Susan Boyle: Becoming a star at 47

Susan Boyle was 47 years old when people underestimated her for the last time. She was shy and a little bit plump. And had got on “Britains Got Talent” show to sing. Not one person in the crowd expected her to do well.

But then she opened her mouth and out came the most angelic performance of “I dreamed a dream.” The audience gave her a standing ovation. The judges were blown away. And Boyle became a star overnight!

But with such a powerful voice, why did she not get any breakthrough before she was 47?

“If you put an acorn in a 2 feet pot, it will never become an oak tree.” – Steve Harvey

The seed isn’t the problem. The environment is. The potential of the acorn seed is met only if it is freed of constraints. 

Boyle came from a small town. Her family wasn’t rich. Being the youngest of 10 kids, Boyle didn’t have a lot of resources. She had learning difficulties and so didn’t advance with her studies. And then she took care of her ailing mother, which meant she was geographically restricted to her small town in Scotland.

She won a lot of local competitions. And when she was 37 years old, she spent all of her savings booking studio time and recording a professionally cut demo. But it was one of the 100 cds that record companies get everyday, and it went unnoticed.

The constraints to success

There are two types of constraints. Space based. And time based. As historian philosopher Will Durant describes it, space objectively is the possibility of motion. And time is the possibility of change.

So the constraints people face are when things are not happening. Or when the timing is not right. And Boyle faced both the issues till her big break.

How do you reduce these constraints?

Space based constraints: making things happen

Things don’t move because of 3 main constraints:

  1. Not knowing the right people or platform. Things didn’t move for Boyle in her small town in Scotland because there was no way to connect to the right people that make things happen. You’ve got to go where action happens. You’ve got to network. Find mentors and help. And get on the biggest platforms there are for your field.
  2. Not enough resources. Boyle had money for just one demo tape. When that failed, she was out of savings and she gave up on her dream for a long time. Savings and building a safety net is paramount to chase your dreams. You have to sacrifice and give up on things you want in the short term, to chase your long term dreams.
  3. Not the right skills. While Boyle didn’t suffer from this issue, many folks do. They just don’t have the right skills to make it, but no one tells them, or they are too proud and affected by sunk cost fallacy to pivot.

Time based constraints: timing the opportunities

  1. Poor planning. Boyle didn’t plan around taking care of her family. She gave no time to her dream and only went on Britain’s Got Talent after her mother passed away. A lot of good ideas die because they are not watered on time.
  2. Not being open to new adventures. Boyle almost didn’t go to Britain’s Got Talent because she thought they would look at only young and hot singers for television. Thankfully, her ex-vocal coach Fred O’Neil pushed her and she went.
  3. Mental and physical health. Boyle almost dropped the ball. After coming in second in Britain’s Got Talent and winning so much fame, she suffered a mental breakdown. She was admitted to a private psychiatric clinic in London for 3 days the day after the final. She was emotionally drained. But somehow she got over it and recovered. 

But not everyone’s been so lucky. For example Adriano Ribeiro was the next big soccer superstar to come from Brazil. He scored 28 goals in 42 games in his first year while playing for Inter Milan in Europe. But then tragedy struck and his father passed away. Ribeiro spiralled into depression and alcoholism and never made it back. 

Boyle was so close to suffering from the same predicament. But thankfully she recovered. And could go on the Britain’s Got Talent 24 city tour and create a career out of her TV appearances. 

Susan Boyle recorded her first album which went on to break all records for fastest selling debut album of all time in Britain – selling over 400,000 copies!

Action Summary:

  • If you already possess a valuable skill, then audit for space and time based constraints to see what is keeping you back. 

Quote Unquote

“You need to build three things:
1. A network 
2. An extremely valuable skill
3. Your own capital (cash)”
– Nick Huber