Archive | February, 2014

What’s Your Excuse?

Introducing Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle, the Scottish singer who in 2009 shocked the judges on the TV series,  “Britain’s Got Talent” , was in the national news for most of this week. Susan was diagnosed as having Asperger’s disease, a form of Autism  that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and peculiar or odd use of language are frequently reported.

Why is Susan’s condition international news? Because Susan has had an international following ever since her stunning performance on the stage of “Britain’s Got Talent“. Read on. I’m going somewhere with this. And turn your speakers up. You are in for a rare treat in this post. For those of you who know nothing of Susan, I’ll fast-forward a short bio of Susan Boyle for you.

She lives in a small village in Scotland. Susan was unemployed in 2009 and decided that it was time to do something with her life that she had always wanted to do. And that was to sing for the Queen of England. But Susan was not a singer. Most regarded her as a nut.

At first sight she has a “50-ish nanny appearance”, she’s a bit overweight, plain, with a personality that is odd, a bit clumsy, and rough. Susan knew that something was wrong with her since birth. But she no idea what it might be. Nevertheless, she was bent on singing for the Queen. She made the trip to Glasgow, Scotland to see if she could qualify to be in the Britain’s Got Talent talent contest.

Her performance on “Got Talent” became legendary when Susan shocked the judges and the world by singing a flawless opera piece to a standing ovation.  I recall seeing that performance in 2009. Since she was back in the news, I decided to re-visit her stunning performance on YouTube. I recalled how the audience laughed and sneered when Susan announced that she would sing an operatic piece. Simon Cowell’s facial expression hinted that he jut wanted to get her off the stage and out of there.  No one believed she could sing anything. But Susan’s dream was to perform before the Queen.

It was an incredible performance from a woman with an uncanny voice.  Despite her Asperger’s and associated personality disorders, she still found the courage to pursue her dream of becoming an opera singer and stunned the world in the process. Her performance on “Got Talent” and the audience’s standing ovation still brings a tear to my eye. What a voice! What a talent! What courage she had, despite her feeling that something wasn’t quite right with her since birth. She got on that stage anyway. You can watch that short performance below. Go ahead. Watch it now.

Once I had revisited Susan’s video, I noticed that YouTube had placed other “Got Talent” videos in the page sidebar. Some of the video titles caught my attention so I continued to watch other performances. By the time I logged off of YouTube, I was totally wrung out emotionally. I had seen jaw-dropping performances from a homeless kid in Korea, a seventeen year old fat kid in Scotland, and a Gothic freak in the USA who said that “he is not very good at anything”. These are all people who knew all too well what their dream is, and they went after it despite the odds against them.

You can say that about anyone who tries to qualify for talent contests like “Got Talent“, “American Idol”, or “The X-Factor“. They all have a dream of making it big in the music industry. But the performers that I viewed on YouTube were different. They all had additional handicaps that would severely limit their chances of realizing any kind of success.  But they persevered anyway. What’s your excuse?

Here is the performance by the homeless kid in Korea on “Korean’s Got Talent“. Watch it. It’s in the Korean language so you will have to read the captions at the bottom of the screen. You have never met anyone who has had a life as horrible as this Korean kid. I want you to watch the faces of the audience and especially the reaction and facial expressions of the judges. If you have a dry eye after viewing this short video, than…………I can’t finish this sentence without offending you. So I won’t. Watch the video.

So what’s your excuse? If Susan Boyle, an unemployed and over-the-hill nobody, can go on to produce and sell 4 million albums despite her Asperger’s disease and her personality disorders, what prevents you from going after your dreams? If the homeless kid who lives on the streets in Korea and sleeps in public toilet facilities can get on stage and sing before millions, even though he felt his voice was just okay and he had only a few voice lessons, what’s the reason why you can’t take a few more steps towards realizing your dream? Did you put limitations on yourself as a child and now you can’t overcome them? Did someone else convince you that you would not amount to much?


Meet Jonathan and Charlotte

The fat kid from Scotland had been severely obese all his life. And all his life his peers had made fun of him until Jonathan retreated inside himself.  He had shoulder length locks; hardly what you would expect from an opera singer. Yet he sang opera. No one believed he could sing in the shower let alone, opera. He was just seventeen. And he was so shy, he had to sing a duet with a female friend just to get enough courage to get on the stage. You can see in the video that the audience is nervous about this kid. So are the judges. Some people in the audience are biting their lip out of nervousness about what this kid might sound like. It could be embarrassing for all. You be the judge. The video is below.

So what’s your excuse? There’s something about watching a person who has nothing, realize their unlikely dream that tears at your emotions. Did you sense that while watching this video? If you are not watching the videos than you will have no clue what I’m trying to communicate in this post. Go back and watch the videos!


Can We Still Have Dreams or is it Too Late?

As an adult, do you take time to dream? I don’t mean dreaming while you are asleep. When you are alone and are doing nothing else, do you day-dream? As a child, you used to do this all the time. Do you remember what it was like? Take the time to do it now. Think about what you want to do, what you want to be, what you want for yourself and spouse or family. Everything that I have studied tells me that if you can form a mental image in your mind of what you want, you can have it.

