American Idol vs Olympic Performers

So American Idol has reached Hollywood and the winter Olympics have begun. Now let’s say you want to be able to perform at a higher level than you are today and under pressure.  Let’s say you want to be able to elevate your skills.  Which one should you watch to learn the most from?… 

In American Idol we have arrived at Hollywood week.  For most of the singers this is an absolute dream come true.  They are beside themselves at the possibility and the opportunity that has proven to follow success in American Idol.  What if they can become the next American Idol?

And in Vancouver, the Olympic athletes have arrived at the moment they have trained towards for the last 4 years.

Now what is the big difference between American Idol contestants and Olympic Athletes?

Well, here’s one:  Last week we saw tears of desperation from the American Idol contestants who did not make it to the next round.  Several people choked in the heat of the moment and forgot lyrics.  Simon Cowell had of course added to the pressure when he proclaimed that “if you forget the lyrics” you’re out. And others didn’t do as well as they could and begged for another chance.

But the interesting part is how poorly they handled defeat. Several contestants were completely heartbroken, apologetic, ashamed or angry: “Sorry mom”, “I blew my one chance,” or someone defiantly screamed they could have been the next American Idol..  They were speaking as if their one chance in life to be something worthy had been crushed.  They spoke as if their careers were over.

What they don’t realize is that this fear of not being good enough is exactly the reason they choked.  They had built up this belief that this is the one chance in their life to prove something.  Their whole behavior is fear based.  Their singing is based on trying to prove themselves rather than communicating a song with love, joy and passion.  Frankly, many come across as quite immature.

But American Idol is no Olympics. You want pressure – compete in the Olympics.  You want to ensure that you don’t get another chance – compete in the Olympics.

But here’s the big difference: Athletes do not operate with fear. Great performers aren’t afraid of losing. They may hate to lose but they aren’t afraid of losing. Listen to athletes – real athletes – when they speak. Listen to them when they fail and listen to them when they succeed.

Tonight is a great opportunity to watch the veteran snowboarder Shaun White in Snowboarding.  Now there is someone who will be extremely nervous.  The pressure is enormous.  He won four years ago and everybody is expecting him to win and to perform a trick no one has done before. That, my friends, is pressure.  But listen to him when he talks.  I don’t know if he will succeed or “fail” tonight.  But listen to his attitude in either situation and you’ll understand why he excels so often.  Learn about the enormous work and preparation he and other athletes undertake.

For them it is a constant never ending search for improvement.  Now, I said Shaun White is a veteran.  But did you know that he is only 23?  Yes, that’s right, he won the previous Olympics when he was 19, after having fallen in the first run, then got up and outdid himself.  That is a true performer.  At 19 he was younger than most American Idol contestants who can’t seem to handle falling down even once.

To everyone who wants to become a singer, I urge you to watch and learn from someone like Shaun who knows what it takes to excel.