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Why I Love American Idol Part 1: The Breakthrough Point

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Why I Love American Idol Part 1: The Breakthrough Point

… and why this matters for SparkPeople members

Hi Everyone

Last Wednesday I took my wife to see the American Idols Live concert. This prompted me to finally write a blog that I've wanted to write for awhile talking about why I love American Idol. As I wrote this, I decided this was so much fun that I'm going to make it a 4-part series with each blog focusing on one contestant.

I've been watching American Idol with my wife since Season 2 – Go Ruben! At first, I thought the show was just silly fun/entertainment. But, then I started realizing that American Idol is very applicable to SparkPeople.

"How?" You ask.

The part I like most is that American Idol for the most part (except for some of the silly auditions) is the real deal. The contestants get a real shot to change the course of their lives compressed into a short amount of time.

This is exactly what SparkPeople is about – minus the "made for TV" need to compress everything into a very short time period: the challenge of continuing to take positive steps in all areas of life that will lead to a breakthrough that then helps you reach more goals than you may have ever imagined. For example, I'll never forget how one SparkPeople member talked about reaching her goal of becoming a major published author after using SparkPeople. She said, "I never even imagined my life could be like this before SparkPeople."

In our book The Spark ( ) we call these Breakthrough Points. We talk about the progression from an Aha Moment (when you first realize something and say "aha!") to a WooHoo Moment (when you take some positive action and want to celebrate) to a Breakthrough Point (when you string together enough positive small steps that lead to something that could truly change your life).

After this realization, one of my favorite parts of watching American Idol became seeing which contestants understood this opportunity and really worked hard each week to make improvements that could lead to breakthroughs. Sometimes early favorites would fade. Other times people who weren't early favorites would end up winning.

I also have to give the show itself great credit this year. After being the #1 show on TV for 9 years, the show still managed to make a brilliant strategic decision this year to have the contestants work with major music producers each week to help mold them into real performers. Brilliant. That type of decision motivates me to continue improving SparkPeople all the time because there are always ways you can improve even when you're already good at something.

This season was clearly the best overall group of any year so the bar was even higher for contestants this year. One of my favorite examples ever of a contestant reaching a Breakthrough Point is Haley Reinhart and she's who I'll focus on with Part 1 of this blog series. Apologies in advance for some of the questionable language in the videos from judge Steven Tyler!

Here is Haley's audition if you'd like to watch:

Early in the season, Haley was in the bottom 3 a few times. She even seemed to have a negative attitude during the results shows and almost seemed resigned that she'd leave the show soon. For some reason she was having trouble putting everything together.

Then, something magic happened and she had a breakthrough. After several performances that landed her in the bottom three, one week she suddenly had a performance that made everyone say, "Whoa – that was incredible."

It would be really interesting to know just what happened that led to this Breakthrough Point. Options could include:

1. A natural progression where enough practice and momentum finally naturally led to a Breakthrough Point

2. Haley could have really challenged herself to turn things around and reach her potential – realizing that this was such an opportunity for her

3. Someone else – family, friends, someone connected to the show including one of the guest stars – could have challenged her to reach her potential

4. Some combination of these variables.

Below is the video of the performance. Notice what Jimmy says challenging her in the practice – was that the spark? Haley if you ever read this give us a shout and let us know and we'll interview you!

Whatever it was, it was clear that the two minutes of this performance likely changed Haley's life forever. She went on to do several amazing performances including arguably one of the best performances ever on the show with her Led Zeppelin song where her real Dad played guitar – how cool is that?

Here is that performance. Another trait from Haley that we can all follow is determination. She got turned away last year when trying out for American Idol and notice the determination in this video when she falls down and then fights through that:

There is a chance that none of this would have happened if she hadn't had that breakthrough. This is something we should all keep in mind as we work hard to reach our goals. There might be a Breakthrough Point just around the corner. So we should keep pushing ourselves and be open to outside motivation to reach this breakthrough.

Here's another favorite from this season – the Haley and Casey duet (they did this live at the concert):

Haley's live performance at the concert this week was stunning. Even my wife who wasn't her fan at first said Haley had the best performances of the girls at the show. I honestly think she's one of the best singers I've ever seen in person.

