Lessons from a high school talent show

My middle son David was recently one of the performers in his high school talent show. He did a beautiful job singing “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch” from the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” movie.

But while I am very proud of the job my son did, what got this post started rolling around in my head was watching the entire evening and observing the wide range of talent displayed. From a drum duet to a baton twirling act, there was something different happening every few minutes.

One of my observations has to do with the interesting clash between the apparent popularity of a given performer and the quality of the actual performances. For example, one singer who was clearly one of the popular kids based on the way the audience reacted before the song began, was flat about half of the song; meanwhile another singer who garnered a much more tepid reaction from the audience absolutely nailed her performance.

Thinking about the evening, I started with the observation that it’s inevitable any talent show featuring high school students is going to have a wide variety of talent levels demonstrated. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this isn’t just true about high school talent shows, it applies to the whole of life including our work in voiceover.

Each of us has categories of work where we shine most brightly and others where the light isn’t quite so sharp. Does this mean we should only do the stuff at which we’re best? That’s one way to go for sure, but I would submit it’s not the only one.

From the most polished to the least, each act I saw in my son’s talent show was presented with real passion and a desire to please the audience. And more important, by someone who pushed past his or her fears to get on the stage and perform. So, don’t fence yourself into a pen that’s artificially small. Stretch your wings. Take a chance. And then another.

You might land on your face and end up feeling foolish. So what? You took a risk. And that puts you miles ahead of the masses who never get past their fears. Who never step into the spotlight and let it all hang out.


  1. Bob: This is a great article. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and perspective. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” -John Augustus Shedd

    Comment by Dustin Ebaugh — December 14, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

  2. Thanks for this, Bob. Your post reminded me of a favorite quote of Teddy Roosevelt’s:
    “It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

    Comment by Kevin Scheuller — December 14, 2013 @ 9:42 pm

  3. Dustin and Kevin,

    Great quotes, each of you. Thank you for adding to the conversation!

    Be well,

    Comment by Bob — December 15, 2013 @ 12:47 am

  4. […] My middle son David was recently one of the performers in his high school talent show. He did a beautiful job singing “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch” from the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” movie.  […]

    Pingback by Lessons from a high school talent show | Voiceo... — December 16, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

  5. Bob, love your thoughts at the end, great article.

    So many people stick within their comfort zone and wonder why they never achieve anything, mainly because they fear what others think and what happens if they screw up. Truth is, nearly all other people are to concerned with their own world to worry about whether you mess up or not, its all in our heads.

    Your final words made me smile, ‘let it all hang out!’

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


    Comment by Neil Williams — December 18, 2013 @ 6:40 am

  6. Neil,

    Thank you for your kind comments! Merry Christmas to you and may you have a very prosperous New Year!

    Be well,

    Comment by Bob — December 18, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

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