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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

American Idol: What We Can All Learn From It

I have to admit, I am hooked on American Idol. But not for the obvious reasons. Although I love music, I watch the show for the study in human behavior. And I believe no matter what career path you’ve chosen, you can learn a lot to prepare you for success by watching these contestants.

The season starts off with a whole lot of people who think they have talent but clearly do not. It’s interesting to watch people who aspire to be famous singers but who haven’t done the ground work—like learning notes. Others have an incredible presence and the moment they open their mouths, you sit up and listen, in awe of their talents.

By the time the American Idol contestants get to Hollywood, you’re looking at the best that auditioned. Those first two weeks are filled with assembling teams, learning songs, and establishing a music routine that will be performed in front of millions of viewers. For most, it’s the largest auditorium they’ve performed in; for all, it’s clearly the largest television audience.

Some of them fall apart. They are obviously not ready for the pressure, the intense work, the teamwork, the details… You can see it in their eyes when they step onto that stage, falter with their lines, freeze in front of the cameras, the blood draining from their faces.

Others are ruthless, climbing over other contestants—like the ones who booted out one of their team members and refused entry to another because they thought they weren’t good enough. That’s the way those performers would be in real life, too. You can argue the merits of their actions or decry the cut-throat manner in which they operate, but in the end it simply revealed their personalities.

Still others revel in the whole experience. The tougher it gets, the more critiques they stand up to, the stronger they get. They are confident in who they are and what they want to be. They know whatever happens, they will walk away with this experience under their belts and they’ll be stronger, more competitive, and a better performer than the day they walked in.

Those are the ones who win.

As you watch this season of American Idol, you will see some contestants bloom under the schedule, the intensity, the criticism, even the insanity of it all. And though there will be only one declared winner, there will be more than one in reality, just as others who reached the finals have gone on to lucrative careers.

It’s a door that’s opened.

If you’re climbing the ladder of any profession, are you really ready for it? Are you really prepared? Do you have the right attitude? Have you been honest about your personal strengths and weaknesses? Can you blossom under the intensity of fame or fortune?

Because maybe, in the final analysis, being a winner is like riding a roller coaster: we’re all on the same ride. What matters is how we handle it.