It is part of our mindless summer television fair, but my wife and I have watched the show America's Got Talent now for many seasons. We always record the show – it seems everything we watch is now recorded – and that allows us to cut through the commercials and much of the useless host banter that passes for entertainment these days. We can generally watch a two-hour episode in less than one and a half hours.
The show offers some truly surprising talent, and equally shocking train wrecks. Probably the most dreadful element of the worst acts shown is that the performers believe they have any talent at all. The psychological case study of some of those people would be a fascinating read. Still, the show has produced some truly talented individuals who just, until they had the chance to highlight their skill on AGT, never had the opportunity or break they needed.
I certainly never expected to blog about any performance I would see on that show, but that was before this week's episode, and before Mandy Harvey. 29-year-old Ms. Harvey, from St. Cloud, FL, is a singer. I am not compelled to write about her because she has a great singing voice. It is not because she wrote the original song she performed. It is not because she can competently play a musical instrument. It is not even because she is deaf.
Rather, it is a confluence of all those things that compels me to opine, as she carries a valuable lesson for the people we deal with in workers' compensation. Her story has, in fact, taken the country by storm. The YouTube video I have embedded in this article has already been viewed 6.5 million times as of the time of this writing. It will probably be over 8 million by the time it is published Friday morning.
Ms. Harvey, who was a music major until illness struck, has a connective tissue disorder that destroyed the nerves in her ears. At the age of 18, she went deaf in both ears, and her musical education was suddenly over. The clip below does not play her full bio piece, which is unfortunate. In it she sadly describes, as her condition progressed, failing a musical test almost before she realized it had started. Her career in music stopped that day.
Her performance, which was done in stocking feet to allow her to feel the rhythm of the other musicians, was in and of itself a great example of overcoming impairment. However, it was the song she performed, one that she wrote from her life experience, that really hit home for me. It was about function. It was about recovery. And it was about accepting what is, and working forward from that point.
Her song was called simply, “Try”. The lyrics, when written on the page, are short and simple. You should listen to the performance to associate the true power of the words. These are the lyrics she sang:
I don't feel the way I used to, The sky is gray much more than it is blue, But I know one day I'll get through, And I'll take my place again.
If I would try. If I would try.
There is no one for me to blame, Cause I know the only thing in my way, is me.
I don't live the way I want to, that whole picture never came into view, But I'm tired of getting used to the day.
So I will try. So I will try. If I would try. If I would try.
When listening to her performance the first time, it was the phrase “Cause I know the only thing in my way, is me” that really stood out. The moment I heard that, I knew I would be writing about this young woman.
I've written about injured workers' and ownership before. One of the biggest challenges for some permanently impaired workers is getting past the anger and frustration to ultimately accept and own the situation. Ownership is not about accepting blame or even forgiving poor treatment. It is simply about acknowledging “what is”, rather than despairing over “what was”. It doesn't matter how high the quality of care or support an injured worker gets; they don't go back to work or truly start to recover until they decide it is time to do so. That is what ownership of a disability entails.
Ms. Harvey, with her talent and perseverance, literally owns it. Her performance earned “the golden buzzer” from no less than the acerbic and hyper-critical judge Simon Cowell (For the non-AGT initiated, that means she bypasses further audition rounds and will move on to compete in the live show). She is literally rewriting the story of her life, despite a condition that could have easily held her back.
“Try” is about recovery. It is about function. It is about moving forward. And Ms. Harvey is a tremendous example that, in addition to talent, America's got perseverance.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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