Mar 23 2015

Paul Williams



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Communication, Connection




A musician on stage cringes when he hears feedback during a performance.  It’s usually in the form of a screeching electronic protestation caused by …   well, I’m not really sure.  It’s a problem usually created when the microphone and the monitors enter a level of intimacy unsanctioned by the Gods of technology.

There was a time when I’d have gone on and on about why feedback occurs, undeterred by the fact that I was simply guessing.  Life is better this way.  It’s exhausting explaining things I know nothing about.

Feedback has multiple meanings though.  In addition to the electronic stress call there’s information delivered by critics in the form of reviews, talking heads on television if you’re a celebrity or politician …  friends, associates, business partners. There are all sorts of sources of the sometimes good, sometimes bad news.

When it’s good I like it.  A sweet puffing up of the old ego that’s enjoyable and not too dangerous in small amounts.  When it’s bad I memorize it.

True.  A slam at any of my skills, social or creative tends to have a more powerful and instantaneous effect on my psyche.  I’m too easily propelled into the land of “screw him!” when faced with a negative comment which may in fact be a really helpful observation about my performance, speech, actions or behavior. My reptilian lower self pounces to my defense. It’s easy to see why.  My feelings get hurt. Sob

It passes quickly.  Depending on the viability of the comment and the flexibility of my own stubborn will, there are times when a bad review leads to improved performance. As surely as an odd sound from your cars engine can instigate repairs that avoid catastrophe, an appropriate panning can make for a better show.

Example. I’ve never had a great singing voice. Let’s be honest, It’s my own sound and it’s full of emotion but it’s not even my favorite. I’ve always said that if I’d been the only artist to record my songs I’d be hot walking horses right now.

Recently I’ve had some intonation problems and, hearing about them from friends, family and distraught band members, I eventually quit whining, quit ‘defending my mistakes’ and decided to do something with the information I’d been given. Turn the feedback into an asset. Like most musicians of my generation I’ve suffered some hearing loss in the upper mid range. I blame years of recording and loud playback sessions but the drugs and huge speakers used like floor-mounted headphones probably didn’t help.

So, I added hearing aids and in ear monitors to my arsenal of stage gear.  Wallah! Suddenly I can hear what I’d been missing.  Feedback equals improved results.

When we’re willing to listen.  It’s an essential element in the art of learning. Easier in the long run than the harder life lessons waiting when we ignore the facts available.

Reflecting the truth back to another is one of the great gifts we can give.  As a practicing addict and wet drunk my life began to change when someone I loved refused to ignore my addiction.  She said she loved me too much to watch me die and left.  It was a gift.  It was feedback that resulted in an immediate change of lifestyle and my first trip to rehab.

There was a relapse and a second hospitalization that took, but that’s another blog entirely.

Still, the initial gift of an unvarnished truth, especially when delivered with a moderate dose of kindness, is a powerful tool for change.  That change is most constructive when based on facts, delivered from an objective point of observation unencumbered by personal agendas.  Translation? Be nice.

Here at Gratitude and Trust we relish good feedback.  We’re a community and the intent has always been to create a like-minded group that listens, responds and learns from one another.  A family affair if you will.  Tracey and I are well aware, as you are I’m sure, of the difference between a conversation and a lecture.

We encourage you to speak up.  To respond to our blogs when they spark a thought or opinion.  We’re growing in numbers monthly and with plans for a podcast in our future we expect the numbers will increase exponentially.  We hope the increased numbers don’t create a gulf.  Stay connected. Speak up if you will.   We are one in our intention to share the finer points in navigating life on lifes terms, hearing the truth from many points of view and always knowing we’ve come home when we’re operating in gratitude and trust.

Namaste. Love for sure.



Paul Williams

Paul Williams is a singer, songwriter, actor, recovery advocate and has been a fixture on the American cultural scene since the seventies. His book Gratitude and Trust is now available.