“You are only as good as your last performance”. Yet another well-known performer came out with this this in an interview the other day.
This is the somewhat unhealthy belief that your most recent experience both limits and defines who you are.
It’s like saying you’re only as intelligent as the last thing you did or you’re only as healthy as the last meal you ate.
Using that logic, a Neuroscientist who just forgot their car keys is now stupid and an Olympic athlete who just ate a piece of cake is a couch potato.
That belief also goes a long way to explaining some of the challenges many performers experience at various stages of their careers.
To start with, there is the word ‘good’. What does ‘good’ actually mean in this context?
We tend to think that it means skilled.
“You are only as skilled as your last performance.”
However, it has at least one other meaning too.
When we describe how ‘good’ we think someone is, we are making a judgement about their worth as an individual.
If performers equate their current level of skill with their own self-worth this means…
“You are only as worthwhile as your last performance”
If someone’s most recent performance doesn’t quite match their previous successes, are they now worth less as a human being?
If how ‘good’ you are is fixed at the level of your last performance that also implies that you’re not able to progress any further, meaning…
“You are unable to progress beyond your last performance”
When you look back at how you’ve been progressing and developing your skills over the years, have you really not advanced at all since your first ‘performance’?
You weren’t only as ‘good’ as that performance. You’ve continued progressing since then which means you’re able to develop your increasing skills through experience, aren’t you?
In order to decide a performance wasn’t that good someone has to compare it to how they would ideally like to perform. This means they already have an idea in mind of how they can improve upon what they just did.
Using this information is the very way people continue to improve and develop their skills so that they’re progressing and building on all of their previous achievements.
There is one key difference.
It’s relatively easy look back at experiences you had years ago and see that you’ve continued progressing since then.
When you’ve just finished your most recent performance though, you have no idea what will happen next given that you can’t predict the future.
The belief that ‘You’re only good as your last performance’ is only even vaguely plausible then because you can’t either prove or disprove what you will go on to achieve in the future as it hasn’t happened yet.
So, if you just performed in a way that you thought wasn’t that good, you have two choices…
Either you can believe that you are now only as good as that last performance, which means your level of skill is fixed and unchangeable for the rest of time.
Alternatively, you can use the information you’ve just gained from this experience to continue progressing….
The question is, which choice are you going to make?
© Mike Cunningham 2015