American_Idol_logoA week ago today, American Idol crowned its final champion…

15 seasons in, I was like a lot of the fans who’d picked it up from time to time.

I wasn’t paying too much attention any more.

It was definitely a phenomenon.  It, more than any other show, was the quintessential modern American TV talent competition — and it broke a bunch of TV viewing records along the way.

I definitely got into it in some of the early seasons.  It was exciting.  It was entertaining.  And it featured a few really talented performers!

But what made it so exciting, so stimulating, so riveting was the competition.

We all wanted to know who was going to win.

There’s definitely some broader lessons that can come from watching that.

Well, I was scanning the news, and saw a clip from the final American Idol champion, Trent Harmon.

I watched it for a minute, and something he said stuck out.

“I didn’t expect to win, but I prepared to win.”

In just 10 words, he summed up one of the most important principles for competition.  Whether we’re talking singing, sports, business, or whatever endeavor.

A lot of people want to win.

A lot of people wish to win.

A lot of people play to win.

A lot of people hope to win.

A lot of people even expect to win.

But true champions prepare to win.

And further, they don’t show up cocky.  They don’t bring an attitude of expectation of the win to the field of play.  That’s how you get smoked by the underdog.  That’s how upsets happen.

No, champions prepare to win, and then play like they could still lose.

This isn’t the easy road…

Preparing to win means you put in your 10,000 hours.  It means you show up to practice early, and leave late.

It means you have to be prepared to do what others aren’t willing to do to get yourself ready for competition.

It means you do your 1% improvement, every week, until you’re untouchable.

It means you have to take on impossible challenges, fail, learn from them, and do better next time.

It means you’re going to have to get into fights where every odd suggests you’re going to lose…  And maybe you will…  And then you have to pick yourself up and try again…

Or, if you’re Trent Harmon, the new American Idol, it means you keep a little notebook of all the criticisms every judge give you — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and study that tirelessly, trying to improve.

Or, for Harmon, it means you try out for American Idol after failure to make it on another similar show.  After making it to final auditions for The Voice, leaving it all on the stage, waiting as no judge turns their chair, and then getting cut from the audition episode and not seeing yourself on TV.

You know yourself well enough to know you might not make it…

A lot is made of big and small egos.

I actually think most people use those terms wrong.

Your ego is your sense of self.  That’s the psychology definition, anyway.

A small ego is insecure, and needs to do things to make itself look bigger.  It’s people with small, fragile egos that brag and boast and make themselves out to be more than they are.

A big ego is sure and confident, and has a strong understanding of itself in relationship to the world.  People with big egos have quiet confidence in their training and ability to handle a situation, and know the only person they have to prove their worth to is themselves.

A small ego shows up assuming it’s going to win.

A big ego shows up assuming it could lose, and doing everything it can to make sure it doesn’t.

This is the essence of a true champion…

Here’s what I can tell you about Trent Harmon, the final American Idol champion.

If he hadn’t won, he would have kept on going.

When you don’t expect to win, but you prepare to win, that’s what you do.

When you fail, you get back out there and do it again.

The only person you’re really competing with is yourself.  You work your butt off to do better next time — whether you won or lost this time.

You don’t give up after failure — you recognize it as an opportunity to learn and improve.

I once heard that the average successful entrepreneur has 17 failures under their belt before they have their first big winner.

I don’t know if that number is true, but I believe it.  I know a bunch of entrepreneurs who’ve been kicked down and dirty, pushed out of the race many times over before they ever hit it big.  I know I’ve tried and failed at all sorts of side ventures, and continue to learn from those experiences as I create my current and future success.

And if it is true, perhaps it’s motivation or at least solace for you along the way.

So you try something and it doesn’t work out?  Great!  Only 16 more failures to slog through before your big breakthrough.  Time to move on to the next one!

Those 17 failures are your preparation for winning.

If you’re not willing to go through those, maybe you’re not cut out to be a winner after all.

But those who do, when their day comes, they’ll be ready to win.  And they might just have the right big ego attitude they need to pull it off.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr