20 seconds. It took 20 seconds, from hitting the “play” button on the recording to start the song for Susan Boyle to convince 3 skeptical judges and a doubting audience that she did, in fact, have a voice, and could dream a dream. There are now millions who have watched the clip on television and the Internet, who have cried and laughed and felt good seeing this plain-spoken woman astound the venerable Simon Cowell—and us.
What’s the attraction? And why am I and you just like her..or how can we be? Saying she’s authentic, well, it sounds right, but what does that mean, really? I think it’s more valuable to look at the symbolic reference, or what Susan Boyle is as an archetype: she is “everyman“, a person who wouldn’t stand out in a crowd, has no great distinguishing physical characteristics (by outward appearance), rather “ordinary” or “plain”. Her life story seems to be an unremarkable tale: a single woman, close to her parents, never married, in fact never has been kissed. Doen’t that already set us up for a great story, either way? She could be something wonderful we are about to discover, or a complete loser who we take into our hearts (remember William Hung on American Idol?) Didn’t we give him just as much attention for his hopelessly naive performance of “She Bang“?
So there’s a larger story, and it’s not just about those who are successful despite all odds, or surprise by being good at something they shouldn’t be able to do, or even by being as awful as we expected. It is when we see ourselves in them, our frailty, our commonness, the things that make us so LIKE each other, that makes us interested in hearing what they have to say. When our defensive wall is down, when our genuine enthusiasm is on display, and when we fervently believe we have something to give, we are interesting to others. Show your enthusiasm, your passion, your belief in your work, your products, whatever you want the world to see that you create, and you’ll be memorable. This is the lesson of Susan Boyle, and she has inspired me to “dream a dream” too.