The only reason Susan Boyle crossed my radar is because white women love her. And I work with a lot of white women. In an attempt to remain culturally in sync, I watched Susan Boyle on YouTube. She has a beautiful voice, but she didn't move me like they said she would. Sorry.
I have to admit I was on the verge of giving up on her and just chalking her up to another one of those things I just don't get. Then Penelope Trunk wrote that I could learn something from watching her career. I trust Penelope's advice, so I kept watching Susan. And when I found out she was in rehab, I realized I could indeed learn something.
1. Fame is very different from success. Seek success.
Fame is overrated. It's actually a big rip off because most of the time, you don't even get to pick what you're famous for. For instance, take Bristol Palin. At 17 years old, she is most famous for having unprotected sex while her mom was trying to win an election--and then getting pregnant by a self-described 'f--kin redneck'.
Disagree? Ok, how about Kate Gosselin? As a working mother of 8 who has some amazing accomplishments under her belt, the thing she is most famous for is a broken marriage. And a unremitting funk that is primarily due to her Type A personality. It's kind of sad. Because I think she's pretty cool.
And then we have Susan Boyle, who is famous for being funny looking. Don't get me wrong, she can sing. Her voice inspires people. The fame, however, is a direct result of the surprise that she isn't traditionally beautiful, or even close. As if fame wasn't isolating enough, being famous for being odd looking is a big cross to bear.
The good news is, you don't have to like your fame to take advantage of it.
Success, on the other hand, is undervalued because it often flies below the radar. And you have to be incredibly self-aware to take advantage of it. Self awareness doesn't come with all the perks of fame. I think many times, people seek a version of fame within their career instead of success. So they miss great opportunities to learn at work because they want to be known. They miss chances to be relevant because they want to be recognized. They just want to be famous, no matter the cost.
2. There are things that are good, but not best.
For instance, being unforgettable. I choose that word carefully because I really feel she is worthy of it. There just can't be another Susan Boyle. The problem with being unforgettable, though, is that people can not just 'forgive and forget' when you mess up. They may forgive, but then they proceed with caution.
The greatest power in life is to believe you have choices. And when Susan Boyle acknowledged her power and chose to rid herself of outmoded social virtues such as 'losing graciously,' the press took notice. And they didn't forget.
Ideally it's good to express yourself freely, but it may not be the best option when you're involved in a national competition. Or anywhere where social proof is more important that your own emotional world. For most of us, work is one of those places. That includes you, Lebron. Sorry.
3. You Can't Choose What You Fall in Love With, But You Can Choose Where You Look
Although I wasn't her biggest fan, it was obvious to me that Susan Boyle loved to sing. She didn't need to be a winner of competition to prove that. It was also obvious to me that when she entered Britain's Got Talent, she was searching for something greater. And that's ok. It's a natural thing to want to be recognized for something you do well.
But she chose a competition that gave her overnight celebrity status, attention and fame--which in turn brought anxiety, exhaustion, and illness into her life. She was looking to scratch an itch and ended up with a welt.
Losing stinks, especially losing at this magnitude. Sometimes second place isn't all that it's cracked up to be. And while we're at it, sometimes neither is a CEO spot, or a start-up, or a corporate conglomerate.
Knowing where to look, and when to try, boils down to knowing who you are and what you want. And then knowing there are many things that we think we want, until we get them. Or until we come in second place.
To take the lyrics from the song that made her famous: But there are dreams that cannot be/and there are storms we cannot weather./I had a dream my life would be/so different from this hell I'm living/so different now from what it seemed./Now life has killed the dream I dreamed
Irony is the new black...
I'm happy to say that Susan is out now and says she feels 'bloody fantastic'. I truly hope she stays that way. Cheers!