We had the good fortune of connecting with Shanna Pranaitis and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Shanna, how do you think about risk?
Everything in life is and has a risk attached to it. We tend to think of risk only in terms of taking action when in reality it’s a ‘yes and’ situation. When we consider taking an action (or speaking up for ourselves or an idea), often inaction could be riskier. The same goes for choosing (or not) to invest in something, send a pitch, share our work, send an invitation, or make an ask – all of these are risky on both sides of the equation. The risk of inaction is maybe greater because the result could be missed opportunities, stagnation, or – for me the absolute worst – unfulfilled potential.

I think the biggest aversion to risk is the fear of failure in some way, and the questions I am always asking myself and my coaching clients is this: What if failure is an equally possible result of both choices? Which type of failure do you want to choose? And What if it turns out way better than you could possibly imagine? As Daniel Pink has noted in his book “The Power of Regret,” one of the biggest regrets that humans have are those in the category of failures of boldness. In other words, not taking what we perceive to be a risk. As long as there’s the opportunity to learn and grow in some way, I consider it a win, even if to the outside world it looks like failure. So for me, there is no downside to taking a risk.

I’m insatiably curious, and addicted to learning, and I’ve been obsessed with new music (contemporary classical) and exploring sounds on my flutes from a young age. When your artistic entire career is based on experimentation with sound and pushing the boundaries of an art form, you become very comfortable with taking risks. Not every piece I’ve commissioned or performed has been brilliant. Not every idea I’ve had for a performance or class has worked out, but I have learned something from every one of them.

Over time I’ve developed a system I call Intelligent FearLESSness as a guiding principle for my decisions about risks/opportunities. I define Intelligent Fearlessness as the ability to use curiosity and awareness to help gather the necessary understanding in order to discern the next decision/step at that moment. It allows me to create a space where I can both feel fear AND proceed anyways anchored in my own inner wisdom. So for any decision/risk, I have a system for assessing which risk to take. I gather info and ask myself discerning questions, such as: what is really happening in this situation, what do I have the opportunity to learn, how might I be holding myself back, what would I do/say/choose if I wasn’t motivated by fear, etc. When I have those answers, I usually have a clear idea of which risk I need to take, and I choose the appropriately bold action even if it scares me.

When I felt the need to transition away from private lesson teaching to focus more on my coaching practice over the last couple of years, the risk felt enormous and I was pretty terrified. I was walking away from something that a) I was good at, b) I was known for it, and c) it was stable (more or less). Turns out all those things are true of my coaching practice and my life experience is so much more fulfilling right now, too. Over time, I’ve come to realize that the more scared I am of the risk in question, the more necessary it must be for me to do it because there is a level of growth on the other side of that experience that I need to have at that moment in time, whether it’s personal or career-related. The perceptually bigger the risk feels is equal to the size of the return on investment.

Some would say choosing to be a musician is a risky decision in the first place, but for me, it was the obvious and necessary path. However, I was not interested in the traditional path, namely orchestral performance. I call myself a radically traditional flutist because I believe the most traditional path for any artist is to engage with and create the art of their own time. So from day one, I knew I was going to have to take the risk of being my own business. This has allowed me to flourish in unexpected ways. I have founded prize-winning contemporary music ensembles, toured the world as a performer and teacher, and more recently expanded into coaching musicians in creating radiantly joyful lives and businesses that reflect who they truly are. None of this would be possible if I had not employed intelligent fearlessness and taken bold risky actions.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a classically trained flutist who doesn’t care that much about the flute. I care about people, sound, and creating community through transformational experiences as a performer, coach, and speaker that inspire and empower people. My curiosity and fearless exploration differentiate me as an artist and coach, and allow me to have greater impact in all that I do.

I am a Radically Traditional Flutist – I believe the most traditional path for an artist is to engage with the art of their own time. So as a flutist, I create, perform, and fearlessly explore the growth edges of sonic possibilities for my instruments while integrating new and historically reimagined works with electronics, movement, and other multi-disciplinary elements to create seamless, immersive concert experiences that illuminate new understandings.

Through my work as a coach, I fully integrate who I am as a human and artist to illuminate boundless potential so that creative humans can step into their full power and create a radiantly joyful and fulfilling life and career that reflects who they truly are.

I have forged my own path – commissioned and premiered hundreds of works with colleagues around the world, founded ensembles, curated festivals, and developed tools I now share with others, including the comprehensive e-learning platform FluteXpansions. As the Artistic Director and Co-founder of FluteXpansions, I foster a community of sonic exploration at the frontier of contemporary flute performance and composition, and I run a 4-week summer program called Sonic Immersion for curious flutists to explore contemporary flute and expand their artistic voice while also further developing their business and mindset skills.

A few years ago, I reached the dreaded moment of complete burnout. I was saying yes to too many things that did not align with my artistic goals and vision because I thought I should. I was doing all the things they say you should do to be a “successful” musician, and by many standards I was wildly successful in my niche of weird art music (aka contemporary music) and as a teacher.

And yet I’d hit the wall of “thou shalt go no further” and I took a much-needed sabbatical to think and reassess what I wanted from my career and life.

After some deep internal work the inspiration started flowing again and something big shifted.

I realized…gulp…I just don’t care that much about the flute.

What I care about is people.
I care about…
–> seeing the light in people’s eyes when they discover new levels of understanding
–> helping the beauty of true confidence shine forth
–> basking in the unbridled excitement people exude with full illumination of their unlimited potential
–> and sharing the light radiated from within when people own their power and courageously pursue a vision

When I look at my life and career, all of my work (as a performer, teacher, coach, speaker, etc) has been about illuminating the unlimited potential inside each of us and stepping into the wildly messy, infinite space of creativity to claim the power within ourselves. Helping people experience that on some level is the heart of my work.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We could spend months going through all the fab places in Chicago and eating all the yummy food, but I think if my best friend were to be here visiting now, we’d go on a road trip up to Door County, Wisconsin, and go hiking in my favorite park (Newport State Park). It’s a dark sky area, so we could see the Milky Way at night and maybe the Northern Lights if conditions are right. We’d be able to see the beautiful rock formations and waterfalls, too. When finished with our nature adventures, we’d come back and enjoy some of the best sushi in the Chicago area at Kuni’s in Evanston, and scour every last inch of the Art Institute of Chicago for all of its treasures.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m pretty lucky to have a luxurious amount of supportive people in my life, and I’m eternally grateful for them all. My parents instilled the value of curiosity in me from a young age, and the mantra was that everything is possible, you just have to figure out how to make it happen. That set me up to explore freely and treat failure as a learning opportunity. My collaborators, coaches, clients and students each inspire me constantly to serve at deeper and deeper levels, and I’m grateful to them for that.

Website: https://www.shannapranaitis.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zoomflute/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannapranaitis/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shannapranaitis

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN99l-d5gHzmHOBHda7tzzg

Other: https://www.flutexpansions.com https://www.facebook.com/fluteXpansions https://www.instagram.com/flutexpansions/

Image Credits
Aleks Karjaka, Karjaka Studios Mouna Tahar, Memoires en Or

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