Contrary to appearances, stars are not superhuman.
Although we (and they) love the image of the star, in lots of ways they’re just like the rest of us.
I should know. I’ve had a few of them in my consulting room, as a coach and originally a psychotherapist. People you might have heard of. People who made me sit up a little straighter, with a slight shock at being that close to them. And they’ve told me what it’s really like to be a star.
And you know what? They’re just like you.
Just like you, they have their doubts and insecurities. They may show a confident face to the world, but deep inside they are as vulnerable as the rest of us. Criticism hurts. Praise is always welcome. There are times when they worry about failure. Sometimes they even feel a fraud, in danger of being found out.
So how come they are where they are, doing what they’re doing?
Obviously they are talented. But so are we all, to some degree. And talent is not a silver spoon, a birthright granting automatic fame and fortune. According to renowned creative director Dave Trott, it can even be a handicap:
What chance do those of us who aren’t talented stand against those who are?
Is it ever possible ordinary people to beat the gifted?
In my experience, yes.
Talented people tend to be complacent, and consequently lazy.
All you have to actually do is work harder.
Like many of us, the stars began with a dream. But dreams are cheap. Instead of sitting around daydreaming, they took action. Each of them did something very unusual. Something distinctive, outstanding, unique. They learned their craft. They worked hard. They took risks. They took their craft and transformed it into art. They took kicks in the teeth and learned from them. They got effective people on board. They got the word out. They promised and delivered, over and over again.
If you think you work hard, imagine being Jimi Hendrix. Yes he had a sublime gift, but he honed his talent with constant practice. Chas Chandler described Hendrix as never going anywhere without a guitar. At one stage, Chandler said it was impossible to get into the toilet because Jimi would take his guitar and sit there for hours because he liked the sound of the guitar bouncing off the tiles on the wall.
If you think you’re a perfectionist, imagine being Brian Wilson, who went through 17 recording sessions, 90 hours of tape and a reported $50,000 to record just one track. It’s not hard to imagine the complaints along the way, but no one complained about the result – ‘Good Vibrations’, a number one hit, acclaimed as one of the greatest tracks of all time.
If you find it daunting to present your work to a client, boss or potential funder, imagine being Pulp, backstage at Glastonbury in 1995. After 10 years in the indie wilderness, you’re only headlining tonight because Stone Roses guitarist John Squire broke his arm last week. You’re about to face tens of thousands of disappointed Stone Roses fans, knowing it will take something special to win them over. Your electrifying performance catapults you, at last, to national stardom. (I was in the crowd that night, definitely a show to remember.)
If you get discouraged by rejection, imagine being The Beatles in 1962, turned down by just about every record label in the land. You are losing patience with your manager Brian Epstein, as he trudges off to one more meeting, at Parlophone (a division of EMI, who have already rejected you once) …
These people didn’t stop at wishful thinking or working hard at a predictable career.
They didn’t just think different, they acted different. They took Lateral Action.
And they did it all with no guarantee of success. Because stardom is a risky business – as we’ll see in the next post…
Your Path to Stardom
What’s your biggest success so far?
When did you first dream of doing it?
What obstacles did you encounter?
How did you deal with fear?
What did success cost you?
What did you learn from that experience, that will contribute to your future success?
About the Author: Mark McGuinness is a poet and creative coach.