We are often encouraged to stay positive – think positive thoughts! But can negative thoughts help us with our singing?

Negative reframing is a powerful psychological tool that can help break us out of complacency and setbacks.

In this episode, John discusses how to use negative reframing to give yourself a mental boost and to stay energetically moving forward on your vocal path.

Episode Transcript

Episode 139 – The Power of Negative Thinking

Hey there, this is John Henny. Welcome back to another episode of The Intelligent Vocalist. I do so appreciate you spending your precious listening time with me. If you have not checked out my YouTube reaction videos, please do. Go to YouTube and look up John Henny Vocal Studio, I believe is my name. Just put in John Henny. I’ve got a handful of them on there. Just did one on Freddie Mercury, recorded it just before I hopped on with this, and it’s actually kind of fun. It’s a different audience than the podcast audience. I will tell you that is certainly the wild west out there. And the comments are quite interesting. They range from you are the greatest YouTube reacting vocal coach ever to my particular favorite, which was an expletive followed by, “Stop talking, old man.” So yeah, that’s my particular favorite.

I think I want to get that made as a t-shirt. But I do a fair bit of talking. I’m not just simply reacting and making faces. I am reacting, but I’m also breaking down technically what’s going on with the singer’s voices and vowel tuning and rhythms and phrasing and performance. And it’s very instructive to break down what a master singer is doing. So I’m having a good time doing it. Today is a bit of an extension on my previous podcast about not comparing, because keeping our mindset in today’s age of social media, keeping a positive mindset is particularly tricky and it’s a constant challenge. And when I was talking about comparing, basically you are inundated with people who are showing you their best selves, their best selves on social media, in conversation.

When you ask somebody how they’re doing, everybody’s always just going to say, great. It’s only people very, very close to you that are going to say anything but that. And quite frankly, you don’t really want to hear what somebody is going through all the time. You don’t want the truth every time you ask that question. It’s just being polite. And so people will tell you things are fantastic. They’ll talk about positive things that are happening in their life. And that’s a good thing, to accentuate the positive. But if you get caught up in that, you’re just going to again compare yourself to everyone else and find yourself lacking. So I want to talk about a technique today called negative framing. We’re going to talk about creating negative thoughts. And the reason that you want to learn to do this negative framing, this reframing of looking at a situation, is because you are going to encounter setbacks as a singer.

And these setbacks can be as little as you’re fighting a bit of a cold so your voice isn’t really up for practicing that day. You didn’t sleep well, you’re a little vocally tired, to a vocal injury or the music project that you’re working on completely falls apart or you lose your job and you’re no longer able to study. There are all kinds of setbacks that are going to come your way, and it really is a matter of how quickly you overcome these setbacks. Don’t allow them to just drag you down and stop your forward momentum. Even criticism, and this took me awhile. I talk about dealing with critics and now when I put stuff on YouTube, and I’ll admit years ago I was afraid to do it because I was afraid of the negative comments. Now they actually kind of crack me up.

I look forward to the negative comments. There’s just something about them that tickles me. Now I reframe those comments in and I got this from Ricky Gervais, but if there was somebody encrusted with dirt sticking their head out of a dumpster and calling you foul names, you wouldn’t really take those comments to heart. And so I kind of think of just trolls and people in dumpsters calling me foul names and it certainly takes the sting out of it and makes it a bit more comical. However, there have been a few complaints where I’ve gone, that’s a valid point. And one of them was, I was stopping, talking about what the singer just did, and then continuing on with the video. And the person said, Hey, I’m getting frustrated because you should go back a little bit so that we can then see what it was you were talking about.

And I thought that’s valid. So I’ve started doing that. You’re going to get criticism. The more you put yourself out there, people are going to come at you. You’re going to attract the trolls. You’re going to get the Monday morning quarterbacks. For those of you who don’t live in the US those are the people that– football games here are played on a Sunday traditionally. And so a Monday morning quarterback is the supposed expert who says how the quarterback should have played on Sunday. It’s akin to a backseat driver. And so you’re going to get all those self-appointed experts, et cetera, and you need to reframe these negative experiences so the setback doesn’t become a bigger setback. And so what negative reframing is– it’s literally as simple as if you wake up and you have a cold and you can’t sing that day, you’re gonna want to get angry, you’re gonna want to get frustrated.

Certainly if you’ve been making really good vocal strides and I know the frustration is you just have to stop and imagine what it would be like if you completely lost your voice. If you had a debilitating illness that robbed you of the ability to sing for the rest of your life. If that happened to you, you would give anything to simply have a cold. A cold that’s only gonna last a week or two. And when you release a song and it doesn’t do as well as you would hoped, you should stop and think about people who will never have access to the technology to release a song, who will never– People who dream of playing a musical instrument, who never took the time to learn or people who dream of singing.

And that’s a lot of people. And a lot of people go to the end of their life and one of their big regrets is not learning an instrument or not learning how to sing. Music is so primal and so important and so when something you do gets criticized, you need to stop and go, yeah, but I was able to put something out there. I have the privilege of creating music. If you have to stop studying for a while because you have some financial issues, just what about people who live in parts of the world that they’ll never have access to top quality vocal instruction. I mean if you are listening to my podcast, you are privileged, not tthat you’re listening to me, but that you have access to this technology, that you have the free time to spend that. I always thank you for it.

