Coaching: The Susan Boyle Effect

Susan Boyle’s audition on  the show “Britain’s Got Talent”  is apparently the most watched with 280 million hits in the first 6 weeks. We’ve all seen it – some of us multiple times ( .. me !).

We rejoiced and delighted at so many myths and stereotypes being debunked in just a few minutes right in front of our eyes.  Ageism, look-ism ( is that a word?), economic demographics, personality types, educational backgrounds, academic ability. This wasn’t some bo-toxed, surgically enhanced, pelvis gyrating, cleavage heaving, teenage fashionista making it  – but  someone we could all relate to. A neighbour, an aunt,  a friend… our mothers . Despite the slick editing and the clever stage management of the event  ( the producers had  to know surely of the potential talent), we all felt the sheer joy of the establishment having the wind taken out of its  smug, self important, arrogant sails. Someone unexpectedly was defying all odds and achieving their dream right there on our HD  flat screen or lap tops. And ironically of course, that was the name of the song.

Core talent 

But there was one thing that was very different about Susan Boyle. She really could sing. I believe wholeheartedly that we are all good at something. Does this mean overnight  stardom or success is guaranteed,  no matter how hard we work or try?  Regrettably – no  it doesn’t!

The celebrity obsession

We live in an era where  for many, being famous or a celebrity  has now become a goal in itself .  According to USA Today 51% of 18- 24 year olds want to be famous  – but they are not quite sure how or why. This culture of celebrity envy and worship changes our expectations. But the reality is that most of us every day people have to content ourselves with what Napoleon Hill sums up: “ If you can’t do great things, do small things in a great way

Keep it real

As coaches we support clients in identifying their passions and pursuing their dreams. But at the same  time we also have to introduce a  reality check.  It’s not easy to fly in the face of the culture of wholesale, bumper sticker type positive thinking slogans.  Although I love the fairy story element of success stories such as Susan Boyle’s,  or anyone else fulfilling life long dreams – goals need to be as realistic and achievable as possible.  Otherwise we are set up to fail.

Keep it achievable

I know this is  going to be percieved  in some circles as more of an equatorial downpour  than rain on the general parade.  But sorry,  if  you don’t have a good voice – you will probably never be a great singer. But that doesn’t mean to say you can’t still enjoy singing or improve.   In the words of Albert Einstein, somewhat cleverer than myself, “ Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”

Look at other avenues

There is also no law that says all personal satisfaction and recognition should come from your job or pursuing a career. There are lots of other avenues for personal development that can be equally rewarding.  If you like working with numbers you can  volunteer as Treasurer for your church, a local club or your kid’s school.  If you have a good, but not amazing voice , you can join a choir or attend Karaoke events.

Don’t forget the hard yards

So if your current job is blue-collar or staff level the chances of you becoming CFO any time soon are pretty slim,  unless you take steps to make that happen.  You will have to graduate from high school , go to university and take  professional qualifications. Like Susan Boyle or any other amazing success story their achievements  may seem instantaneous,  but there are  usually many years  of hard yards behind the scenes.

If you have dreams of being an Olympic athlete but need to lose 20 pounds and smoke a pack a  day,  then that too will remain a fantasy.  Kriss Akabusi , author of  “Success comes in Cans” and  himself a recod breaking athlete makes the following comment  ” Yes , the overnight success syndrome is a real misnomer.  It took me 15 yrs to become European Champion. Of course it is appealing to just show up, be accepted for a gushing testimonial and people’s good feel factor, but in reality lasting success comes with determination, discipline, dedication to a course over time where one hews success out of failure and the core talent is sculptured from inside out”.

I can’t add to that !

16 responses to “Coaching: The Susan Boyle Effect

  1. Great article! In the last week or two since I’ve bought and listened to Susan’s CD and rewatched her Youtube debut, I’ve pondered how so many people have a light, a talent inside them that never shines, due to their own imposed limitations or those external life circumstances that limits them. I think that’s one of the greatest tragedies of human existence.

    You’re so right that persistence makes a difference. Susan Boyle is a star now because she didn’t give up. She took a great risk, in the face of possible humiliation, and succeeded. But if she’d given up, no one outside her village would know about her, and she’d live out her life knowing that she didn’t fulfill her purpose.

    I’m blessed to make a living by helping others become better, more successful, more emotionally healthy people. But so often, I feel great sadness for all the millions who will live out lives of “quiet desperation.” How much richer would our world be if all of us could exercise our various talents?

    Thus, Susan’s success deeply touches and gladdens me, yet also makes me contemplative and grieving.

    Thanks for your blog, Dorothy!

    • Hi Debra I agree – we all have talents and I believe ( and hope ) that the alternative to international recognition shouldn’t be “quiet deperation”! Hopefully that’s where we as coaches can make a contribution. Thanks for your insights.

  2. Dorothy,

    I think your post is more a soothing bucket of water than a down pour of rain on a parade. I think one of the reasons why it’s so hard for people and companies to move for some change is because they create such unrealistic concepts of what they hope to achieve.

