A while back, I was chatting with a bartender at one of my favorite jazz clubs. Like so many New Yorkers, he’s a trained actor and singer working in the restaurant industry to pay his bills while focusing on his dream. And like so many in New York and beyond, he feels that lessons are the key to landing the best auditions and gigs.

So I asked him what he wanted to accomplish in these lessons.

“Oh, you know… to really find and develop my voice.”

“OK. And how often are you singing now?”

“Not much.”


This is a conversation I have again and again with singers and others who come to me with the hope of working together. And while it’s not necessarily good for business to turn people away, it makes no sense to start our coaching relationship unless they have already put in– and are willing to continue putting in– a great deal of effort on their own.

That’s not to say that an outside perspective can’t be helpful before an audition, speech, or when getting into (or back into) vocal shape. Yet weekly lessons won’t compensate for the singing and practicing you need to be doing daily to properly prepare for all three.


There is just no substitute for time, attention, and effort when it comes to getting to know and nurturing your instrument– and the mind that runs it– so that you can recognize and receive the proper guidance.


This is true beyond the realm of singing. How often do we ask for help without first doing the work that would allow us to best integrate what we discover?  And more than that…

How often do we set out to accomplish our goals without being willing to put in the effort that it takes to actually achieve them?


I can’t tell you how many singers I hear from and work with whose biggest obstacle to vocal and professional success is that they simply haven’t done the work. Take it from me: there’s no point in spending hundreds of dollars on coaching you may not yet be able to integrate. First, become prepared to the best of your ability. When you know what you’re bringing to the table, as well as what you really need to accomplish your goals, coaching is not only vastly more effective, but more enjoyable and empowering as well.


Click here to read about Jennifer’s books, and to learn more about working with Jennifer.

First, Do The Work originally published in Psychology Today

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