Donna elbowed me halfway through mass on Sunday night. She was already thinking about her commute on Monday morning. The nudge was a reminder that she wanted to get to Arlee’s before it closed at 6 PM. Arlee’s makes this healthy green concoction that Donna drinks on the train ride into NYC. Immediately after communion, we made a beeline for the exit. We had to hustle to make it in time.

As we stopped for a second to catch a breath, we saw a young woman singing and dancing around the store as she cleaned up. I rattled the door handle to let her know we were coming in. Although she was a little startled, a smile ran across her face.

“Is there entertainment tonight?” I joked. I must have sounded sarcastic because she immediately went to the back of the store to turn down the music.

“Sorry, you didn’t have to stop,” I apologized. “It sounded great!”

I noticed a ukulele sitting on the ledge at the checkout counter. “Is that yours?” I asked.

Another woman, who was sitting to the side, proudly chimed in. “Yes, it is. And she can sing, too!”

I could not resist. “How about singing something?”

Donna shot me a gnarly look. It’s the face she makes when I push too far. However, without too much hesitation, the young woman walked over and picked up the ukulele. Turning in our direction, she paused for a second, then threw her shoulders back.

“This is one of my favorites,” she said. The young woman began to sing.

Her name was Alyssa. The song was “I’ll Try Anything Once.” It seemed fitting.

We may not have discovered the next singing sensation—nevertheless, the moment was memorable. Alyssa didn’t need to be cajoled. She didn’t stress about which song to sing. If she was worried about being judged, she sure didn’t show it.

Alyssa just played, and she seemed to really enjoy doing it. Her confidence was inspiring to me and her willingness to perform set Donna at ease.

The encounter was a reminder that we need to find more enjoyment in our work.

Too often, we let the pressures of our roles rob us of the joys of the job. 

The pressure is usually the highest at the times when we need to be the most relaxed. Whether it’s a big client meeting, an important internal presentation, or a critical job interview, prepare just enough to be ready, but, don’t overthink. Too much thinking can lead to self-doubt. Before you know it, you’ll be so overly concerned with your appearance (what you’ll say, how you’ll sound, in what ways you’ll be judged) that it will negatively affect your performance.

As kids we acted with ease, regardless of whether we were more comfortable in the classroom or on the playground. Somewhere along the way to becoming full-grown adult professionals we forgot that in addition to working, we’re supposed to have fun too. Unlike Alyssa from Arlee’s, we hamstring ourselves into inaction by chasing the impossible goal of being perfect.

You’ve done the hard work, you’ve practiced—now just play!

Thanks for the song, Alyssa—and the wonderful lesson.

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