What I learned from Whitney Houston
Just watch videos of her singing. She could belt out the most powerful, picth-perfect notes as if it were nothing. If I tried to hit the male equivalent of those notes the veins in my neck would stick out as if I were trying to regurgitate a whole watermelon. Whitney, though…she sang with poise, with passion and with power all while remaining completely “in control” during the song. It really was something to see.
The difficulty with effortlessness, though, is that it is never effortless. There is always a price to be paid for any inkling of greatness. Any attempt at the grandeur, meaning or the “otherworldliness” that people who seem “larger than life” possess, is always rooted in a whole lot of dirt, clay and dust. In other words, effortlessness is an illusion. In the 81-point game Kobe Bryant, of the Los Angeles Lakers, had against the Toronto Raptors on January 22, 2006 he missed 24 shots; He MISSED twice as many shots as any other player on the court even TOOK that night. For those of us who saw the game though, we will only remember the 81 points. No one sees the bodybuilder’s hours in the gym; just the body. No one sees the months practicing lines in front of a mirror, just the standing ovation at the end of the play. No one sees the scars left by the betrayal and heartbreak, just the preacher’s great sermon on forgiveness.
Kurt Cobain said, “The greatest songs come out of the greatest pain.” Not surprisingly then, to this author, one my favorite song performances of all time is Trent Reznick’s Hurt, as performed by Johnny Cash. It’s not that I dislike Trent’s version, I just think Johnny Cash “hurt” more, when I heard him sing it. His effortless song about pain, connects with the all the effort I have exerted in life to avoid it.
Ok, let me sum all this up in a few words. Maybe the lesson that Whitney Houston taught best was to shine in the public light, one must often first wrestle alone with the private darkness. Maybe its like my friend and mentor, Jeanne Mayo says, “You can relate to someone through your strengths, but you connect through your weaknesses.”
So, the next time you see some “larger than life” person who is seemingly effortless in their greatness, just remember….
Effortlessness isn’t effortless.