    It’s true that we rarely see what trials a person undergoes before they reach that summit they now stand on. But I think Kriss Akabusi is right about how it’s all that hard work, all the sacrifice that’s what really makes these successes to sweet.

  3. You make an important point… that insta-success like Susan Boyle’s is extremely rare. Much more often, success is something we have to work incredibly hard at. Fairytale stories like hers can be inspiring, but sometimes artificially so.

    The one part of your blog post I have to disagree with, however, is, “…if you don’t have a great voice — you will probably never be a great singer.” I come at this from a different perspective — as a writer, not a singer. I have spent my entire adult life honing my writing skills. People frequently tell me they envy my writing skills, that I am “lucky” to be a talented writer. While I might have been born with some artistic talent in that realm, I know my writing has evolved because of hard work, not because I am “lucky to be a good writer.”

    I’ve always thought of myself as a horrible singer, on the other hand. But I believe that if I wanted to put the time into singing that I have put into writing, I would be a lot better at singing than I currently am. As unproductive as it can be to dream of Susan-Boyle-style instant stardom, I believe it can also be destructive to our dreams if we tell ourselves we just weren’t born with a certain talent, therefore we will never develop it.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking blog post!

    • Hi Dave – thanks for your thoughtul response. I thought I had qualified my comment by saying that improvement is alwayspossible with effort and also you can have fun and be fulfilled in something – but core talent is necessary to be truly great at something. Just one thought. Perhaps discpline and resilience are also core talents that should be recognised as contributory factors as Kriss commented. My own feeling is that in today’s culture where some people seek “fame” but without specific goals and a plan, fuelled but these seemingly overnight success stories, is perhaps not realistic. As coaches we have to find a balance! Welcome a continued debate! Great input!

  4. Excellent post Dorothy – as every you write with thought and consideration. Dave’s comments add to the mix – always the sign of a good article. This coudl bring up the difference between skills, talents and abilities – not an area I shall venture into 🙂

    Have you written a book? You should – you have a great way of communicating your ideas and thoughts.

  5. Did you guys know that tv guide network has her exclusive story? She’ such an inspiration to us all! I just read about it, here’s a link if anyone’s interested:

  6. Hi Dorothy, thanks for the opportunity to contribute to your blog. Wonderful Post. Re Dave’s comments and his singing, your point needs no qualification. I have no doubt that if Dave dedicates his time to singing he will improve, but that does not mean he would be good at it let alone become famous/worldclass. Susan Boyle had a massive talent period. Talent is more than just an instinctive knack at something, it also includes the ability to have laser like focus, unshakeable determination, and a dedication/commitment not deterred by momentary failures or negative external feedback. These attributes along with her (I’m sure) God given knack to squeeze the breath from her lungs sweetly through the cords in her throat have made her and overnight success… which probably took around 15 years.

    Well done Dorothy on a thought provoking blog post which showcases aspects of your talant to hold mirrors up in society.

    Keep Smiling


  7. Again, a superb article, Dorothy!

    I told you I would love to read you in the Newspaper (like Lucy Kellaway, a Career Management column in The Financial Times?), or in the magazines.
    You achieve to be both seriously entertaining and insightful.
    I giggled to “we all felt the sheer joy of the establishment having the wind taken out of its smug, self important, arrogant sails.”
    Although I am a big Fairy Tale lover, and Story teller, I also value pragmatism and keeping my feet on the ground (les pieds sur terre, la tête dans les étoiles!).
    You’re a real Confidence builder, one step at a time… Bravo!

  8. Marion – mille mercis!

  9. Our Performer Webinars are free to attend.

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    Sadly as you mentioned everyone wants to be famous (in entertainment) but many don’t want to do the work or don’t know where to begin.

    That’s where coaching (YOU) plus east-to-take-action-on business strategies (PerformerTrack) come to play.

    I strongly invite any performers to sign up for free at and read this Core Concept…business meets craft/talent, taking targeted action daily is paramount.

    Thanks for this Dorothy!

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  10. I love this article because it reminds me that balance is so important when we consider what it is we really want.
    While there are some who say, “all things are possible”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all things are possible for all people, all of the time. Adding a dash of reality to the success recipe is never a bad thing and in fact allows us to get more keenly focused on what really could be possible for us.
    Besides “rich and famous” is not all it’s cracked up to be. Okay, the rich part might be nice 🙂

    Thanks for a great read Dorothy!

  11. Thanks Dorothy for creating this opportunity to learn and share. Your post is rich with lessons about talent, hard work and persistence. You call our attention to work with our natural talents instead of wishing to be something beyond our reach.

    When I read the statistic about the desire to be famous and the investment and joy so many of us feel for and about Susan something additional came to mind. Perhaps our investment in fame – our own and others – is a distortion of a truer desire – to be appreciated and seen for who we are on the inside regardless of the stage or the number of people doing the seeing.

    I will continue to read and gain insight from your posts.

    Warm Regards,
    Anne Perschel aka bizshrink

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