What We Can All Learn From American Idol

Posted by Todd Smith

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One of the things I enjoy doing with my family during our designated “family time” is to watch reality television shows. While reality TV has its critics, there are lessons to be learned.

Episodes of Amazing Race, Survivor, Shark Tank, Undercover Boss and American Idol have provided opportunities for thought provoking conversation with my children. Take this past season’s Amazing Race as an example. In one of the episodes, a husband and wife team “ran their mouths” without considering the impressions they were making on the other racers.

During the very next segment of the show, a team in front of this annoyingly team “U turned” the couple. For those of you who don’t watch the show, a U turn results in an extra challenge.  Their extra challenge entailed sending and receiving a SOS message using Morse code. Too difficult for the team, they came in last place and were sent home. Does this episode ring a bell for you? Do self-control, character, likability, attitude and respect come to my mind?

American Idol has also supplied me with many lessons to share with my children and none of them have anything to do with singing. Here are three lessons with one common theme, consistently portrayed for nine straight seasons.

Present yourself with confidence

Regardless of age or experience, it is so clear who has confidence and who does not. The performers who presented themselves with confidence, looked confident, acted confident, walked with confidence, sounded confident in their interviews and belted out the songs with confidence.

The judges, from the initial auditions to the finale, stressed the importance of presenting yourself with confidence.  Getting “America’s vote” was no different. The contestants with the most confidence were the ones who received the most votes week after week.

The big take-a-way here is that people can intuitively tell if you are confident in what you are doing or saying. Being confident is one thing. Portraying it is another.

A few words of caution. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Arrogant people are easy to identify. They are the ones who can’t stop telling everyone how good they are.

Start to be aware of how you present yourself through email, over the phone and in-person and consider how you can present yourself with more confidence.

Think before you speak

Making it to the top 4, contestant Michael Lynch proudly announced his goal was to make the top three. As soon as I heard his words, I told my family he was done. The judges commented on it as well and America voted him out on the very night his interview was aired.

I have noticed that each season’s top three finalists choose their words carefully. They know America is judging them by not only how well the sing and perform, but also by the things they say on camera.

Just as America is judging these contestants on what they say, the people around you are forming opinions of you based on the things you say.  Don’t allow yourself to get sloppy and say things without thinking about them first.

Accept bad news with dignity

Another common trait among the performers revealed itself during the judges’ critiques. The top performers never looked dismayed, discouraged or made excuses when critiqued by the judges. While deep down inside they may have been devastated, you couldn’t tell from their facial expressions or their verbal reactions. They understood the importance of having a “game face” and the importance of accepting constructive criticism.

Coping properly with bad news and being prepared to accept their fate became part of their personal brand. No way would America make someone the next American Idol if they whined, complained or made excuses.

As you go about your daily activities, remember that just as America is instinctively forming opinions of contestants on American Idol based on the way they present themselves, the people in your life are instinctively forming opinions of you based on how you present yourself.

If you will present yourself as a person worthy of getting America’s vote, you will win the respect and praise of those who are watching.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 34 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts.


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