When we talk about responsibility, we usually think of things we have to do in order to avoid being irresponsible. Take care of our things. Show up on time. Responsibleness doesn’t automatically spring to mind as an attractive characteristic, but it’s opposite, irresponsibility is universally unattractive.
As adults, one of the worst things we can be accused of is being an irresponsible person. It’s easy to come up with a list of things that irresponsible people do: show up late, or not at all, neglect their finances, take poor care of their belongings, or worse yet, other people’s belongings. But what does it actually mean to be responsible?
The Buck Stops Here
There are a bunch of definitions for responsible, but for our purposes, we’ll use this one from the Oxford English Dictionary: being the primary cause of something so able to be blamed or credited for it. In other words, it goes beyond just doing what you say you’ll do. It means taking ownership and being accountable.
Of course, there is a difference between taking ownership and usurping authority. No one is the boss of everything. Very often, especially if you play in large ensembles under a music director, you are under the authority of someone else.
Even so, there is always something you can take ownership of – your own performance, the creative choices you make, the direction of your career. Being responsible means stepping up and letting the appropriate buck stop with you.
What Are You Responsible For?
As adults, we are all responsible for all the things that make our lives run smoothly. We’re responsible for paying our bills, feeding ourselves and our families, remembering to get the oil changed in the car before the engine blows up.
As classical musicians, we can add to this list showing up on time, knowing our pieces, getting promotional materials where they need to be. The list goes on. But more than anything, we are responsible for delivering the outcome our audience has paid us to deliver.
As a performer, you are accountable not just to the director or the venue owner, but first and foremost to your audience. It is a fundamental principle of success that we will only achieve our goals when we help others achieve theirs. So what is your audience’s goal? Why have they come to see you perform? Are they there to relax? To get pumped up? To escape?
You must take ownership of the experience that you provide your audience, and do your best to ensure it is meeting their goals. That is being a responsible performer.
Sometimes you’ll get it just right, and you get the credit that comes with that. Sometimes you won’t. You win some; you learn some. Responsibleness requires looking at those misses honestly, without blaming it on someone else, and figuring out what the lesson is and how to do better next time.
This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to ClassicJabber.com now.
If you are ready to learn more about how to build a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, check out Concert University, and the free webinar that outlines 5 strategies for success.