Let me give you an example. I have always wanted to skate on in-line skates. I’ve never done it before. But I have seen others skate. I tried it once and it was a disaster for me to find balance on in-line skates. I have an old pair in the storage room that used to belong to someone else. But they fit.

When you are in retirement and thinking about old age, you think about things that can make you feel even older. Like not staying in shape. Just because you are aging doesn’t mean that you have to feel old. I still want to skate. And if I can see myself coasting down the road in front of my house, that means I can do it. I saw myself with the pads on my knees and elbows, skating gloves and a helmet on. I was coasting down the hill in the road in front of my house at a pretty good clip. I prepared to make the turn at the horseshoe at the end of the road and then pick up speed to get up the hill that I had just come down.

So what do I do to make this happen? The first thing that I did was to dig out those old in-line skates in the storage room. I cleaned them up and took them upstairs to my bedroom. I placed them at the foot of my bed on the floor where I could see them every day. I know that I have to be physically fit in order to strap those skates on. So I make daily trips downstairs to the exercise room and spend hours on the Bowflex Xtreme resistance trainer that I bought 20 years ago. I take the skates with me so that I can see them as I pump iron. By doing that, I know why I am pumping iron. It makes it easier to build the muscle that will be needed in order for me to put on those skates.

That’s just a little dream. You need to dream bigger than that. Because you and I can accomplish much bigger things if we simply take the time to think about them and see ourselves in possession of what we want.


Have you Heard of Andrew de Leon?

Andrew de Leon is a freak. Black leather, chains, heavy make-up, withdrawn, shoulder-length hair. This is a kid who grew up feeling like he was never a part of anything. Andrew told the audience, “I can’t do anything very well.” That was AFTER he sang – leaving the audience and the judges on their feet, clapping, crying, stunned at his performance. Andrew had not sung for anyone previously; not publicly, not for his friends, his parents, nobody. But he got on that stage and left his audience breathless at his performance. See for yourself.

What holds you back from your dream?  Have you thought about it? Can you define what it is that constantly sabotages all your efforts to move closer to your dreams? Do you have a dream?

We all have a dream; something that we want but feel that we can never achieve. I could watch these short videos at the start of every day. You know why? Because they handily remove all my excuses for not pursuing my dreams vigorously. I have valid excuses. Or so I thought until I saw how courageously these kids overcame every obstacle in order to have a shot at their dream of singing as a profession.  My excuses are puny and ridiculous compared to what these folks had to overcome.  And that’s exactly why I should be forced to watch these videos at the start of every day.

I don’t feel like working on this or that right now. It’s hard. I don’t want to get on the phone and talk to so-and-so. I’m not ready. I have to go through my mail basket today. I’m not going to have time to do what’s really important.

Limitations and Comfort Zone – Getting Outside the Box

There are no limitations other than those that you artificially establish in your own mind. Get rid of them. You have the ability and the talent to do anything that you want. It doesn’t matter what you have been taught all your life. Forget what your parents told you. Forget what your friends say. Ignore the norms of society. The only thing that matters is you. You don’t have to please anyone but yourself. And if you let yourself down, that’s a bigger crime than letting others down.

Was your upbringing as bad as the Korean kid who was dropped off at the orphanage at the age of three, was sold for money, beaten up at the orphanage and forced to flee to the streets and sell gum for money, sought shelter in public toilets and then learned to sing a simple song by listening to performers sing in taverns. But that did not prevent him from getting on the stage in front of an international audience in hopes of getting just one shot at his dream, of something better than the streets. It doesn’t get much worse than the Korean kid’s story. So if your excuse is upbringing, unless you had a worse time than this kid, upbringing doesn’t count anymore. Find your dream and pursue it despite all obstacles.

Are your physical limitations similar to Susan Boyle’s. Susan thought she was brain damaged at birth. Others thought Susan was brain damaged. Some thought she was just an odd duck with a quirky personality to match. She felt like an outcast but didn’t know why. All she wanted to do was sing for the Queen of England. That’s all that mattered. When she got up the courage to do just that, people laughed at her. The judges on “Got Talent” told her so. No one believed she could sing opera. It must be a joke. After all, Susan looks and talks like a joke. She’s obviously a nut. Simon Cowell thought she was a nut. In the video he looks totally disgusted that the judges even have to waste their time listening to this nut.

Are your physical or mental limitations similar to what Susan Boyle had to face. You know that since she chose to ignore those limitations, she’s rich and happy now, having recorded and sold millions of her songs to an international community who loves her singing, despite her mental deformities. So what’s your excuse? I doubt that you have Asperger’s syndrome or are autistic. So you say that your situation is not really as bad as Susan Boyle’s situation? That’s wonderful news. Now let’s get a dream defined for you so that you can move on to the life that you deserve.

And lastly, Andrew the freak Gothic kid. Did you notice in the video how Howard Stern, one of the judges, even takes a moment to poke fun at Andrew? “What are you supposed to be? Have a rough day at the office? Do you always dress like that? Sort of a Gothic thing, huh?”

