My family and I came very late to the American Idol party, but last year we started watching it as a family activity. We had an informal betting pool, and my middle child picked Phillip Phillips and won a vegetarian lasagna dinner (her prize of choice!).
This year, even though I have Angie in the family betting pool, Candice Glover is the contestant who’s caught my interest. Candice was cut last year but returned this year showing strong improvement in both her singing and song choices and now is one of only four contestants left.
Candice Glover was already a good singer last year, though.
So what did she do differently in the intervening year to be one of the four remaining competitors in a very tough field?
I believe she upped her game by engaging in deliberate practice.
In the promo stuff for Idol, they’ve had several clips about Candice’s reaction to getting cut last year. When cut, most contestants blame outside forces; bad breaks and health issues are common. Candice’s response was different. Candice said: I didn’t bring my “A” game. I didn’t do enough to impress the judges, and finally, this insight: “I was trying to be everything to everyone instead of being myself.”
In the last year, I believe Candice figured out who she was and tailored her practice of music accordingly.
This is the essence of deliberate practice.
In his book, Talent is Overrated, Geoff Colvin defines deliberate practice as focused practice, just beyond your comfort zone, that is repeated, refined and constantly re-evaluated. It’s hard work. Most of us are content to go through the motions of practice, not do this kind of uncomfortable self-monitoring.
Deliberate practice is what separates good performances from great ones, though.
Candice is the best, among a strong field, at becoming one with the songs she chooses. She makes me believe the emotions she’s singing about.
Listen to her cover of The Cure’s Lovesong. Yeah, she uses her r&b vocal chops in this. She has excellent control of her “instrument.” But what sets this performance apart is the emotion, the seamless coherence between technique and feeling. And that’s the result, in my opinion, of deliberate practice.
How do you make yourself stand out in this life? That’s been a part of our family discussion this year as we watch American Idol.
Telling your kids they can be or do anything they want if they just work hard enough may seem like you’re being positive and encouraging.
It’s just not enough. You must engage in the right kind of practice.
And that’s why I love American Idol.
But what’s going on at your house? Is there a show that stimulates a lot of good discussion? Please share. I’d love to hear from you.