I’m sure by now you’ve heard of Susan Boyle, the 47 year old woman that wowed a cynical crowd and smug panel on Britain’s Got Talent. Her performance struck a chord with people all over the world, and for good reason. There is an implicit rule, particularly in American Culture, that you have to have certain qualities in order to get “permission” to follow your dreams. These rules sounds absurd when said aloud, but most of us agree with them, often to our detriment. Ask yourself: Do you tell yourself any of the following things when you dream?
1) I’m too old: Susan Boyle is 47 years old. Conventional wisdom tells us that in order to be marketable in the entertainment business, younger is better. This “wisdom” neglects the fact that there are many facets to the entertainment business. Entertainment is MTV, as well as open mic nights, wedding gigs, and jazz festivals. If you have a dream, don’t limit your scope. Just express yourself, and the opportunities will present themselves.
2) I’m not good enough/I don’t have “it”: What touched me the most about Susan Boyle, as well as Paul Potts (another contestant on Britain’s Got Talent) is that I could imagine how many people told them they weren’t good enough. Or worse, they were good, but they lack some other quality such as stage presence, or conventional physical attractiveness. Being a so-called “total package” is important, but if you look at the most popular people in music, film, literature, or even business, you’ll notice that many of them are average in terms of talent. What they do have is people who believe in them, and if they are lucky, a healthy amount of belief in themselves.
3)I haven’t been doing this long enough: For every childhood prodigy story (Drew Barrymore, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears), you have as many stories about people who tapped into their gifts later in life (Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling, M.I.A., Tyler Perry). Having time on your side is good, but starting out later in life means that you have wisdom and maturity you can bring to your work that the whippersnappers don’t have. You also (hopefully) have a stronger sense of self than a younger person, so you are less vulnerable to the pitfalls of fame than someone younger (too many example to name).
4)I’m afraid of not being good: This is one area where youngsters have older folks beat: They aren’t afraid to suck. They go work understanding that they have a lot to learn, and if they are going to get better, they need to be open to scrutiny. If you are like many people past the age of 25 (myself included) you’ve been working towards a career for a couple of years, and you’re at the point where you are good enough to get hired in your field. Thus, it is difficult to humble oneself enough to start a new creative path. You may have natural talent that takes you beyond the remedial stages, and you may not. The point is, you’re not alone. Give yourself permission to suck .
So, what are you telling yourself that you are too *something* to do? Before you talk yourself out of your dream, remember: “Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is it.” -Lucinda Basset.