achieving greatness

Paul Potts won “Britain’s Got Talent” a few months ago. If you aren’t familiar with that show, or its American copy (I wasn’t) you can skip watching it and just go to YouTube to see his performance [warning – launches a video]. Potts was a cell phone salesman who appeared on the show. Suffice it to say he’s no male model. He is chunky, with bad teeth and plain features. His accent seemed fairly strong to me (I don’t know how it would seem to someone from the UK). His demeanor on hitting the stage in front of three judges (one of them the infamous Simon from American Idol, a show I have never watched but hear about incessantly at work) was fearful. He took the stage and offered to sing “Nessun Dorma.” The judges rolled their eyes and the crowd murmured apprehensively, wondering why he wasn’t singing the latest from Atomic Kitten or Coldplay.

“Nessun Dorma” means “let no one sleep” and it has always been associated with the recently deceased Luciano Pavarotti [warning – launches a video], one of the most popular (if not the most technically brilliant) tenors in opera. It was also the theme song of the 1990 World Cup. Many people are also aware of it because of Andrea Bocelli’s version of it [warning – launches a video].

I am no opera fan – I fell asleep watching “Die Fledermaus” in the Munich Opera House once. I might stick on a Three Tenors concert if I cruised by PBS while channel surfing, but it is definitely an acquired taste. To listen to Potts sing “Nessun Dorma,” therefore, was just a minute’s idle curiousity for me.

He was amazing. The version he sings feels as if it had been ripped straight out of his chest. I could tell that his voice quivered here and there and maybe some of the notes were slightly off, but the raw emotion and force of his singing just blew me away. The judges were taken aback in amazement. The crowd exploded. He went on to win the competition.

Critics have argued over the years that Pavarotti and Bocelli are not technically proficient singers, and they will argue the same about Potts. Bocelli, in particular, is more of a pop sensation than a critical darling. However, if you are not an opera expert and you have ever heard Bocelli sing, you know that some of his songs are beautiful almost beyond bearing. Again, keep in mind I am no opera fan… but I’ve seen him twice in concert and his singing is heartfelt and emotional and engaging. Pavarotti was often accused of being lazy and just trying to ‘sing along with the music’ but he almost single-handedly dragged opera into a wider mass market audience. Potts will no doubt be torn apart by critics claiming he’s technically deficient and only the recipient of a brief 15-minutes-of-fame phenomenon.

I believe all three of these men demonstrate something important, though. You do not have to be the smartest person to be the most successful. You do not have to be the most handsome to be the most popular. You do not have to be the most beautiful to be the most beloved. You do, however, have to project passion and life into whatever it is that you do. You will seldom find anyone at the top of their career or their avocation or their lives who do not have a singular passion. Finding that passion lifts them beyond the merely technically proficient. In sports, in politics, in business and most importantly in life people with this passion are successful.

So if you do not have a degree from the best school, or lack movie-star looks, or suffer from a handicap or don’t have enough time to do what you want, remember that somewhere out there someone with an even greater deficit of abilities than you is striving with all of their might to bring their passion to others. Don’t listen to the critics. Ask yourself – what is your passion, and what can you do today to fan those flames just a little bit higher?

3 comments

  • FWIW his accent isn’t at all strong. A trace of Bristol / West Country I guess, but nothing to write home about.

    I’m not into reality tv / talent shows so I didn’t watch this in the original, it don’t think it shows that talent will out, but you’re right that without the passion he clearly has, the talent would never have been seen.

  • Powerful post. I think I will come back and read that last paragraph you wrote when I am feeling sorry for myself or on the so-called “Pity Pot”.

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