My Sort-of American Idol Story

At twenty-two years old, I moved to Florida to work for one of the largest private real estate developers. This company had it all: luxurious events, world-class amenities, and a company culture with the motto, “Work hard, play harder.”

As a way to build employee morale, they hosted a spinoff of American Idol, encouraging employees to take a shot at becoming the next big thing.

They set up an elaborate stage and flew in Tom Arnold to host the party.

And here, at twenty-two, in front of my colleagues, I find myself on deck. And although it may sound made up, I have the pictures to prove it.

With my trusty guitar in hand, I stroll up on stage in front of hundreds of people. This is my shot.

Epic. Fail.

Have you ever been on stage, in front of hundreds of people, and heard crickets?

Well, I have. It’s not fun. Especially when Tom Arnold is beside you imitating Simon Cowell.

I promise he wasn't singing along with me

He wasn’t singing along with me…

In a moment of weakness, I made a last-minute song change. My normal, Edwin McCain/Jack Johnson/John Mayer routine wasn’t going to have enough fire power to win the audience; or so I believed.

At the suggestion of one of my superiors, I opted for an acoustic spin-off of Eminem’s Lose Yourself into AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long.

To this day, I can’t hear the classic 80s tune and not laugh. It was like the audience was watching a bad movie and they responded with crickets.

I kept my head up despite the fact that my tail was tucked between my legs and my heart had sunk into the pit of my stomach.

Quite frankly, it wasn’t that my performance was bad, it’s that it wasn’t me.

In a moment of weakness, I abandoned me to imitate someone else.

While a crowd likes to be entertained, they are really dying for authenticity. The crowd wants to see someone who isn’t willing to sellout their story. When you sellout the best case scenario is, fleeting, short-lived fame—a flash-in-the-pan.

The good news is, sometimes it takes crickets to find out who you are.

I wasn’t being myself and I knew it, I was playing to what I thought the audience wanted. When it wasn’t received and I heard the silence, I knew it immediately.

Therein lies the solution for you.

When you’re being you and you hear crickets, it motivates you. It builds character and causes you to sharpen your skills. Grow. Learn.

When you’re selling out and you hear crickets, it defeats you. It painfully reminds you that you’re not telling your story.

The one thing we all want to see is someone being genuine. Someone who isn’t willing to sacrifice themselves for another’s opinion. Call it transparency, call it authenticity. When we see it, we have the ability to recognize it and even if we don’t fully agree, we can appreciate it.

However, when someone is putting up a facade, or hiding behind their fears, they stand out in a painfully obvious display of impersonation. There may be a short-lived version of material success, but we’ve seen that story too many times. The light always exposes the darkness.

So today, if you’re hearing crickets, remember this: everyone needs to hear crickets at some point. Crickets have the opportunity to tell you a great story if you’ll only listen to their chirping. In fact, they can help you tell YOUR story better.

My encouragement to you today would be this: go hear crickets. Do something audacious and see how the crowd responds. Keep pushing, keep being authentic, keep hearing crickets and I promise that you’ll go far.

You have to get through the crickets to hear the applause.


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7 Responses to My Sort-of American Idol Story

  1. foreveryoung1 April 11, 2014 at 7:23 am #

    Very insightful! Sounds like a painful experience, but I hear the warning: I wasn’t being myself and I knew it, I was playing to what I THOUGHT the audience wanted. Lord, deliver me from giving what I THINK my audience wants rather than who You’ve made me to be.

    • Matt Ham April 11, 2014 at 9:43 am #

      Yes – we play for an audience of One, right?!

  2. Bob Speakman April 11, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    This. 100% perfect advice for EVERYONE who is working towards a dream. Thank you for being honest… Love the pic of you and Tom!!

    • Matt Ham April 11, 2014 at 10:51 am #

      Thanks Bob! He was actually very gracious, but his wittiness was spot on! I appreciate you stopping by and glad you enjoyed the post. What are you dreaming on?

      • Bob Speakman April 11, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

        Would love to say I have a clear picture… but that’s part of my journey now. Blogging it as I go ( 🙂

  3. Mike Loomis September 29, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

    I wish I would have known this about you sooner… 😉 Seriously – GREAT story and great point. >>> When you’re being you and you hear crickets, it motivates.

  4. Jill Barlow August 28, 2015 at 6:25 am #

    Thank you for always being authentic! I try to live that way too.