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Friday, October 28, 2011

Misguided Notions and the Death of Dreams

Photo: Marcin Wichary
I enjoy watching TV shows like American Idol and The X Factor. Music is medicine for the soul and seeing an obscure artist get his or her big shot on shows like these is satisfying. It’s the perfect mixture of talent, hard work and opportunity – much like any other successful endeavor in life. But sometimes contestants lose perspective.

Tim Cifers is the perfect example. He’s a 30-year-old sales manager who loves to sing country music. He made it to the final 32 on The X Factor USA recently and before he performed for the chance to move to the final 16 (and a shot to perform live), he made these comments:

“I’m just your everyday country guy. I live the same life every day – just in and out – working at my job, but my dream is not to sell beer every day for a living. My dream is to perform in front of huge audiences and give my family the life they deserve. I don’t want to give music up. I don’t want to fail at having my dream come true.

“My family at home is just so supportive. You know, I want to make them proud too. So, this is a big step. If I got a no today, it would just mean going back home and going back to work and it would almost be like everything’s gone out the window. This is my one shot. I can’t quit my job because I’ve got to put food on that table and I’ve got to support my family. This decision determines the rest of my life.”

Cifers’ perspective is off in so many areas.

First, his dream to perform in front of huge audiences so he can give his family the life they deserve sounds noble. But true artists have something to say and when their talent and hard work meet opportunity, sometimes they get to share their message with huge crowds – not the other way around.

Second, he’s 30 years old. He doesn’t have to give up music. If he loves it, he can continue to pursue it while he’s earning a living selling beer to support his family.

Third, receiving a no – which did happen, by the way – is not failure. Failure in this case would be quitting an activity he loves.

Fourth, healthy families are not proud of one another based on success, but rather, they are proud of one another when they do the right thing. Cifers is providing for his family. That’s something to be proud of. The fact that he chased a dream on The X Factor is something to be cheered by his family, but receiving a no in the round of 32 shouldn’t, and presumably, won’t change how proud they are of him.

Fifth, going back home and going back to work isn’t a death sentence. Work is noble. And it’s almost as if he believes being a recording artist isn’t going to be “work,” or even monotonous at times.

Sixth, he can’t definitively say this is his one shot. It may indeed have been his biggest and best shot. But there’s another contestant in the competition who is 60. He understands what one (last) shot means.

As contestant after contestant on these shows say similar things, it makes me wonder what our kids are thinking as they watch. Are their parents correcting these misguided notions? I hope so. But I can’t help but wonder about the kids whose idea of success is being shaped by these contestants. Are they going to miss the fact that sometimes the death of a dream provides fertile ground for a new dream to be born?


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