When you feel silly…

At about 6.30pm on the day of the recent Theme Night #22 in Vicar St, our soundcheck and rehearsal finished. I had a look at my phone before retiring upstairs for some dinner, and there was a text from a friend of mine saying she was on the road up from Sligo to the gig but had forgotten her tickets. Was there anything I could do??

We got her sorted, and she sent me a message a few days later saying she felt embarrassed having to text me at that moment after having made the fairly basic mistake of forgetting the tickets. I told her it was fine and not to worry about it, but there is a special feeling you get when you have done something silly like that, and it usually takes more than a kind word to get rid of it.

I know this now, because of something that happened last night. My car is sick at the moment, and so I have borrowed someone else’s car for a few days. It’s a newer, or ‘fresher’ (Sligo car sales lingo) car than mine, and the ignition key is not separate to the fob as it is on my keyring, but instead tucks nicely into it.

So I finished what I was doing, and picked up my keyring with the fob on it, but for the life of me couldn’t find the key. It was dark, so I borrowed a torch and searched the car, the carpark around the car, but no sign of the key. It was of course tucked into the fob the whole time, but it took the guts of 10 minutes for me to realise this, and man did I feel silly when I figured it out!

Forgetting a ticket, not finding your keys – these are fairly harmless errors in the greater scheme of things. But if instead of forgetting a ticket, someone forgets to carry out a safety check on an certain part of an airplane the one time it happens to be faulty (which can happen)….well you get the rest.

Everyone makes mistakes, everyone feels silly sometimes. If it happens to you, don’t beat yourself up – look at the bigger picture and have a laugh about it.

However it’s happening regularly, or your mistakes can lead to more serious consequences, then it’s time to start thinking about developing a system which takes out the risk of human error.


What if there is no deadline?

Most of us have no problem putting the work in when the deadline is clear. When the date of the gig is approaching, when the exam is tomorrow, when that presentation you have to give is looming.


But what about when there is nothing imminent? Or when your target is weeks or months away?

The final outcome could be so much better if you adopted the same working mindset now as you do in the final few days.

The blue tit and the robin

A century ago, in Britain and Ireland, milk was delivered to people’s doors in lidless bottles. Cream would settle at the top of each bottle, and two species of garden birds in particular learned how to siphon up this new, rich food source – the blue tit and the robin.


Between the two world wars, dairy distributors closed access to this food source by placing aluminium seals on top of each bottle.

Although some blue tits and some robins figured out separately how to pierce the seal and retain access to the cream, only one species as a whole learned how to do it.


Because robins are territorial animals – and won’t let other robins enter their territory, whereas blue tits travel in flocks, and hence knowledge spreads more quickly from one member of the species to the next.

Whatever about a robin in 1950, as a human in 2019 knowledge is available more readily than at any previous time, and it makes absolutely no sense to try and hang onto it for yourself.

Share it willingly and generously – you never know what cream you or someone else may get to taste as a result.

Being optimistic…

…takes energy, especially if you keep being hit with bad news.


Acting like you believe in what you are doing is difficult, especially when you may have some inner doubts.

Presenting a confident face to the world isn’t always easy, especially when you’re not sure you can back it up.

The thing is – these things are impossible to do all the time.

But they do make a difference – to the people around you, and more importantly, to you. Acting in a certain way can increase the odds of your desired outcome.

But pick your moments. You can’t do it forever.



Art and output

Last night I heard art described as something that is produced by one person and moves another. It struck a chord with me.

And the job of an artist to make art.

You won’t move anyone with your thoughts, your drafts, your unreleased songs, your sketches.

Produce. Output.

If you want to be an artist, it’s your only chance of doing your job.

John Morrison and the Ugly Duckling

The story of the Ugly Duckling focuses on the ‘duckling’ – the outcast who finds redemption when as an adult she realises she has turned into a beautiful swan.

But what about the other ducklings? The actual ducklings who slag the ‘ugly duckling’ for being different? They believe they are better than her because they can take refuge in numbers, they are part of a gang, the same. It’s a common theme in the human world also, played out in schools all over the planet.


This week John Morrison died. John was an inventive and trailblazing GAA coach, who had plenty of success with various county football teams around the country. He was never afraid to try new methods, such as using balloons instead of footballs to help improve the timing of an athlete’s jump when it came to catching the ball mid-air ahead of his opponent.

Here’s one of my favourite quotes of his – “if other people laugh at you because you’re different, remember that you can laugh at them because they’re all the same”.

We may not all turn into beautiful swans, but fear of failure or rejection shouldn’t stop us from trying something different.


Predicting the future…why bother!

Ryan ‘Speedo’ Green is a bass-baritone classical singer, who from an unlikely background ended up as a member of the Vienna State Opera.


He tells a story in this article about being regularly asked to sing Ol’ Man River – just because he’s black. And then makes a really interesting point – that despite that particular Showboat showstopper having been written about the hardships of post-slavery faced by black people, hardships that were caused by white people, it’s white people who like and seem to connect with the song most.

I wrote a blog about this song before (see here) – more specifically about a particular performance of the song, and a regular reader, Matthew Carey, alluded to something similar in a comment below. However you look at it, it’s strange.

But that’s the thing – you never know which song you write, which blog you publish, which of your performances will connect with or make a real difference to someone – and you certainly won’t be able to predict the reasons why.

All you can do is make each one the best you can.