to be dull. I want your life to be scary. I want your life to be exciting and I want you to make breakthroughs and I want you to see what’s on the other side.

Hey, if you want to know more about me, please visit my website, johnhenny.com. If you’re into voice science, my most popular course is called The New Science of Singing. I recently updated it, The New Science of Singing 2.0. It breaks down all this voice science stuff. It’s got certification testing. It has vocal exercises so you can apply it. I will be in there. If you have questions, you can ask questions within the course and I will personally answer them. And you can just go to johnhenny.com. Click on courses and you can find it there. It’s $197. It used to be more expensive than that, but I’ve made it more affordable for everyone and the people really get a lot out of that course. I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people go through the course. So that’s actually very, very gratifying for me. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider leaving a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you may listen. It really does help people find the podcast, or share it on social media. I would be so, so appreciative. And until next time, to better singing. Thank you so much. Bye. Bye.