But you’re able to spend listening and learning, that you have access to musical instruments, that you have access to the internet. Even if you’re just learning from YouTube, that you live in a time when that information is there and that information is free. If you think about the wealthiest people of a few hundred years ago, they could only dream about having what you have. The conveniences running water, toilets inside our homes that flush. An abundance of food. We actually have an over abundance of food. We are incredibly privileged and I’m not trying to be a Pollyanna, but if you take the time, when you start to get frustrated, when you start to compare yourself to others and you’re kind of pissed off about where you are, or you’re frustrated with your vocal growth, if you just do some negative reframing, if you think about how much worse could this situation be.

I mean, really think about how much worse it could be. And then you will feel gratitude and appreciation for where you are at. And what that will do is that will stop in its tracks getting the frustration from the setback. It will stop the setback from taking root. It will stop the setback from starting to chop away at your confidence and your momentum. And if you’re in this gratitude and you’re just thankful, you will move forward in a more positive direction. And rather than thinking, I have to practice today. And there are times when I’ve felt that I don’t feel like practicing. I have to stop and go, wait a minute. I actually live in a part of the world where I’m not continually in chaos, where I’m not living in fear, where there aren’t people at any time that could come kick down my door and arrest me or do even worse, that we don’t live with constant violence and the threat of violence and I don’t live in a place where I have to work 15-16 hours a day and I barely get enough sustenance to survive.

I have free time. I have access to great information. I have access to all kinds of sheet music and great books on singing and a great voice teachers that I can get lessons from and great colleagues I can discuss singing with, and I’m even talking about singing with you. It really reinforces my ideas. All of this is an amazing blessing and days where I’m really busy and I think, I’ve got to get a podcast and I’m really stressed about getting a podcast out episode out again. I have to stop. How blessed am I to live in a time where I can sit down at a microphone and discuss a topic I’m very passionate about and this will be listened to by hundreds and thousands of people and it will make an impact in some of these people’s lives. I’ve gotten emails from people in parts of the world that I will probably never visit, far flung parts of the globe and there’s been a podcast that’s just really been comforting to them or inspired them or help them get a breakthrough.

And it’s just so rewarding. It’s just so beautiful that I live in this time where I can distribute this with no one standing in my way. I mean, this is the time. There are the gatekeepers for better or worse. And in some cases it certainly is worse. I mean, as our professional news organizations begin to break down. I know some people are excited about that, but you know, there are some things where we do need gatekeepers. But the gatekeepers are going away and it is time for you to step forward and take advantage of the times that we live in and these opportunities. It’s not time to sit and be fearful. It’s time to step up. Don’t let setbacks set you back and just take some bold steps. I mean, doing these reaction videos, the first one that I put up, I was just kind of, I put it off and put it off and I didn’t really want to do it.

And I felt like I’m copying other people, which goes against what I preach because my whole point is it doesn’t matter if someone else’s doing something, you will bring something unique to the table and that uniqueness is you. And so I listened to my own advice and I put it out there. It’s getting a bit of traction and it’s kind of fun. And again, it’s a different audience. It’s a wilder audience. It’s a bit of a troll filled audience or there’s certainly some trolls. It’s usually two people, three people out of 500 but they’re there. It doesn’t matter. I am able to reach a wider audience. I’m able to help more people. I’m able to break down how singing works and people who aren’t singers who were just interested in the mechanics of it. It’s a lot of fun.

So no matter where you are on your singing journey, this is really the time to step forward, to be brave. I mean to put it in negative framing. Think about that you only have weeks to live. What will you regret? Very few people will say, I’m really happy I was fearful of doing something. You have to want those setbacks, embrace those setbacks, because what those setbacks are going to do is they are going to teach you to create solutions and work-arounds. And if you think about your singing journey or anything that you’ve gotten pretty good at, when did you learn the most? Think about the top situations that were most instructive to you. Was it when you did something absolutely right and got praise and pat it on the head for it? No. It’s almost always when there was a failure, when there was a roadblock, when there was a situation, a setback that you had to work around, and in that working around, you got better.

You discovered something about yourself. You got more self-confidence. You stepped up and you stubbed your toe and you figured out how not to stub your toe again. And it’s not the people who stubbed their toe and then sit in the corner and declare they’re never going to walk again. No, you learn to walk without stubbing your toe. So you got to get out there. You gotta step up. You got to get bumped around a little bit and create a work-around, reframe it in a negative way so that you are grateful that the setback is as small as it is. Even a big setback. You can reframe it where it could be worse, and the setback is a challenge. It’s a challenge that’s going to teach you. You are going to grow from it and you are going to get better because of it.

Hey, if you want to know more about me, please visit my website, johnhenny.com and if you want to learn to belt, please check out boldlybelting.com, that is my belt singing course. I’ve gotten some great feedback from that, and people who’ve had some true breakthroughs using this course. I approach learning to belt in a bit of a different way. So go to Boldly Belting. I explain it there. And until next time, to better singing. Thank you so much. Bye. Bye.