One of the most interesting moments in the early “audition” episodes of American Idol is when one of the contestants has been so bad, that the judges are actually left speechless. They would critique or offer comment, or even just simply dismiss the off-key warbler, but they just sit there incredulously wondering what this person must be thinking to go through the trouble of standing in line for hours, singing for different producers and now, being put on the air for the express purpose of looking ridiculous.
Now, according to past participants, American Idol tells all contestants that only the very best AND the very worst will be put on television. And so, as the singer finishes an ear piercing a cappella rendition of a favorite song, it dawns on the judges that this singer…actually thinks he is really good.
And so, instead of making a statement, one of them asks a question, “So, what usually happens when you sing?" Or "How is your singing usually received?” And the answer, nearly every time is, “People love it. Everybody thinks I am great. All my friends think I am going to be a big star.”
And one look at their shocked and dismayed faces when the judges reject them makes it clear that they have either been lied to by too many or have been deluding themselves all along.
Now, of course, how much of their lives to this point have been self-delusion or grandiose collusion is hard to figure, but it does lead to my American Idol observation #2:
Most of us need to spend more time observing our impact.
Many of us rarely, if ever, pay attention to the actual effect that we have on those around us.
We intend to be encouraging to our children, but they actually experience us as being harsh and critical.
We think we are being sensitive, but our loved ones cower around us.
We believe that we are people of good humor, good graces, winning personalities and our charming conversationalists, but we leave people bored and distracted.
We think that we are good listeners but we haven’t even noticed that the person across the table hasn’t said anything for the last 20 minutes.
One of my mentors likes to say that while most of us judge ourselves by our intentions Others judge us by our impact. And no matter what our intentions may be (how many American Idol contestants have said, “I was just trying to have fun out there.”), we are judged, whether in singing or in any other endeavor, on the actual impact or effect we have on others.
More of us need someone in our life to hold up a mirror and show us what we actually look like, help us get beyond what we intend to do and show us instead the actual impact of our lives.