TED Conversations

Singer Songwriter & Vocal Coach, Lizanne Hennessey - Voice Coach


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What is success to you?

When you were asked as a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up, were you able to give a straight answer? Are you now that thing you wanted to be hen you were 8, or 11, or 21?

Do you agree that it is 'common sense' to choose a study that will guarantee you a job? Why? Because society dictates that we need to be "successful". I believe that success we are all trying to reach simply does not exist.

Who's to say that what you study is what you're going to be? What if your deepest desire is to be a musician? You study and you make the hours and you practice ad you work your ass off to be good at what you want to be good at, but what if you never reach that point of success you think you have to achieve? Does that mean you should give up?

Every set-back we experience in trying to reach that imaginary level of success, makes us feel annoyed, irritated, depressed, frustrated, and in some cases even suicidal. Why?

It is in our nature to always want more. Physically, spiritually, financially, materialistically… We are pushing ourselves to the extreme and don't seem to appreciate what we have achieved along the way, since the goal to reach that success is the only thing that matters.

So, Why are we so fundamentally unsatisfied?
We are trying to reach a goal that we did not set ourselves - it is set by society, by the media, by commercialism. We compare ourselves to each other, which is also a fundamentally human trait.

What makes us who we are, and how do we determine a level of success that is valuable to us as individuals?


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  • May 15 2013: After a lifetime of disassociating from my authentic self in order to be who others thought I should be - a good wife, a good and diligent mother, a great legal assistant, a committed volunteer, an ardent advocate for positive change, a good and dutiful daughter, a supportive sister, a champion and supporter of other peoples dreams, and so on and so on, now, in my 60's I am finally reconnecting with myself and am taking "MY turn" to be who I know myself to be. That is not to say that a part of me was not all those other things. But the true essence of me, the authentic part of me included gifts that when used make me soar, take risks and fly, make my life resonate like a fine tuning fork vibrating with aliveness. I bowed to what others wanted of me in a way that I discarded the truest part of myself in order to be "perfect" for others. And that was MY responsibility for making that choice. I have had a good life, a happy life, a decent life, with many friends and wonderful moments. Yet something has always been missing. On my 60th birthday, I did a lot of soul searching. After much discussion with those I love, I am taking my turn to follow my dreams. And it is liberating, life enhancing, soul enriching. What have I learned? YOU are NEVER TOO OLD to reach for the stars... never to old to dream big dreams... never too old to recognize that "success" is not what other people choose for you, but what you choose for yourself. You are never too old redefine your definition of what makes YOUR LIFE A VIBRANT, SOUL ENRICHING, JOYFUL, SUCCESSFUL ONE. Who knew that in my 60's I would be able to walk on a stage, render a song, and make people sigh, laugh, cry, remember, feel, and be. My children are grown, the family business I helped build will survive without me, my friends will always be my friends. I am rediscovering myself. I am reborn. I am resonating with the Universe. I am successful. How delicious!
    • May 15 2013: Ellen, I applaud and commend you, and am truly inspired by what you've said!!!

      Who hasn't been in your position?! Kudos to you for "taking "MY turn" to be who I know myself to be". Society wants to pour us into that mold the minute we step into kindergarten, perhaps earlier! Those who can wrench out of it are those who have truly found the strength to be an individual. That, to me, is absolutely 'success', regardless of when it happens!!!

      Have you seen Jane Fonda's talk "Life's Third Act"? Your comment reminded me so much of her inspirational words:

      Happy Birthday to you, Ellen!!!

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