The Lessons of Susan Boyle


American Idol fans may not realize it, but Simon Cowell, the judge they love to hate, is also a judge and producer a British TV show with a similar format called “Britain’s Got Talent.” I had never heard of this show until the YouTube video of contestant Susan Boyle showed up on my Facebook page tonight. She performed on Saturday night.

What I love about this story is Mr. Cowell’s exchange with Ms. Boyle:

  • Cowell: What’s the dream?
  • Boyle: I’m trying to be a professional singer.
  • Cowell: And why hasn’t it worked out so far, Susan?
  • Boyle: I’ve never been given the chance before, but here’s hoping it will change.
Susan Boyle performed Saturday on "Britain's Got Talent".

Susan Boyle performed Saturday on "Britain's Got Talent". Photo credit: ITV

Isn’t that what we all want in business and in our lives? Just a chance — an opportunity — at something better?

But how many times have you made the wrong business decision because you jumped to conclusions or weren’t willing to give someone a chance? You may never know what you missed out on.

Or maybe you’ve found yourself in Ms. Boyle’s position. She clearly has tremendous talent, but she just hadn’t found the right opportunity where she can to pursue her dream. Maybe your big break is waiting for you if you keep persevering. Or maybe you aren’t telling your personal story as effectively as you probably could in an interview or after you’re hired. Or maybe you’re just not in a job which really leverages your strengths.

I don’t know.

But to me, Susan Boyle overcame the challenges that Simon Cowell and his audience put before her for one reason: her performance was genuine, authentic and honest.  She communicated and connected herself with the audience.

Ultimately that’s exactly what makes for effective communication, isn’t it? But when was the last time you saw a business communicate as honestly as Susan Boyle? But that’s exactly what the best businesses do. (Or at least, that’s what businesses at their best do.)

On Saturday, Susan Boyle just reminded us of that.

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4 responses to “The Lessons of Susan Boyle

  1. I was very moved when I first saw this. I also see so many lessons in this. Even beyond the ones you enumerated, John. For example – we are so quick to judge people by their physical appearance, their age, and our assumptions about their competence are made sometimes with no facts to back them up. We all need to think of Susan Boyle when we jumpt to judge others too hastily…

    Another lesson: you have to go for it – know what you want, envision it, picture it, believe you can do it, and go for it. Don’t wait to be ‘given’ a chance – take it!! I love how Susan says, prior to going out on stage, “I’m going to ROCK that audience”. Does she ever! She saw it before she made it a reality.

    Glad you liked it too!

  2. I also think there is a valuable lesson regarding social media. The Susan Boyle story lept across the Atlantic via YouTube in about 24 hours.

    The folks at ITV wisely chose to let multiple copies of the show live on YouTube, but they asked YouTube to prohibit embedding. That means when people search for the video, they are more likely to get back to ITV.

    Such an inspiring story.

  3. So moving and inspirational, John! I viewed it with a group of girlfriends last night, and we all laughed and cried.

    Through Susan Boyle, we saw the fulfillment of a life-long dream, and realized that we too need to brave rejection or risk missing our full potential.

    You wisely remark that businesses at their best follow the same genuine and frank style of communication we experienced with Susan Boyle. I agree that this is true of a businesses at their best, but I don’t see this behavior rewarded by our short-sighted consumer audience.

    My girlfriends and I admitted our own shortcomings in this area. Unless we are willing to look beyond first impressions and superficial enticements, we will continue to miss the Susan Boyles of the world and fall victim to the Madoffs, Enrons, etc.

    Thanks for your open and honest approach – a great model for other communicators!

  4. Spectacular performance by Susan Boyle! Bravo!

    To Mr. Simon Cowell: We here in the United States, and I am sure many around the world as well, would love to be able to see the British Show “Britain’s Got Talent” if it can be arranged. We would love to follow the series to see and hear her sing in the next shows…..and to see when she wins, if she does.

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