Archive for August, 2010

This post is longer than usual, since originally it was written as a guest post for a well known motivation site. However, upon receiving the draft, the site’s editor decided not to publish it. I leave it up to you to decide what in the post might have triggered that reaction.

Unless you happened to spend the last year living under a rock or in some other place with limited connection to the outside world, you know who Susan Boyle is. The instant Internet sensation, called by many the modern day Cinderella, she became a household name nearly overnight. That night she also become a source of inspiration for thousands of aspiring singers around the world. At the mind-boggling 9 million copies sold, her first solo album became the biggest selling album in the world for 2009. And this year she has held Susan’s Search – an online search for the lucky winner who will duet with her on her second album. Anyone interested in participating could do so by simply singing Silent Night into a camera and uploading the video to Susan’s YouTube channel.

So far it all sounds sweet, doesn’t it? Well, brace yourself since it going to get bitter very quickly. But first, let’s get a couple of things straight. I have nothing but respect for Susan Boyle. I think she deserves her fame and instant wealth 100%. She’s indeed a true source of inspiration and a real-life reminder that some dreams — no matter how bold — do come true. This post is not about her. I also respect the choice of everyone who decided to participate in Susan’s Search. All the luck to all of you and may the best win. This post is not about them. What is it about? It’s about something that for the lack of better term I call CDS: Cinderella Delusion Syndrome.

You remember the story, right? More specifically, the Disney’s version of that centuries old tale. Yes, the “Have faith in your dreams and someday your rainbow will come smiling” happily-ever-after story. That one. You know how the story goes even if you’ve never seen the movie. A poor girl, terrorized by her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, an oversized pumpkin, a pair of glass shoes, a midnight chase… So here’s a question for you. What is the story’s key message? One… two… three… Okay, let me give you my answer. The message is, “Keep dreaming and your dreams will come true”. Throughout the entire movie poor Cinderella does nothing but dreams her dream. Sure, she busy doing chores, singing and occasionally crying, but as far as doing anything to make her dream come true, there isn’t a single step she ever takes. Her most notable achievement is following simple get-out-of-the-palace-before-midnight instructions to the letter. This post isn’t a movie review, so I’m not going to analyze Cinderella’s character or discuss grave reality of poor girl’s circumstance. This post is about the message. The message “Keep dreaming and your dreams will come true” is not entirely accurate. To be more precise, it’s a blatant lie. The real world doesn’t work this way. Never has, never will. Otherwise, all poor orphans would’ve been marrying a prince or at least a common millionaire.

When it comes to dreams, the world’s true mantra, the last time I checked was somewhat different: “Work your butt off making your dreams come true and then maybe it will happen”. That’s how the world really works, and that’s why you know who Susan Boyle is. It’s not because she was doing chores patiently, waiting for producers to show up in her yard. It’s because she was working on her dream for decades. Now 49, she’s been singing her entire adult life. She’s been entering local competitions, losing some and winning others. She’s been creating demos and sending them out to producers all over U.K. She’s been dedicating herself to her dream and has been the exact opposite of dreamy Cinderella. That line from Wikipedia says it all: “In 1999, Boyle used all her savings to pay for a professionally cut demo, copies of which she later sent to record companies, radio talent competitions, local and national TV”.

And now Susan is about to make someone almost as famous as is. Someone unknown, someone talented, someone lucky (actually by the time this post got published, Susan has already picked the winner — American medic Amber Stassi). What about the rest? There are thousands of entries in Susan’s Search Gallery. Men and women, old and young from all over the world. Behind every entry is hope. Behind every entry is a dream. What will happen to these dreams now, that the winner is picked? Are they going to get crushed? Will people move on? Will they forget about the whole thing? Actually, it’s all of the above.

People who’ve been working on making their dreams come true will simply cross Susan’s Search off a very long list of competitions they’ve entered. People who have simply jumped on the opportunity will forget about it. And people who haven’t done much for their dreams before, but somehow thought this was The Chance will be disappointed. Some may even feel heartbroken. Because this is not how fairy tales work. Because it was supposed to be that easy. But alas… it isn’t. For a single chance to work, you need to try tens, hundreds, thousands of other changes. Success is a volume business.

Whether you are one of these people or someone with a dream, expecting it to come true one day, thanks to something like Susan’s search, don’t do this to yourself. Don’t fall victim to CDS. If you have a dream – a real dream, one that makes your heart go faster – go after it. Go after it, or don’t deceive yourself. You don’t need fairy godmothers to get a chance. These days, if you have talent, all you need is your will. Do whatever it is you wanted to be great at and share it with the world. Create your very own YouTube channel, start your blog, post your photos on Flickr – there are hundreds of ways to let people see you shine. Do it day after day, week after week, month after month. Listen to people’s reaction, find inspiration in their words, get better every time. And if you’re good – if you’re that good – people will notice. They will start telling others about you. They come back asking you for more. They will help you to become even better. And one day that dream will come true.

Fairy tales don’t happen. But those who are not afraid to go after their dreams sometimes become legends.

[tweetmeme source= “unmaskd” only_single=false]Remember the advice I gave some of you? Be yourself. Yes, that one. You’ve heard it before. You’ve heard is so many times it has become boring. It’s a motto, a cliche, a tagline. It is also a shameless lie. A beautiful lie.

And here’s the truth. Ugly and dirty as usual. You are ALWAYS yourself. It is so nice, so comforting to think that it’s not really you who’s not rising up to the challenge. It is not really you who just was a coward. It is not really you who is talentless, boring, dumb, ugly… whatever it is that you don’t like about yourself. The real you is so much better. The real you just has to wait to show the real beauty or talent or courage. It’s this world around you that you have to fit into, these people who push you around, these circumstances, these wrong choices, these motives, these obligations… But the true you, the real you is going to show ‘em all one day. Because it’s all there, inside. Right? Wrong.

It Is Always You.

Unless you are a victim of war, crime, natural disaster or illness, you’ve got no one else to blame. It is always you. The real you. So when people tell you to be yourself tell them to shut up. Yes, that includes me. You’re always yourself, whether you like it or not — whether you believe it or not. We are who we are, and we either have what it takes to be that better version of ourselves we like to imagine, or not.

So at any point at time either do things you can be proud of — or accept the full responsibility for being a jerk, a coward, an idiot or whatever it is you dont’t like about your behavior and its results. And if you don’t have strength to be better, to improve… well it’s also you. The forever weak you. You don’t have to like the fact, but that doesn’t change anything.

Yet, there’s a catch. Imagine that you’re driving an old car. You’ve been driving it for years. It’s beaten, it’s not a looker, it needs oil change badly. But if you’ve never taken it above 60 you just don’t know how fast it can go. And you may never find out that all along the engine was capable of going way beyond 200… More often then not there are things we just don’t know about ourselves.

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INTO THE FOG

When sea is rough,
When life is tough
And treats you like a dog,
Sometimes you’ve got
To show some gut
And head into the fog.

Its milky softness is a trick,
Its calmness is a lie,
Whatever makes you walk and tick
Will meet its probing eye.

And once you pierce the creamy veil
You’ll find yourself inside
An endless, soft and murky jail
That leaves no place to hide.

This cloudy land is yours to roam,
Yet there is no way,
No path that safely leads you home,
Which seems so far away.

But as you peer into this mist
That wants you to abide,
The stubborn pulse inside your wrist
Will shout, “Look inside!”

And there, inside, you’ll find the light
To rip the fog apart,
And realize: The hardest fight
Is always in your heart.