Tuesday, February 14, 2012 / by Nathan Clark
Unless you were vacationing on a remote tropical island somewhere, you probably heard about what happened on February 11.
Singer Whitney Houston was found dead in a hotel room. She was 48 years old.
If you know anything about her – and if you didn’t but watched the news at all when she died – you know that she was a talented but troubled musical artist. It seems there are all too many of those throughout history: Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, and Kurt Cobain, to name a few.
It’s enough to make you wonder if there’s a correlation between being super-talented and troubled. Whitney’s troubles included domestic violence and substance abuse. Her disheveled appearance and reported erratic behavior in recent years made her death, even at such a young age, shocking but not surprising. People mourned her death as soon as it was announced, yet there were “Yeah, buts” everywhere.
But you know what? As soon as all the networks and websites started airing clips of her singing the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl in 1991, you stop with the “Yeah buts.” The woman opens her mouth and the sound that comes out of it makes everybody’s jaws drop. You listen and you realize that so very few people on earth can do that. The voice comes out, and you forget about the volatile marriage and the drugs. You are in awe of the talent. The rest melts away.
Maybe it’s sad that it takes someone dying before we all appreciate what talent they possessed when they were still with us. I prefer to think that early death provides the necessary jolt we need to see what’s around us. Sometimes, you have to stop the car to see the view for what it really is.
Now, cynics will say that society has a problem with what happens when famous people die young. Their lives are extinguished early, they might say, and people react as though death absolves them of their poor behavior in life. Michael Jackson comes to mind, as his death seemed to obliterate the memory of child-abuse allegations.
But famous people die all the time. And not every one of them is remembered or paid tribute to in the same manner. Fame alone is not a legacy. Talent is the legacy.
It’s important to remember that. So many people spend their time on this earth hoping and waiting for their big break. That stroke of luck that will make their lives more meaningful. They utter phrases like “I’d rather be lucky than good.” But being good is the quality that rises to the top.
Whether it’s at your career, your family life, your business or anything else, your talent is what defines you. Developing your talent is what should be expected of you, not being in the right place at the right time, or being “good enough” to get by at something. And being lucky instead of good is just hogwash.
The nice thing is that you can work on your talent. You can get better at what you do, improve, learn, grow in whatever it is your talent happens to be. You can’t work on luck, and in that regard alone, luck pales in comparison. You control what you do with your talent; you can’t control the good-fortune/bad-fortune part of the equation.
Maybe that’s what happens to the supremely talented who are found dead in hotel rooms at relatively young ages. Maybe they are so immersed in their talents that the bad fortune they can’t control gets the better of them. It’s sad, but in the end, it’s STILL their talent that’s their legacy.
So few people, when their time ends, are remembered as the best at what they did. But as Whitney’s death reminds us, being the best is what even the most troubled talents are remembered for. So shouldn’t that be what we all strive for?
Nobody remembers lucky. Everybody remembers greatness.