The following article, Lessons to Learn from Taylor Swift, was first published on .
By Jeff Davidson,
It’s official, Taylor Swift is now a billionaire. Not bad for age 33. At age 14 and 15, she and her parents made the rounds to many TV and recording studios in Hollywood and in Nashville asking if she could offer a live demo. Most producers said ‘no’ and summarily dismissed her.
The take home point is that at an early age she had already intended to be a star performer. She was quoted as saying: “I’ve wanted one thing for my whole life and I’m not going to be that girl who wants one thing her whole life, then gets it, and complains.” She’s simply living out her dream. If that includes Travis Kelce, so be it.
I’m not a fan per se, but I do like several of her songs, among them Forever and Always, Sweeter Than Fiction, Red, Shake it Off, Cardigan, Style, Safe and Sound, Blank Space, and Welcome to New York. What captivates nearly everyone is her unflagging determination to offer a superior performance every time. The clever lyrical twists and catchiness transcends pop.
Not Great, But Mesmerizing
I saw her for the first time on Saturday Night Live, around 17 years ago. I only caught her performance midway, but was mesmerized. Here was a tall, slender, teenage girl, not with the world’s greatest vocals, with her guitar wailing away on a song called Forever and Always. She had such conviction in her singing that I, and apparently millions of others, was enthralled. We have all since learned that she can play numerous musical instruments and is a virtuoso pianist.
Among dozens of things that Taylor Swift does to maintain high confidence and be ultra-successful, here are a few to contemplate:
1. Stagecraft. Taylor Swift’s stage presence is extraordinary. She most definitely owns the stage, has musical talent on guitar and piano. The rest is her confidence. She is a student of effective presentation and seems not just study but mastered her show whatever the album or theme.
2. High Positive Energy. Her energy level is extraordinarily high and focused. You could say this about many singers, but if you watch any Taylor Swift performance you’ll quickly notice that she uses all 5’11” of her height and all 128 pounds of her weight in her performance. She is confident and not self conscious.
3. Connecting to You. Her connection to the audience is amazing. Through gestures, eye contact, and a variety of other stagecraft techniques, you get the sense that she is totally there, in every performance. Some singers and performers allow you to watch. Some induce you to watch. Taylor Swift performs in a way that all you want to do is watch without questioning her choices.
4. Insight and Coaching. She is a student of performance. Years back, asked to be an at-large coach on the hit television show The Voice, she astounded the four regulars coaches – Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, and Blake Shelton. She could instantly assess their team members’ practice sessions and, within seconds, offer insightful suggestions that immediately improved their performances. She has stated that she makes mental notes of every performance she’s seen and her unparalleled performance wisdom belies her tender age.
5. Fearless About Change. Just when you want to put her in a category she changes and rather effectively. She is constantly evolving. Whether or not you like her music, if you take the word of top critics and music aficionados, it’s undeniable that each album has gotten better.
6. Despite the Fame. As far as one can tell, she is down-to-earth. During an interview on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, she stated that album reviews do matter, and any artist who says they don’t is not being honest. How she maintains an air of humility, and that common person touch, probably can be attributed to her parents. At some point, however, you have to concede, that she has what it takes to make herself a star.
7. Open Communication Helps and Hurts. Because she is self-disclosing, many fans gave her an immediate pass. Today, it is understood that Taylor Swift writes songs from her personal experiences that have meaning for her and, happily, also have meaning for her listeners. She has fun with it and doesn’t hide it. It works for her and evidently relates to a great portion of her audience.
8. Change is Embraced. Taylor Swift lives in the now and has a focus on the future. Her decision to abandon country for pop was done with the realization that she’ll be in the business for the long haul, and that the popular music route will enable her to grow and expand in novel ways.
Lessons For Us All
Being confident and an open communicator works for Taylor Swift. Fame aside she’s a true pro who is too busy creating and focusing on her craft to sustain self-doubt. These are lessons for all of us.
Jeff Davidson is “The Work-Life Balance Expert®” and the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management.
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