To solo: to stand alone in front of others, performing, scared of failure, embracing fear, aware of the need for help.

We need to solo.  It is a great gift, rich in opportunity to fail.  It’s success is celebrated; it’s failure is ridiculed.

My mom soloed when she was alive.  Dad would be away for months at a time.  She took up the mic and stood before the crowd.  She worked, shopped, played badminton with me, and laughed at all things that allowed for it.  Her hope was the chance of receiving help.  It came when my dad returned.  His presence gave her respite from the mic, even if only for a while.

My editor solos.  He is editing my second book right now.  He says he is down to the last 10 or 20 pages.  He takes my pattern of words and weaves a tapestry that is an upgrade of my own.  Just like the sound engineer in the booth at a concert, he makes the final product more impactful.  He makes it shareable.  Alas, he gets no applause, as is the case with most who solo.

My Pilates teachers solo.  They make workouts for me based on metrics that I do not understand.  They want to strengthen me and keep me from injury.  I leave, occasionally remembering to say, “Thank you,” but I probably forget, or I say it without the passion that really sits in my soul.  I am already onto the next act, the next chapter, or the next meal.  I forget that they soloed as part of my preparedness to solo.

Just like when I put on my guitar and jump into a song, trying to find my place in the pattern, I am no different than a Pilates teacher. There is an event going on that I am a part of, but only for a limited time.  How will my solo add to that act of the play whose title I do not know?

Will my solo be remembered?  I must remember that all these people also solo, and they all have the same thoughts I do.

People clap for me when I pick up a medal, write a piece that touches them or play a great riff.  The sound engineer has to pretend it is for him.  The team manager has to pretend it is for him, as well.  They get no applause.

People applaud when I give a lecture that touches their heart or inspires a thought.  They applaud what they see in the present.  Alas, they should cry with me at the pain that led me to my solo.  They didn’t see the childhood abuse.  They didn’t see all the boundaries that should never have been crossed.  Few know how much pain is right below the surface as I solo.  They only see the outside; the hear of the medals, the cash, or the strength and power on display.  The act of watching me solo would be a bit too painful of an experience if they saw the whole thing.

But if they did see the entire solo, not just the surface one, they wouldn’t let it get lost on the drive home.

The act of soloing creates literally every response known to man.  You can add your own to this list.

  • It creates a ferocious fear of failure in a public light. This fear paralyzes our peers and the ones we love.  Don’t we all know someone meant to solo but doesn’t?
  • Soloing mandates a passion to commit, in full, to strangers. Just as Christ died for the church, a true soloist must be willing to die to the strangers who see him solo.  Half efforts avail nothing.  No singing under your breath as if you are in a church pew can create the impact a solo is meant to elicit.
  • Soloing contains humanity’s most complex algorithm. An honest soloist cannot tell you what is actually coming next in the timeline. Their predictions only come true on occasion.  They get a superficial understanding of the gift they have received and nurtured, but they can’t really tell you what the upside looks like.  Tell Michael Jordan that his first layup would lead to world championships.  Tell Gwen Jorgenson that her first running shoes would lead to the middle of the podium at the Olympics, and they both would graciously discard such foolishness.
  • Solos create a false sense of uniqueness. Every artist knows that there are those who have come before who have tried AND succeeded at what they are doing.  In the present, our outcomes appear to be magic, even to us, full of “I never have,” clauses in our descriptions.  But our truth is that we have nothing new to offer.  Just like the little drummer boy who has come to peace that his rumpy tum tum is all they have; it becomes the act itself that contains the meaning.
  • Identity only comes from soloing. Nothing is riskier than staring at the required reconciliation between our solos and our sense of self.  Our heart is the part of us that first sees the disconnect between what we do and what we are meant to do.  The most honest among us see a need for a savior without any spiritual guide to convince us.

When the mirror comes around and we see our outcomes and compare them to the risks we took, a peacemaker is needed. We finish our days without the passion we told ourselves we would nurture.  We play it safe and bury those moments when we see that we were more like the man with one talent than the one with five.

I am always disconnected between who I am and what I do.  Soloing is the closest thing to bridge that gap that God has given us.

“I am,” is a sentence only finished when we solo.

I am blessed by God in His gift of the solo.  And for that gift, I solo.

For me, I serve Him when I solo.  Even if you don’t see all that is behind it.

Maybe now, you can solo with a different sense of why you are called to stand alone and deliver. No, it will never be safe, especially if it is really a solo.  No, you won’t’ get the affirmation your heart really desires.  You likely will not get applause, even though you deserve it.  Perhaps just thinking about soloing will give you a chance to catch up on all things that made you who you are.

But you might touch someone.  Maybe.  And that risk makes it worth it.

Dear Soloist,

Thank you for the risks you take.  Thank you for letting me see a part of you.    Thank you.


You inspire me.

You make me love me.  You show me how our Creator has made us.

Thank you.