That’s good of  Mr. Stern. This kid has been ignored, alienated, withdrawn, and mis-informed all this life. And he finally gets up enough courage to sing in front of millions on stage and you make fun of him and ridicule him in front of that audience!!!!!? Based on Andrew’s story, he was already down and out. But her certainly did not need the likes of Howard Stern to verbally finish him off.

Nonetheless, he triumphed. Once again, the audience and judges were stunned by an unexpected superb performance. So he likes to sing arias like a girl. So what? That’s Andrews dream. And he’s incredible. Watch his semi-final performance. It’s pretty incredible. He choked in the semi-final performance, was sent home, and then was called back for a second chance. What happened next? Watch the video clip and find out.

So are you a total throw-away, like Andrew? You really have to use your imagination to understand what Andrew must have had to endure when growing up. What’s your excuse? Why is it that you don’t pursue your dreams? Did you have a life like the Korean kid or Andrew? If so, I’m very sorry. I really am. I have an immense amount of respect and compassion for the Korean kid, for Andrew, and for you. If you didn’t have a rough life, I still respect you. But let’s define a dream for you and get going.

These folks that I have been talking about will put all your (and mine) excuses to rest. I’ve had some bumps in my life but nothing compared to what I have just seen and heard on video from these performers. I’m sure that you can say the same.

So let’s get going. I’ve heard it said that the vast majority of people let their dreams die with them and they take their dreams to the grave, unfulfilled. Don’t do that. If there’s an excuse that I haven’t addressed yet, what is it? As soon as you tell me, I’ll find someone with that same issue who has overcome it and moved on.

Folks, you need to get out of your comfort zone and be, or become, or do what you want. There are no limitations. There are no excuses that haven’t already been overcome by someone else with lesser qualifications than you. Just find them.

Whatever has you boxed in right now, just make a decision to step out of the box. It may take persistence, perseverance, courage, initiative, determination, or a change in attitude. If these qualities are lacking, then get someone or something (like a book, a video, an audio book, a course, a life coach or whatever) to help you acquire these characteristics and then make your move.

If you need learning, learning is available. If you need support, support can be found.  If you need some encouragement, do what I just did. Find some over-comers on YouTube and listen to their story. You wont’ find me slacking off any more. I got an eye and and earful today. I had good excuses not to define and move closer to my dream. But they were all shot down.

Have you ever heard of the expression, “whatever you can conceive and believe, you can achieve.” W. Clement Stone said that in his book, “The Success System That Never Fails”. What that means is that if you can see it in your mind, you can do it. If you will take the time every day to form a mental image or picture in your mind of what it is that you want, and you will believe beyond the shadow of a doubt that you can have it, you WILL have it.

Can you still daydream? That may sound like a silly question but found through personal experience that the ability to daydream becomes harder with age. We used to daydream all the time when we were kids. We didn’t even have to force it. Remember? Our parents used to shake us out of daydreaming. “Stop daydreaming, Scott, and come to the dinner table.” I can still hear it as if it were yesterday.

Anyway, learn to daydream again. You already know how to do it. Just plant yourself where you won’t be interrupted and daydream about what it is that you really want. That’s your dream. Now make a high-level plan for getting there and start moving.

You’ve already learned in this post that obstacles and excuses are of no value to you. If you find yourself back-sliding on your dream, just think of the Korean kid, or Andrew de Leon, or Susan Boyle, or the fat shy kid with the terrific tenor voice. Watch the short video again for a reminder if you have to.

I’m Flat Out of Time

We haven’t addressed time as an excuse. Obviously all the folks in the videos had time to chase their dream despite occupational, family, or logistical requirements. I’ve seen some of these shows in the past. And I recall many potential show candidates indicating that they told work, “I quit. I’m off to pursue my dream of becoming a professional singer.” And of course work said, “Sure. Whatever.” and everybody laughed.

But you don’t need to go to that extent. Just go to bed each night with the satisfaction that you are closer to your goal and dream than you were the night before. That’s sufficient. If you can do that, you at least know that you are not standing still.

Maybe It’s Just Me

Take time to bring your dreams to fruition. That’s likely the most important time in your day. I didn’t know that the whole morning this morning was going to be spent watching the above videos multiple times. But the message in the videos hit me right where it hurts. And I needed that lesson. That was likely the most important time of my day today. And yes, it did move me closer to my goals and dreams.

I ask myself at least once every day, “Am I spending my time today where it matters most?” The answer is usually no. And then I make adjustments.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe others do not get the same message that I do from these performers. I asked myself, what is it that tears you up from watching these performances. It’s witnessing first-hand, other people overcoming overwhelming obstacles to chase their dreams and make them happen. That hasn’t happened for me. And it strikes a heavy-duty chord within me. You need to do that.

Don’t worry about what others say or think. There are always plenty of nay-sayers. Ignore them. Nothing can hold you back except you. Forget the limitations that you set up in your own mind. Get a dream and go chase it. Do it now!