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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What One American Idol Contestant Could Have Learned From My Ding Happens! Speech

(This is from my Improvised Musings E-Zine. Sign up for it now!)

Have you ever performed poorly and then thought to yourself, "It's not my fault! There was this jerk who threw me off and stressed me out, and blah blah blah"? I have done that from time to time, but watching an episode of American Idol, that paragon of life lessons, made me realize how flawed that type of thinking is.

Step #2 in my step by step process of improvising with anything is to "focus on what you can control and let go of the rest." (If you are unfamiliar with my step by step process, have no fear, I will be putting out a great deal more info on that soon...) This lessons was reinforced to me when I was watching American Idol (yes, I'm one of those. I tried to avoid it, but I got sucked in during Season 5)

Warning #1: I will be giving away some of the results of one of the Hollywood Week results from American Idol Season 8.

Warning #2: If you haven't seen the episode I am talking about but feel concerned that I will be "spoiling" an episode of American Idol for you, then you need to step away from the computer, turn off the TV, and get outside.

On to the story...

I had settled in to watch American Idol (AI to those of us in the know - or too lazy to type it out over and over) and saw that it was the dreaded "Group Day." During Group Day, the 100 some-odd remaining contestants had to form groups of three or four, work on a song together, and then perform it. I generally hate group day, because it seems unfair to me that a great singer could get paired with a bad group and end up getting eliminated for it.

AI gets a lot of mileage out of showing the intense drama that goes on when a group forms with people that don't like each other. It is a reality show after all, and reality shows love their drama. One such group, highlighted at the beginning of the episode and followed all the way through to the end, was the very last group to perform. The people in this group did not like each other *at all*.

They get up to perform, and the judges comment on how they can tell that they don't like each other. After they put on a lackluster performance, the judges again commented on how uncomfortable it was because it was so evident that the group didn't like each other.

Two of the three people in the group made it through to the next round, and one got eliminated. The eliminated girl, Nancy, then went on a rant about how the group was at fault and how she couldn't believe she let the other people get to her.

Interesting. This seemed to be a textbook case of how a bad group could ruin a good singer's chances. I started to feel sad (then I started feeling ridiculous for feeling sad about anything that happens on AI).

But then I thought back over the episode. There were many occasions where a group's performance was weak but some of the people in that group would still get through. This was the case in Nancy's group.

Then it struck me: A great singer, a performer with enough talent to compete in front of a live national audience, would find a way to shine regardless of the chaos going on around him or her.

This was Nancy's failing: She put her focus on what she could not control. Even though she hated her group, had she focused on singing the best she possibly could, she may have made it through. Instead, she focused on the tension and drama of her team.

Remember, when Ding Happens, great improvisers (and great performers) focus 100% on the things within their control. They are the ones who shine in any situation. People who don't do this end up failing out.

How about you? Have you ever worked with a person or group of people that you didn't get along with? Did you blame them for your bad performance?

Have you ever blamed your bad performance on the fact that someone you dislike, "messed you up," "or threw you off?"

The next time you start to feel those thoughts rising in your head, stop, breathe, and remind yourself to shift your attention back to what you can control and let go of the rest.

Do this, and maybe, just maybe, you can win American Idol some day...

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