What Les Mis Taught Me About How To Win

Samantha-Barks-150x150I skived off one wintry afternoon to go and see Les Miserables at the cinema. I had no idea what to expect because I had never seen the stage show or engaged with the score much, except by accident. Something happened during the film which caused me to sit up and pay attention.

There was a girl with the tiniest waist I have ever seen. She was playing Eponine and as she walked up a cobbled street in the rain, singing up a storm, I suddenly recognised her, or thought I did. I came home and did a bit of Googling to discover that yes, I was right, she was one of the Nancies on the BBC talent show in 2008. You know, the shows where Andrew Lloyd-Webber searches for a star to play the leading role in his upcoming productions?

Her name is Samantha Barks and she came third in that programme. And now she’s a winner. And then some!

Actually my head must have not been in the game because she didn’t go directly from “losing” the talent show to getting a coveted Hollywood film role. She has been working ever since it seems – as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, as one of the Nancies in rep, as Eponine in the stage show of Les Mis too. And then she beat off Taylor Swift to get the coveted film role.

But back to me, sitting in the dark, before I knew all that, thinking… “Wow! What a leap! Talk about how to leverage a failure into a success!” and other such exclamatory thoughts.

There’s a bit of a trend for those who come second and third and even lower down still in the talent shows to go on to have successful careers so SB isn’t the first. But what I realised is this:

  • You have to risk ‘losing’ and tearful disappointment in front of a big prime time Saturday night audience (or the entrepreneurial equivalent)
  • You have to put yourself out there and risk failure – or success.
  • You have to be brave or ambitious or both.
  • The thought of never achieving your ambitions has to be worse than your fears.

Samantha is only 23 and perhaps this is easier when you are younger, assessing the various risks and going for it. It does seem brave to enter competitions and risk knock backs and do it on a highly visible stage, as many of us fear the internet is. But it’s also a very noisy and crowded space and in the end you have to trust that the right people will find you. And in Samantha’s example that’s clearly what happened.

She wasn’t right initially for Nancy but it led her to Eponine. The first was on the London and UK touring stage, the second was a global big budget Hollywood film nominated for Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Oscars and had her acting alongside a raft of international talent both in front of the camera and behind it. Just imagine what that’s going to do for her career.

What’s the moral of this story? We never know where anything will lead, but we have to get out of our comfort zone first. You’ve got to be in it to win it, to “win” anything you want. You’ve got to step up and play. Participate. Risk. You’ve gotta have a go.

Where are you holding yourself back from competing and how that might be limiting your success in your business?

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