“Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!”

Anyone who has seen the 50′s American hit television show, I Love Lucy, has heard Ricky Ricardo say to his wife, “LUCY, you’ve got some splainin’ to do!”  Oh, how we’ve laughed at Lucy’s wild and funny explanations.

As performers, the explanations we have for our successes and setbacks may not be so wild or funny, but we have them all the same and they can and do really affect the way we strive toward our goals, stay motivated, and perform.

Think about a current goal you have.  Are you preparing for an upcoming performance?  Do you have a competition coming up?  Ask yourself the following question:

Why will I succeed?

Your answer to this question is really important.  It affects every aspect of your life—especially your life as a performer.

There are two main explanations we often think about when considering why we’ll succeed and the reasons we give for our failures.

  1. Controllable explanation: One belief is that our actions and effort is the reason or cause.
  2. Uncontrollable explanation: The other belief is that ability, talent, or luck  is the reason or cause.

What do you think about the following:

Mike, a fine baritone, is preparing for a major competition.  Recently he has changed to a new teacher and has been making some needed adjustments to his technique.  This is causing him some anxiety about competing in the next few weeks.  He’s never been very lucky at auditions or competitions.  He has always worried about whether he has what it takes or is talented enough, but has continued to try to stay motivated.  Lately, he’s been thinking, “If only things could work out and I could win just this once.”

Can you detect what reasons or explanations Mike is giving himself for his success or failure?

We explain to ourselves everything we do in our life.  When the explanations you give yourself fall in the uncontrollable category, you are attributing your success or failure to forces outside of your control.  Think for a minute.  If the reason for the outcome of your performance—whether desirable or undesirable—are to things outside of your control, how can you possibly do anything about it?

What will it take for Mike to improve or change?

So, <INSERT NAME>, you’ve got some splainin’ to do!

Next time you find yourself discouraged or struggling, ask yourself: Why?  Why am I struggling? What’s the reason or explanation I am giving?

If you realize that you’re identifying an uncontrollable cause, challenge that belief!

EXAMPLE:    Is it REALLY true?   Am I just unlucky?   Am I not talented?
Could it be that I need to try a new strategy?  Did I exert enough effort?   Do I need more help?

Suggest to yourself a controllable alternative.  Then, make a plan of actions based on those controllable alternatives:

  • I can and will exert more effort.
  • I will practice differently or at a different time when I’m able to exert the effort.
  • I need a new or more effective strategy.
  • I need to seek additional guidance or instruction.

We explain everything we do, so it is important that we take time to reflect on the real reasons we are giving ourselves.  Research shows that success is about effort, good strategies, seeking out expertise, and making good plans of action.

Remember, your performing success is about what you DO, not who you are!


Halvorson, H. G., (2012).  Succeed:  How we can reach our goals.  NY:  Plume.

Want to learn more about how to develop your own unique pre-performance routine and the most effective mindset?  Then, check out The Relaxed Musician Program:  Mental Preparation for Confident Performances, A 14-Day Plan   Download Day 1 workbook and audio to see how the program can work for you.  With purchase, you will receive 2 great bonuses—Your Pre-Performance Checklist and the e-book, Letting Go of the Need to be Perfect!

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