I was fascinated to see the video of Susan Boyle in Britain’s got talent 2009. Since the release of this video on ‘YouTube’ there have been over 100 million views of various versions of this video so far. What fascinates so many people is the manner in which a 47-year-old, unimpressive, unsophisticated woman who was written off, ridiculed and laughed off by the audience and the judges the moment she walked on to the stage, stunned the audience singing ’I Dreamed a Dream from Le Miserables’.
This is an inspiring story of the ability we have to break the chains that hold us back. A baby elephant is tied with a chain to a tree to keep it from wandering away. Wanting to be free, it pulls the chain and finds it too difficult to break. What we don’t realise is that the elephant when fully grown, continues to be tied by the same chain. The elephant moves trees and topples rocks. Scientifically it is proven that the elephant has the strength to break the chain. But it does not break the chain that it was tied to from the time it was a baby. The reason for this is simply because the elephant is conditioned to accept the chain as unbreakable. This will continue until someday the elephant breaks that chain by accident due to external pressure or for survival.
Don’t we have such chains in our lives? The average child in our part of the world hears the word ‘No’ [or similar words such as ‘Can’t’, ‘Don’t’ etc] 50 times a day as against the word ‘yes’ twice a day. So it is no big surprise that we use these negative words most of the time. Our level of confidence and success is also directly co-related to the use of such words. Some of us will be lucky enough at some point to read a book, go to a workshop, get some friendly advice on the dangers of using such negative words or get inspired by stories like Susan Boyle’s.
The learnings from Susan Boyle’s performance are numerous. Firstly it is important to have a dream and an inner desire to achieve it. Secondly it is important to understand our hidden talents and work towards developing them. Thirdly, we need to believe in ourselves and focus on what we have to do rather than focusing on the audience, judges and the negative people who will try to bring us down. Focusing on the process and the quality of the experience almost always helps take care of the outcome which is generally positive. We may or may not have the same impact and success Susan Boyle had. But what is important is to celebrate even the smallest success and use that energy to improve ourselves to do better the next time.
This is also an eye opener to parents, teachers and leaders. We should not judge children as well as adults by their appearance, background and the past performance. We should identify and encourage everyone to help them realize hidden challenges and the fullest potential. What a crime it is to help them keep those chains on for a lifetime.
Let’s take inspiration for Susan Boyle and other success stories to remove those chains, and become a collection of ‘Can Do’s’ and take the needed baby step in achieving greater personal and professional success.