Whole Life Magazine

August/September 2013

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Page 27 of 51

success track FINDING INSPIRATION ON REALITY TV By Penelope Trunk Career Lessons from Singer Susan Boyle • EVERYONE LOVES TO BE A SHEPHERD OF TALENT The act of finding a mentor is actually the act of showing someone you have talent and they can help you find it. It's very, very difficult to land in the limelight on your own. So many studies of success, from Fortune 500 executives to startup entrepreneurs, show that a key factor is finding people to help you navigate a system that requires many more skills than any one, single person could have. If you ever wonder what you bring to someone who is mentoring you, look at the faces of the three judges when they realize (after four or five notes) that Susan is phenomenal. The joy on their faces is contagious. That's a big reason people like to watch that video clip: the moment when you see someone is very talented is so rewarding. It's a moment filled with excitement and promise, and you get to be a part of it because the person is asking you for help. Seeing the moment on Britain's Got Talent reminds me that I should continuously seek out mentors and show them I perform well with the help they give me. • YOU CAN ONLY SHINE IF YOU SET THE BAR HIGH Susan sang a very difficult song: "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. Not that I know anything about opera. But after watching the video of her so many times, I became curious about how other people sing that song. Then I started seeing all the places the song can trip up a singer. If you watch the clip 50 times, you catch judge Simon Cow- 28 wholelifetimesmagazine.com ell saying, "That's a big song." It's important that Boyle's picked a big song. Because if you want to be seen as someone doing something big, you have to pick something big to do. Marketing guru Seth Godin writes about "the Dip." It's the time when things look too hard. It's the time when you are trying to do something big and it isn't happening, because doing something big doesn't usually happen right away, it takes work. Most people quit. That's Godin's point: That you have to try something big, and you have to accept that anything large and daunting invariably involves a dip—a point when you are wondering if it is worth it. And that's where most people quit. For the most part, you cannot do something big without going through this process. • KEEPING A DAY JOB DOES NOT DESTROY YOU We all love stories of early success. Seven-year-old violinists, three-year-old girls whose singing makes you cry. In the tech industry, being a young founder is so legendary that founders have lied about their age. And in mathematics, it's always news if someone discovers something after age 30, because it so seldom happens. We love the stories of early, magical success. So when we find ourselves having to take a day job we don't love in order to do what we do love on the side, or even forced to live on benefits, this is not the narrative we hoped for in life. But Susan Boyle is evidence that other narratives can work as well. Huge talent can shine through at any age, and the world will respond. She did what so many people do who are not getting paid to do what they love: She kept singing and applying to contests, even when she was openly mocked, hoping her luck would change. She sang because she loved singing, and she got better and better and better. A hallmark of talent is loving to practice. And Susan Boyle's story is the narrative of the hard work that talent takes. Our lives are first, and foremost, about getting up every day and practicing what we love. What you get paid for, what you get honored for, is secondary. And success comes for those who persist. —Penelope Trunk has launched new businesses for multinational corporations and founded two of her own companies. Her most recent book is Brazen Careerist: New Rules for Success (Warner Books). Photo: Alistair Plowman/© Bathgate Regal Community Theatre I never watch American Idol, or any other talent shows. I got my fill of them in the 1970s, watching year after year of the mind-numbing Miss America pageant. But a few years back when there was such a buzz around Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent, I had to see what I was missing. Since then I've watched her audition at least 50 times, because every time I'm feeling unmotivated or depressed, the clip cheers me up. So while we may not all be singers, it struck me that we can learn a lot about our own careers from watching Susan Boyle.

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