“You should feel like you’re carrying around a duffel bag with a heat-seeking missile in it.”
Taylor Swift gave this advice for how to own the stage and dominate the opportunity of being on one of the most successful TV shows today, The Voice. The singer-songwriter superstar has obviously broken the code on seizing the opportunity—and by the age of 24.
On the surface, The Voice is a reality singing competition that features famous judges and mentors, such as Swift, who offer advice to the contestants on their team. On another level, the show is really about grabbing the chance you’ve been given, coaching others to the next level, teaching them how to win, how to become a star.
While I genuinely enjoy the music each week, I have also gathered subtle lessons on creating an amazing career. Here are five:
1. Keep evolving and stay fresh.
The show appeared on the scene in 2011 when American Idol and X Factor were big, yet showing signs of a tired and fading format. The Voice held tight to the singing competition that audiences loved, but it embraced a more positive tone of coaching contestants. Rather than adopt Idol’s shtick of laughing at the weakest performers, it only invited those who deserved to be there. And with the new and positive twist of the judges’ chair turn for their favorite voices, The Voice anticipated the emerging views of the audience and beat them there with a fresh new take on a familiar concept.
Past success isn’t an indicator of future success. In fact, past success is just the reason to seek the next evolution and new perspective on your career. Don’t settle in just because you have initial success.
2. Opportunity has no timetable, so be ready.
The Voice contestants have one chance to make it to the live competition. They must seize the opportunity when it appears—they don’t get to choose the timing.
Business and careers are much the same way. If we wait until we are “ready,” the open door might close before we get to it. When you meet the right advocate, see an opening for a new business opportunity or find that your dream job has opened up, it’s time to move. Anticipate so that you are ready when you need to be, not when you want to be.
3. Don’t be fooled by age or experience.
Experience and age don’t equal wisdom and expertise. There are 15-year-old contestants who own the stage with musical instincts that defy logic. How can such a young and inexperienced person grab this unique opportunity with such ease? These young performers have confidence, an ability to tune out fears and distractions, along with incredible natural talent.
Yes, we need experts with deep know-how at times, but we need to learn to value the contribution, not the age or experience. In many fields, such as the arts, media and entrepreneurship, not having years of experience in “how it’s done” might just be the positive difference-maker.
4. Small things can be big things.
In The Voice mentoring sessions, you see the influence of an established artist’s advice to the contestants, even on matters that seem small at first. Changing up the musical arrangement, dropping the guitar, owning the stage or a Gwen Stefani makeover can significantly impact results.
Remember the small things, like keeping a positive workplace attitude, really listening to your clients and taking time to stay in touch with your network. These types of things don’t automatically pop up as top priorities on your to-do list each day, so they can tend to feel optional. But remember the small things—they hold substantial power in moving your career forward.
5. Be you everywhere.
If there is one common theme for me on The Voice, it’s that the judges and their team members who are true to themselves usually get the best results. Blake Shelton doesn’t hide his country roots and, as if he were family, he genuinely takes care of everyone on his team. Pharrell Williams, comfortable in his own skin, has a natural ability to connect with the new singers. And as a new judge, he built a great team by not relying on his success or ego but his ability to focus on the contestants, making it about them rather than him.
Walk in your own shoes. Being yourself will bring more success than trying to be someone else—and you’ll be a lot less exhausted.