Innovating Through Artistry

What Does It Mean to Take A Calculated Risk?

In Author: Lisa Canning, Risk on March 6, 2009 at 12:37 am

Being willing to take a risk is an ESSENTIAL element to innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. Risk requires guts, passion, analysis and the willingness to fail and try again. Britain’s Got Talent Winner, Paul Potts, is an OUTSTANDING example of someone who took a calculated risk and won big!

Check out Paul Potts and experience his calculated risk. (The video was not allowed to be embedded so click twice to get to it.)

About Paul Potts
Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts has spent most of his life feeling ‘insignificant’. Bullied at school for being ‘different’, he realized growing up that he had one true friend and that was his voice. Singing was his escape. He was able to lose himself in his own little world – the vicious words of his tormentors replaced by hauntingly beautiful lyrics and melodies that lifted his heart and spirit. It was a love, a passion, a lifeline that would follow Paul into adulthood and help him through many more periods of adversity. But it was also a gift that was destined to go largely undiscovered, due to a crushing lack of self-confidence that has dogged this hard working and humble man throughout his 36 years.

Born just outside Bristol on October 13, 1970, to bus driver Roland and his wife Yvonne, a supermarket cashier, Paul – who’s one of four children- was singing almost from the moment he could talk. “My mother recalls me listening to the theme from ET and conducting an imaginary orchestra with sticks,” laughs Paul. By the time he reached 11, he was part of one of the best church choirs in Bristol. But it was when he hit 16 that his love of opera took hold. “I bought a cheap recording of Carreras,” he recalls. “It was the first time I had heard Che Gelida Manina (Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen) and I was so moved by it. To this day La Boheme remains my favorite opera.”

Although Paul has performed at amateur level, most notably with Bath Opera, his chronic lack of self esteem and fear of rejection always prevented him from trying to make it professionally. ” As I saw it, if I never asked – never put myself out there – then I’d never get told “No”,’says Paul. “It was safer that way.”

So instead, he carried on with his day jobs – which have included stacking shelves in a supermarket and, most recently, selling mobile phones, where he was told by one of his superiors that he was a ‘natural salesman’. “But I knew I wasn’t,” says Paul. “When I was selling, I always felt like I was putting on an act. When I sang, that’s when I felt I was myself – the real me.”

In 2000, Paul used savings and a bit of money he’d won on a quiz show to attend a three-month summer school in Italy, where he learned the language and got to indulge his passion further. He even got to sing in a masterclass for his idol, Pavarotti. But he was about to be dealt a cruel blow.

In 2003, he suffered a burst appendix. While undergoing treatment for this, doctors discovered a benign tumor on his adrenal gland. It was successfully removed but while he was recovering, he was knocked off his bike and broke his collarbone. “Of all the health problems I’d been through, breaking my collar bone was the most painful and it took months to recover,” says Paul. ” I got very, very low and for once, singing was the last thing on my mind.”

And he might have given up forever, had it not been for Britain’s Got Talent – the talent show for today’s generation, created by Simon Cowell and co-produced by his Entertainment company Syco TV.

“I was so nervous I was shaking like a jelly, but when I watch that audition back, i can see in my eyes that when I start to sing I go to a totally different place and the nerves just vanish,” says Paul. “When I stopped singing, there were a few seconds when my heart was racing because I had absolutely no idea what the judges were going to say.”

Since then, accolades have been posted on the Internet from as far afield as Australia and Taiwan, from fans who’ve seen Paul’s performances on YouTube. “A humble bloke who’s not even aware of his amazing gift – Paul Potts is a true star” wrote one.

“It has changed my whole life. I used to feel so small and insignificant. But now I know I am someone – I am Paul Potts and this is what I do,” smiles Paul.

  1. As a professional musician (collaborative artist/pianist/ vocal coach) I would TREASURE the opportunity to collaborate with Paul. He brings passion to opera – the way it MUST be sung. Way to go!

  2. I can certainly appreciate the tremendous courage that it took for Paul to make his move.
    And Courage and risk are very related.

    But listening to Paul sing says to me, as an artist, this was not a risk. This was making one’s move after impeccable preparation and development. To hear Paul sing is to hear his years of committed effort and understanding of the medium in a way that assured his entrance would be accepted.

    The courage that it took was certainly a risk in the context of emotions and all the mitigating circumstances surrounding those. But to my ear there was NO risk in Paul’s acceptance into the top tiers of opera performance. He has a total embrace of the art form.

    So this brings up the question of how do our emotions shape the way we perceive risk in the outside world?

    M Gold

  3. Michael, excellent clarity in your comment. How much of taking a risk is emotionally based? I think more than we might think as evident by Paul’s low self esteem and insecurities that lead him to day jobs instead of more assertively trying to become a professional singer. What broke that cycle? What prompted his willingness to take an emotional risk of this magnitude?

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