Thursday, February 18, 2010

What happens next

It's kind of amazing how even some successful people, or people on the verge of success, still don't get it.

One of my guilty pleasures is the American Idol show. I've always loved music, always tinkered around the edges of being a singer-composer but never gotten deadly serious about it. So I'm a sucker for struggling musician stories — and here on this television show are thousands of them.

This week was when the winnowing process produced the big final 24 — the two dozen folks who will sing for votes live in front of millions. Fewer than 75 were left from the original tens of thousands who had first auditioned.

And yet at least two of the singers said, while waiting to hear the judges' verdict, something like this: "I can't control what happens next."

But they surely can. And everything that had happened to that point was proof.

They had made the decision to show up for the audition. They had waited hours to perform for a few minutes, and they performed well enough to move on. Then, for several days and nights they worked hard to rise to the top of the group. Now they were on the verge of being among the magic final 24.

Sure, part of making that 24 was dependent on the judgment calls of the people make the selection. But every step of the way, each of those performers had made conscious decisions to be the best they could possibly be. Many more than 75 people had the talent to be among those two dozen, but these people made a conscious decision to get there.

And even when they were not selected, they still control what happens next. A few of the contestants had been this far in previous years but failed to make the final cut; they made the decision to work on their talents, to get better, and to start over in the next year's group of tens of thousands. One of this year's final 24 had made the top 50 last year, only to be told they didn't make the final cut. Twenty-five other people got the same message and went home; she dusted off the disappointment and aimed a little higher. And she made it this time.

Some things in life are indeed out of our control, but one thing is certain: When the unexpected happens, when you're confronted with a roadblock or a challenge, you control what happens next.

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