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observing while Performing

by | Feb 25, 2021 | observe, Perform (Executive Presence), Sammy Davis Jr

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Working under pressure has always been my “go-to”.  Since I am now a coach, people think I have this all figured out, well I do.  That IS what makes me tick.  CHANGING that is not easy work as many have observed over the years.  Threading the needle through difficult situations, with difficult people, on a difficult timeline is where I Perform best.  I don’t think that is necessarily something to brag about, but even this blog is handcrafted every day.  I do actually think about what I am going to say, but actually Performing every day at this keyboard still gives me energy that most may not appreciate… 

Observing in yourself what makes you Perform at your best is probably harder than you might think.  For you – when conditions are right, doing it is normal, almost like riding a bike or any other activity that is “easy”.  Observant people around you can help you identify your best Performance scenarios if you ask them, and you know you are close when their answer makes you say “Really?  That is special?”  Yes it is – it is the Performance where you are at your best.  The trick is, that if you can harness that for you, you can actually leverage it … for you.  And if not, it is often something that others that are “less helpful” leverage “for you”…

Sammy literally grew up entertaining.  Everyone around him was, and with that audience, he rose above all of them.  His “normal” was always Performing, always getting the laughs, and he really never saw any of the downside.  His father and godfather sheltered him from the harsh realities of racism as they toured together, but that came crashing down around him in the Army.  Drafted during World War II, he was suddenly the short black kid with the big mouth.  He got his nose broken 3 times in those years,… and even those of his own race kept telling him to observe what is happening, “…man you are going to get us all killed…”  

… but that didn’t stop him.  He got into fights every couple of weeks and eventually landed as an entertainer in the Army Band.  Davis was discharged in 1945 and never rose above the rank of private.  He later said, “My talent was the weapon, the power, the way for me to fight.  It was the one way I might hope to affect a man’s thinking.”  That was the stance that propelled him back into the entertainment world, where again, he would suddenly be riding back to the top through the 50’s… 

The joy of my new profession is being the other observer – helping catch people in their “ordinary” … that is extraordinary for others.  There is a moment in the conversation where things slow down and people lean back and it is not a smile, it is that look we talked about above –  “huh… really?”  And then the job shifts … to being a fan.  So many voices, so many other words of “advice”, so many other “shoulds”… and without support, they will slide back to Performing for that audience.  It becomes our work then to find a way to turn those voices down, and get people to start to listen to their own voice, their own self.  Simple… not easy.  And one of them gave me a title that made me give the “huh?” look – “The Minister of Encouragement”. 

The stories about Sammy are wrapped up in three songs in a great podcast, and at the risk of tipping off where we are going, this episode of Mobituaries by Mo Rocca weaves them together in many clever ways.  The first aligns with “observe” well.  And at the risk of overplaying this theme, I recommend that while you listen to today’s song, you consider the voices influencing you.  Are they helping you find a path forward – the path for you, reminding you that your ordinary is extraordinary?  And… start to really understand, What Kind of Fool I am?

What kind of fool am I
Who never fell in love
It seems that I’m the only one
That I have been thinking of

What kind of man is this
An empty shell
A lonely cell in which
An empty heart must dwell

What kind of lips are these
That lied with every kiss
That whispered empty words of love
That left me alone like this

Why can’t I fall in love
Like any other man
And maybe then I’ll know
What kind of fool I am

What kind of clown am I
What do I know of life
Why can’t I cast away
This mask of play
And live my life

Why can’t I fall in love
Till I don’t give a damn
And maybe then I’ll know
What kind of fool I am

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