I don’t normally watch a lot of TV so I ignored all the hullabaloo surrounding Susan Boyle for several days. I noticed clips of her and Simon Cowell on CNN & Foxnews and figured she was just this year’s William Hung. Then I saw her video on Youtube.
If you haven’t seen her video yet, I highly recommend that you stop reading and watch it first — simply click the play button above. I had no idea what to expect when I watched it for the first time, and I think that’s one of the reasons it inspires me so much.
The video starts with a short backstage interview of Susan and then she’s out in front of the judges, met with some laughter from the crowd. She shares her dream of being a professional singer with the judges and large crowd, only to be met with snide remarks and cynicism — the judges and members of the audience are clearly seen raising their eyebrows in disbelief. After all, she doesn’t look like Carrie Underwood so how dare she, a 47 year old woman who has a rural church lady look to her, expect to make it as a singer in today’s world that’s so entranced by “the beautiful people”. Then she sang and showed the world the true meaning of inner beauty.
In less than five seconds, she gave the world a lesson that I hope won’t soon be forgotten: an exceptional performance can shut up all critics and shoot you into stardom. Many of us are like Susan — we have a dream but are never given the shot to pursue it because people don’t think we have “the right look” or “the the right style.” Judging by the over 26 million views of her video on Youtube as of this writing (and in the seven minutes that I re-watched the video, it went up by another 300,000), I suspect that there are millions of people out there watching her and thinking that they can follow her lead.
The world is full of experts, pundits and critics that believe that they have the right to tell us whether we can or cannot achieve our dreams. Again, they prejudge us and if they feel we don’t have the right look (or demographics) that we deserve to be ridiculed for even trying -which is why the world is full of dreamers that have never realized their full potential. Let’s face it, none of us like being rejected or ridiculed and I think few of us would have faulted Susan for walking off the stage in tears after her initial treatment before she even had the chance to sing. Fortunately for us, she followed through.
So what can we learn from Susan? There’s so many lessons here I’ll have to revisit them in more detail in later posts. Here are some of the major lessons I learned:
- Never give up on your dream. If you believe deep down in your heart that you can do it, don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Susan quickly wiped the grins off tens of thousands of critics that expected her to fail.
- Sometimes it takes just one success to hit stardom. An exceptional performance in front of the right audience can catapult you to success. Susan has probably sung locally in her town and at church, but it was her performance on national TV that got her exposure all over the globe. Fight to get in front the right audience and go all out.
- A strong self-image is important. Susan shot back at Simon Cowell (who’s infamous style is parodied or copied in practically every musical competition) and made him eat his words. She didn’t care that the crowd laughed at her when she said she wanted to be a professional singer — instead she showed them why she thinks she can be one.
- You don’t need to look like a superstar to be one. Susan now has millions of fans, myself included — and I can’t even name a particular actor or actress that I’m particularly fond of.
- The best way to deal with critics is to prove them wrong. Simon’s eyebrows raising as he heard Susan sing is a great example. He knew he was wrong (and even admitted it in his own indirect way) and praised her at the end.
- Talent still matters. Many celebrities have very little talent but are famous because of the way they look, grab the headlines through scandals or by getting endorsed by someone with influence. Susan only had talent — about five times the talent of Barbara Striesand (with 1000 times the class).
Part of the reason I initially ignored the story was that I mistakenly thought that she was trying out for American Idol and was obviously over the age limit. I figured the news was just mocking her like they tend to do with people they don’t like. As someone who helps people deal with social fears, I hear about similar situations all the time. I’ve grown annoyed with the fact that so many people get unnecessarily ridiculed and I’m glad that these people finally have a true source of inspiration.
I hope in the coming months a lot more Susans find their ways out of the woodwork. The more I learn about her, the more I respect and admire her. My only wish is that her success continues.