YOUR MUSIC: Revealing what to do when it stops

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Have you ever dreamed up the best idea, gone over it a million times in your head, and were so sure of its success? Only to have it backfire, flop, or not have the outcome you intended?

This happened to me at one of our conferences a few years back. We recreated the final dance number from Dirty Dancing for our opening session. The venue, Silver Bay YMCA, is reminiscent of the location used in the movie, and we knew it would be a fun way to start the event!

We opened with a series of iconic movie clips that directly related to the Bigger Game Board. The last clip was the beginning of the dance sequence in Dirty Dancing, and we then orchestrated a tricky maneuver where the giant screen went away and standing live on stage was “Baby” from Dirty Dancing.

It was working brilliantly, and just before “Baby” was to jump off the stage and into the arms of “Johnny,” the music stopped. It just went dead.

There was a split second of panic, but then to the credit of our two amazing dancers, Broadway star Aubrey Lynch and my niece Autumn Tamlyn, they continued the dance, without missing a beat, as if nothing happened.

The music stopped, and yet the show continued!

This happens a lot in life, doesn’t it? Just when you think you have it all figured out, something comes from out of nowhere and you’re left in a very different place than you had planned.

We had practiced and practiced (and probably over-practiced) the opening number, and each time it just kept getting better and better. We knew we had an opening session that would have folks say, “WOW!”

Little did we anticipate that my laptop computer would decide to slam shut from the stage vibrating with dancers on it, thus shutting down the music being piped into the auditorium.

The universe can have a funny way of throwing us a curve ball. What do you do when this happens? What do you do when your music stops?

For me, I’ve learned to follow four (4) simple tips:

  • Slow down, notice and “be with” what is really going on – maybe it’s unfolding better than the original plan. To my surprise, audience members immediately joined in and starting singing the lyrics from the well-known hit. Having them become the “choir” was just beautiful, and something I would have never thought to do!
  • Let go of perfect outcomes. I believe the Universe conspires for our highest good. What I decide is my “highest good” is what I need to let go of – there may be a bigger plan going on.
  • Create from what is happening, rather than vote and react. I was in complete reaction mode when the music stopped. I ran at lightening speed to the computer to try and fix the problem. It did not help! I missed what was happening in the room – folks were having a ball! Later we learned that many thought it was planned; they didn’t realize that the music stopping was a mistake. Wow – what a concept, huh?!
  • Forgive yourself! Do whatever it takes to let it go so there is room for the next creative moment that wants to happen. Without forgiveness, the next moment cannot happen with joy, lightness and authenticity.

I still think back to that opening number, and for the most part I’m thrilled with the unexpected way it all happened. Sure, I can let myself become upset that the music stopped (I’m human after all!), but in the big picture of this thing called life, I know in my heart it happened exactly as it should have.

What about you? I’d love to hear what you’ve done when your music has stopped.



  • Aubrey Lynch II Reply

    I’m never going to forget that evening. It was such a pleasure working with Autumn and Rick is right, we were probably too prepared. Believe it or not, it is possible to over rehearse, losing the necessary spontaneity of a true, live, theatrical experience.

    Autumn had come down to NYC and I to Silver Bay. I was going over the dance again and again in my head as I was a little rusty, fearing I would forget something and didn’t want to disappoint Rick or his niece. To be honest, I was as nervous as any Broadway opening!

    So when the music went dead right at the climax of the night, before a really dangerous lift, I was like, really? Seriously? NOW!?!

    One of the most basic lessons learned even at the earliest stages of dance training is keep going. So we did. It was quite natural for us though nerve wracking. I was definitely rattled.

    The audience clapped along, sang loudly filling in the words to the classic song, cheering us on as if it were a part of the show. We couldn’t have created a more enjoyable, theatrical moment if we had planned it.

    What an unforgettable life lesson and reminder. Even when it all falls apart around you, keep going and don’t miss the moment before you, stressing about what woulda, coulda, shoulda been. Easy to say when you have to balance a beautiful dancer precariously over your head but even then, KEEP GOING sand create from whatever is there!

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful moment in my life. I use this story with my students in NYC all the time as a lesson for them!

    “Johnnie” 🙂

  • Rachel Simeone Reply

    Thank you Rick! I love this article! When my marriage of 17 years fell apart I was devastated. I had worked so, so, so hard to try to get things right and all I could see was failure. Plus, I “knew”that I was too old to start dating again or to find another partner.

    Fast forward 6 years, I met a great guy and we are much better suited than my partner and I ever were. I found coaching and now I work as a dating and relationship coach helping women over 40 find their Mr. Right. Lemons to lemonade.! (Or as you so eloquently put it, create from what is happening!)

  • Christine Allen Reply

    I aspire to this when I speak or do workshops because I know SOMETHING will not go as I planned, and it usually involves technology. While I have gotten better at iterating on the fly, it is still not my strong suit (I am a planner…). I am doing several workshops in the next month and will remember your post reminding me about what happened at your event when the music stopped. Thanks for sharing–I needed that!!

  • Suparna Malhotra Reply

    Man….I so wish I’d been at that event!! I would have sung and cheered my heart out for Aubrey and Autumn!

    I so love this, things often don’t go perfectly as planned. Though the years I have learned and am still learning to let go of ‘perfect’. At one of our annual charity fundraisers a couple of years ago while testing the TV screen and video I failed to check the sound. So they all important film had no sound. My friends signalled to me from the audience saying don’t worry about it. In fact, I wasn’t worried about it as I hadn’t thought to check the sound and at that moment there was nothing I could do. As it happened the ‘experts’ could not get the sound working either. One or two others in the committee still make snide comments alluding to that mess up, I’m not bothered by it. We still raised a lot of money for girls’ education.

  • Christine Reply

    I had a similar experience at a speaking engagement I gave last May. I did get through it but almost told them not to pay me as I felt it was that horrible. The feedback was a mix bag but no where as bad as what I was saying to myself.
    Life is in a different place now and I am looking to talk the stage again out of a deeper calling. I learned many lessons from that one experience. I know the next one will knock them out.

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