What American Idol Can Teach Us About Success
Posted on March 12, 2013
Here’s an embarrassing confession: I watch American Idol. Okay, maybe that’s not embarrassing if you hopped aboard the AI train back in the early 2000’s when it was cool to do so. But, as a self-confessed pop culture snob, I didn’t lay eyes on an episode until 2011, mainly because I wanted to hear the
random amazing words that passed through Steven Tyler’s skinny lips.
Three seasons and a batch of new judges later, I still tune in every week to the warbling, screaming, crying, and gushing (thank goodness for that fast forward button).
But here’s the thing: I don’t watch American Idol for the beautiful singing or embarrassing auditions (entertaining as they are). I watch it because it’s a fascinating study in self-perception.
So many of us struggle to figure out what we’re really good at, where our niche lies. In American Idol terms, we ask ourselves if we should we be singing hip-hop or pop or maybe some sort of funk-soul-gospel?
I’m fascinated by how easily we can spot when other people are doing what suits them best creatively and how terribly difficult it can be to see the same thing about ourselves.
We often think in these generalized terms: well, I could do X, Y or Z. Or maybe I’d be better at D?
The truth is, we’re probably only really good at one of those things. And maybe it’s actually C. But, too often, we don’t see ourselves and our talents clearly. We want to be a jack of all trades.
American Idol puts this on high-stakes display: the contestants have to be in touch with who they are and understand their strengths or their dreams of stardom are quickly crushed. It isn’t about who has the best voice or the coolest clothes (Scotty McCreery, I’m looking at you). It’s about who understands and plays to their strengths with the most finesse.
It’s about finding and staying in your lane.
People vote based on gut instinct. They can feel when someone is being inauthentic and forced. Season 10 is a perfect example. In what was considered one of the most shocking eliminations in the show’s history, the gorgeous and talented Pia, considered a frontrunner, was voted off in the ninth spot. She looked right. She sounded right. So why didn’t she win?
Because she couldn’t find her lane. She sang ballad after pretty ballad, but she didn’t show the audience what made her interesting and unique. Because she didn’t know.
Fast forward to season 12. This guy has found his lane (skip to :30 to watch him perform).
Pretty faces are a dime a dozen. Heart and soul and creativity are not. People crave the real deal.
And that’s what the contestants on American Idol learn very quickly: no amount of styling or bravado or impossibly high notes will earn them that top spot.
Understanding who you are and what you’re good at and owning every bit of it–that’s the ticket to life’s confetti drop .
Is it easy for you to see your own strengths and talents and put them to good use? Have you found your “lane”?
Crow, Baby, Crow
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