Friday, April 17, 2009

Great Scot: From Obscurity to Celebrity


In February of this year, I was at Soccomm, a conference organized by Jeff Pulver that examines the role of social media and communications. At the conference Jeff opened his talk on the subject of the "importance and power of vulnerability". "Vulnerability", as he defined it, was that it was important to share the human side of yourself in the social network that you belong to. He further defined it as "You have to put your guard down when you want to connect to people so that they do not doubt your true intentions and see you for the person that you are". The subtlety of this definition was hard to explain until this past week. I cannot find a better example of Jeff Pulver's definition of "vulnerability". That example or person is Susan Boyle.

If you have not heard of Susan Boyle by now, you have probably been hiding under a rock for the last one week. Over the last few days, Susan Boyle has emerged as a household name. She has gone from being a nobody to being an instant celebrity. What amazes me is that this 47 year old single woman came determined to audition for the "Britain's Got Talent" show and was undeterred by the negative atmosphere surrounding the few minutes before she sang her rendition of "I dreamed a dream" from Les Misérables.

Some stats for you here: Note that these numbers may be irrelevant or outdated by the time you read them. The total views of all her audition videos are now over 20 Million. Yes, in a matter of one week: She has garnered 20 million views on youtube, her name is the top-ranking trend on twitter, She has quite a few Facebook fan pages , a Wikipedia page and a fan page at On top of that, she is on every major news network and constantly being hounded for interviews. I am sure she can handle the onslaught of the media pressure as cooly as she handled her audition.

What I want to bring out here is the example Susan sets for entrepreneurs in all walks of life. She set out with a purpose because she made a promise to her mother to do something with her life. Susan boyle let her guard down, became "vulnerable" and stepped up to the plate. She did not let her age or the long odds be a deterrent to her own dreams. At every step of the audition process, it seemed like she was being setup for failure. She was mocked by the crowds and the judges, her pre-audition interviews, the choice of the video snippet the program producers decided to roll (that of her eating) and the fact the crowds groaned in discomfort and laughter at who she wanted to be "Elaine Paige", envisioning the fool that she was going to make of herself.

All that lasted a mere 10 seconds into her rendition of the song and she blew away each and every doubter in that audience. In quick stattaco like bursts, she won over waves and waves of audiences and melted their hearts. At the end of it, she had obliterated the maniacal "pitt-bull" doubters and beat them into loving puppy-dogs. Key take away from this for entrepreneurs is that If you have a dream, do not be scared of saying who you are (be vulnerable) and what you want to do. Doubters will remain doubters and you must pursue your goals and dreams and not be deterred by challenges. Susan Boyle, I don't care if you win the contest or not, in my book you are already a winner for you are living proof that talent can defy perceptions, age and expectations.

In ending I want to say, that sometimes "vulnerability" is viewed as a weakness, but in fact the openness and candor of a person is actually more powerful than any perceived weakness. I borrow this quote from Jim Rohm, "If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary"

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