Talent Quest

  “To see things in the seedthat is genius.”  Lao-Tzu

 In the days before the story broke in the old media last Thursday you too may have seen on YouTube Susan Boyle wowing judges with her performance in Round 1 of the 2009 Britain’s Got Talent She sang “I dreamed a dream” from Les Miserables and by the end of it looked anything but.  

 The 47 Year old Scot probably thinks she’s still dreaming. When the story broke on TV 7 million had already viewed the video on-line, with initially skeptical judges and a cynical audience rising to their feet to applaud her enthralling debut. Two days later the on-line viewing audience was 17 million. Today it was 24 million.

 If you missed it-and it would be difficult, because television and radio had a field day over the next few days- check what the viewing number is now-and add one http://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY

 Of course, it is a great story- heart warming with great singing. Susan is unmarried, in fact, she disclosed, she had never been romantically kissed, and had given up her early singing plans to look after her parents. Her non-diva demeanour and apparently inflated pre-performance ambition to sing like Elaine Paige were forgotten from the moment she opened her mouth and sang like a bellbird. The transfixed audience acclaimed her performance from the first note in a way that couldn’t happen at Covent Garden.

The whole thing, of course, was very well stage-managed. The live audience, and possibly the judges, would have had no prior knowledge of her prowess but obviously the show’s producers knew the talent they had on their hands from the earlier auditions. The video cameras off and on stage were carefully directed to maximise the impact of comments and gestures before, during and after her rendition for what became edited into the 7 minute clip posted on YouTube. This was all a clever promotion for the show’s new season and will boost ratings wonderfully for the following rounds.

But why, despite the carefully orchestrated hoopla, does the episode still resonate with us?  Is it because we all secretly nurture or smother a talent which has not seen the light of day because of a lack of confidence or lack of commitment?

 As Barbara Kendall, New Zealand Olympic windsurfing Gold Medallist says  “Talent only takes you so far. You need planning, passion and 100% commitment to turn your dreams into reality.”            

Some people are highly talented, but not motivated. Others are highly motivated, but not talented.  Talent quest shows are littered with the slain corpses of aspiring celebrities, who had confidence by the bucket load but talent by the thimbleful.

Some children with genius potential are not identified as such at school.  They don’t fit into conformist education patterns and don’t necessarily demonstrate classroom competency at an above average level in some subjects. Their minds are literally elsewhere. They underachieve on what is being tested and have no real opportunity to prove their capabilities in their areas of talent.

Others are actively discouraged: A Munich schoolmaster told 10 years old Albert Einstein in 1889 “You will never amount to very much.”  Within 16 years he had formulated the special theory of relativity.

About the same time fellow Nobel prizewinner Ernest Rutherford, whose intellectual potential had been sparked in a sole teacher rural school in New Zealand, faced some post university challenges. In 1894 Rutherford was rejected for a teacher’s position at Christchurch Boys’ High School. It was enough to turn his mind to overseas academic research where he found his true vocation in collaborative research. The initial setback proved to be the waiting move at chess which open up new possibilities.

As Educationist Hazel Henderson has it: “Learning isn’t necessarily about curriculum in the schools. It’s about… really figuring out as early as you can in life what your passion is and what you want written on your tombstone. That leads you in a much more creative direction because you engage your entire energy.”

Facilitating this real talent quest is not just a job for teachers. We should all be on the lookout for people of all ages within our reach who have a talent to develop that we can detect in the seed and help nurture. The first step to competence is confidence: no matter what our own talents and skills, this is something we can all offer at the right time with the right perosn.

The reality show was the right time for Susan Boyle. Elaine Page has already suggested that the two join in a duet. That would really bring the  live house down and inflate YouTube’s viewing audience. 

In the meantime, perhaps Paul Potts, an earlier Britain’s Got Talent winner, could get together on stage with Susan and bring the pots to the boil.

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