life advice from american idol

my wife loves watching american idol from beginning to end.  i just like the opening rounds.

at the beginning of each season, the judges travel from city to city handing out golden tickets to hollywood to an unspecified number of contestants.  the opening rounds are funny: really awful singers make us laugh.  the opening rounds are surprising: people you would never expect to be great singers knock your socks off.  the opening rounds are inspiring: people overcoming great odds to earn a shot at greatness.  and the opening rounds are a fascinating study into human nature because inevitably, there will be a number of 20-year old contestants who proudly believe they know more than the judges. 

their story is the same each time: 

  1. a young, good-looking contestant will arrive with a large number of friends and typically a doting set of parents. 
  2. he/she will march in front of the judges and declare that they are the next american idol.  they are confident of this fact because they have been told countless times by “everyone they meet” that they are a great singer.
  3. they will sing for the judges.  the judges will not be impressed and will inform (some tactfully, some bluntly) the contestant that he/she does not have the talent necessary to make it as a singer.
  4. the prideful contestant who would rather live in denial rather than face the truth will tell the judges that they are wrong…  that he/she knows better than the judges and “will show them someday.”  the contestant will leave the room enraged (often times with tears in their eyes).

there is a common theme in business literature these days that states one key to success is to focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.  the basic idea states, “we all have strengths.  we all have weaknesses.  we do ourselves a disservice when we focus too much energy on fixing our weaknesses rather than developing our strengths.  highly successful people improve their strengths and delegate their weaknesses.”

this principle, properly applied, leads to less clutter and less distraction in our lives.

the fascinating study into human nature that american idol provides us is this: “many people focus so much energy on what they want to be, they miss out completely on who they really are.”  these contestants on american idol have been given a rare gift: experts have spoken truth into their lives about their weaknesses.  and they would be wise to heed their advice and begin investing their time and energy into their strengths.

we all have strengths.  we all have weaknesses.  sometimes the first step in eliminating distractions from our lives is in realizing what we’re not.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    This is a very nice story with a great lesson in it. I have to admit that I’ve never seen American Idol, not even the Pants Hits the Floor guy, though I’ve heard it on the radio. But the lesson is timeless, if you can’t accept criticism and learn from it, you’ll never get better overall. Sometimes, just removing your weaknesses makes you better.

    – Charley

  2. Jonny says

    hi, i love this post, it’s given me some food for thought in some areas of my life. but i’m a little torn – what about learning new skills etc where you must start out pretty weak and take the time to improve. even the things we are strong at now we once had to spend time working at?

  3. says

    @jonny – thanks for raising this point.

    in my original draft of this post, i included a paragraph on dreaming big dreams and shooting for the stars. i hated the idea of discouraging anybody from trying something new or fine-tuning a new skill.

    however, during my revisions, i eliminated the paragraph because i thought it took away from the main point i was trying to communicate. instead, i tried to be specific that i was talking about ‘weaknesses’ not ‘undiscovered talents.’ there is a difference.

  4. Sara says

    Oh my, I love this post! Yes, you are so correct. I LOVE the idea of myself in a convertible red (classic) sports car, yet I dont like being in the wind and getting sun on me (as I burn). So yes, sometimes we have to realise what we are not. I am not a person who will enjoy a convertible, yet I love the “thought of it”.

    Yes, that is a superficial example but as Covey mentions in his book First things First, you really have to flesh out what you want and why you want it before you make it a goal. Many people think of that goal their entire life then get there, and realise its not really what they wanted.

    Love your blog!!!!

    Sara (4 in the burbs in sydney’s northern beaches)

  5. Jonny says

    @becoming minimilast

    ok thanks for reply. it’s really the definition of weaknesses is the key. i suppose an example for me is how i sometimes feel like i want to move from music teaching to making my living performing music, but anytime i do perform i feel very uncomfortable and self-consious. i need to concentrate on the teaching and making the best i can from it.

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