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Opinions of Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Columnist: Albert & Comfort Ocran

Taking your talent to the highest level

Susan Boyle is a Scottish singer who gripped the world’s attention when she appeared as a contestant on the TV programme Britain's Got Talent in April 2009.

Boyle captivated the world because of the stark contrast between her powerful mezzo-soprano voice and her plain almost bland appearance on stage. Her looks, dressing, gait and size were the very opposite of what the entertainment world had come to love and expect.

The juxtaposition of the audience's first impression of her, with the standing ovation she received during and after her performance, led to an international media and internet blitz.

Within nine days of the audition, videos of Boyle—from the show, various interviews and her 1999 rendition of "Cry Me a River"—had been watched over 100 million times. Her audition video has been viewed on the internet several hundred million times.

Her first album was released in November 2009 and debuted as the number one best-selling CD on charts around the globe and the UK’s best-selling debut album of all time. In her first year of fame, Boyle made a fortune of £5 million.

Born in Scotland in April 1961 to Patrick - a miner, war veteran and singer - and Bridget, a shorthand typist, Boyle was briefly deprived of oxygen during the difficult birth and was later diagnosed as having learning difficulties.

After leaving school with few qualifications, she was employed for the only time in her life as a trainee cook for six months during which she performed at local venues.

Boyle took singing lessons from voice coach Fred O'Neil. She attended Edinburgh Acting School and took part in the Edinburgh Fringe. Prior to Britain's Got Talent, her main experience had come from singing in her local Catholic church.

In 1999, she recorded a track for a charity CD to commemorate the Millennium. Only 1,000 copies of the CD, Music for a Millennium Celebration, Sounds of West Lothian, were pressed. In 1999, Boyle used all her savings to pay for a professionally cut demo, copies of which she later sent to record companies, radio talent competitions, local and national TV.

‘It doesn't pay to be good at something unless you are the absolute best at it.” - Josh Lieb

So what made someone who seemed to have the talent and nothing else make it so big? How could she break into the entertainment world and the top of the charts at the ripe age of almost fifty? Did her appearance not matter? Was she a one-off star or was there more to her than met the eye?

These are some of the questions that typically engage us when we discuss the issue of talents and natural abilities. How does one get to the very top? Is a raw talent enough? What does one do to climb higher than several others with the same natural abilities languishing at the anonymous base of the ladder?

As long as there are people in the world, there will be diverse talents. If that were enough, everyone would reach their potential. What is often missing is that extra set of things people need in addition to talents. Many today place a lot of emphasis on talent alone in selecting people to employ or promote.

Renowned leadership expert John C. Maxwell contends that this is the wrong way to approach success. “If talent alone is enough, then why do you and I know highly talented people who are not highly successful?”

Society’s landscape is strewn with people who could have been great achievers but are yet to take off in life. Growing up, you may have had compatriots who showed amazing promise but never reached their full potential.

For every conceivable field, you will find people probably more naturally talented than the top stars but who remain largely unnoticed. Strewn among the folklore singers in the village, the artists who sketch by the roadside and the boys who practise their football on stony pitches every day are amazingly talented gems yet to be discovered and polished.

For some, their talents will never be noticed and any lingering dreams of top-level exposure could eventually end up being mirages.

On the other hand, one can point to Ozwald Boateng, David Beckham, Maya Angelou, Bono, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Lionel Messi, Susan Boyle, Usain Bolt, Haile Gebrselassie, Larry King and several others in various fields who polished their talents and became global icons in the process.

Having a natural ability or talent is definitely not enough. Here are some pointers for those who wish to climb to the highest level by multiplying and maximising their talent and improving the world around them in the process. They can serve as a step-by-step guide for moving from an obscure beginning point to becoming a world-class performer.

1. Mission Alignment. There is a correlation between your talent and your God-given mission. Once you've identified your dominant natural talent, you want to give it a certain thrust by connecting it to your ultimate purpose here on earth.

The purpose of your life is to discover your talents, use them to enrich the lives of those who get into contact with you and to make this world a better place.

2. Skill Development. A talent is a good starting point for anything, but the advantage only lasts for a short while. If you rely only on your natural abilities, others who are less talented than you will soon catch up with and overtake you.

A skill is “the learned capacity to carry out pre-determined results often with the minimum outlay of time, energy, or both.” When your talent is developed into a skill, you are more complete and able to regularly generate better results or higher output. If talent is the art, then skill is the science of performance.

3. Continuous Improvement. The most successful and highest paid performers are often people who are continuously perfecting their craft by practice, rehearsals and incessant improvement.

Atukwei Okai’s poetry, David Beckham’s free kicks, Ebo Whyte’s plays, Lionel Messi’s dribbling, Kofi Akpabli’s writing and any skill that is respected and celebrated is not just a product of natural talent or ability, but also of consistent rehearsal, practice and regular preparation. Your talent can only become a well-honed skill if you spend time practising it every day.

4. A Global Perspective. A person preparing to compete in the Olympic Games will go to greater extents than if he or she were preparing for a local athletic meet. Don’t aspire to only be a local champion.

Whether you are a designer, organiser, speaker, writer or singer, set your heights on becoming the world number one in your field. It may sound ridiculous to even conceptualise such heights from an obscure local base, but there are enough stories of people who rose from obscurity to prominence to confirm that your nationality, creed, race, language or location cannot prevent you from reaching the highest level.

Dream big!!! Imagine yourself featuring on the New York Times bestselling list or at the Top of the Charts. What about receiving an Oscar, a Pulitzer Prize, a Dove Award, a Grammy, a Nobel Peace prize or granting an interview on CNN, BBC or some other global network after a great accomplishment? Hide that picture in the your heart and let it energise you as you develop your talent on a daily basis.

To Be Continued.

*Albert & Comfort Ocran are Executive coaches, authors, media educators and ministers. This article is culled from their bestselling book, “The 5-Talent Mentality.” The writers can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.