I'm not being biased with this because I actually was rooting for James Durbin and Scotty McCreery just as much – Lauren too. Seems like all four have a chance to be real superstars and maybe even others.

The point of all of this is to challenge everyone reading this. YOU can reach Breakthrough Points in your life just like anyone on TV. TV is fine in moderation just like almost everything else. But the key is to really live your own life and reach your potential so you can have your own amazing experiences. Those experiences can include your career, being the best parent possible, or anything else. We all have the chance to be a star in our own lives.

I know it can be frustrating to put in the work every day to build that positive momentum, but it really can be worth it and lead to you reaching more goals than you might realize in all areas of your life.

Even better: we get to support and motivate each other along the way in the SP community.

Stay tuned! I'll focus on at least 3 other contestants from this year in this series to see what we can learn from them.

What are you doing to reach a Breakthrough Point in your life?


Chris (SparkGuy)

PS By popular demand, here is a video of her performances at the concert (this isn't our city, but close). She did Benny and the Jets and House of the Rising Sun.


Member Comments About This Blog Post:
CAMEOANDLACE 1/12/2012 8:08AM

    I joke about being an closet American Idol watcher! I feel as you do that it is actually genuine. I enjoyed watching the contestants grow. I would truly like to feel that success in my weight loss. Thanks for your website. I just found out about it this month on the news.

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FIRECOM 8/2/2011 8:26PM

    I have been an ardent fan of the Idol series from the beginning but this last season was the best yet. You are correct in you analysis of Haley and I did expect her to win.

Having said that, I was really proud of those two teenagers and their careers are already on the move. I have heard the singles from both of them and they are terrific.

I fully agree that we all need that one point in our lives that create the spark to succeed. SparkPeople was my turning point in my lifelong fight with weight.



Comment edited on: 8/2/2011 8:27:46 PM

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KIN59VARA 7/31/2011 11:34AM

    Thanks for the blog and the comparison!

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BIGOLEDIVA 7/29/2011 3:46PM

    don't know what I liked better - all the great video footage...or your comparisons of spark vs idol! But either way- LOVED this blog!

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UNSTOPPABLE_ 7/28/2011 12:57PM

    Great comparison, seeingHaley adapt & change was awesome!

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TINABERG1 7/27/2011 3:24PM

    This makes so much sense, I also love American Idol and am amazed at some of the transformations...maybe this will help me when I start to slide?? Thanks! emoticon

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MAKEEFFORT 7/27/2011 11:37AM

    This is a great article Chris. Many thanks. Marian emoticon

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DEENAT 7/23/2011 7:53AM

  Love the analogy. I have reached my breakthrough point with exercise

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SAFETYSUE 7/21/2011 10:01PM

    Oops, I wanted to subscribe to this amazing blog...I wish we had the option to go back and change that in the edit mode. I have done this so many times and feel silly having to post again to check subscribe to this blog. Food for thought now that I am addressing the master of all things Spark!!

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SAFETYSUE 7/21/2011 9:55PM

    Great comparison to SparkPeople Chris!! This blog brings new perspective to navigating the ups and downs in the road to success! She literally fell, got back up and continued her amazing performance. I missed it the first time and had to watch it again. I don't watch this show, but adding all the video clips put the punctuation mark in your brilliantly written piece. It really made me see the Chris who has made SparkPeople such a huge success and the rock star in you.....AMAZING CHRIS...YOU ARE THE SPARK....
emoticon emoticon emoticon

Comment edited on: 7/21/2011 10:03:55 PM

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FIRECOM 7/21/2011 4:12PM

    I guess my age is showing. I was rooting for Pia the whole way but she was cut with the comment by a judge(s) that all she sings are ballads (which I grew up with and love) and the public agreed. She has had a lot of TV time since the show finale.

I was rooting for Scotty as well. Great talent and more importantly I liked the way he was very humble in his admission that he should have stood up for the young man that was being ostracized by other contestants early in the season. This showed real class IMHO.

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ALYFITN 7/21/2011 1:47PM

    Wow. She's got the Janis Joplin thing going. Good vocals.

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MIS2101 7/21/2011 10:56AM


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KPETSCHE 7/21/2011 1:01AM

    I so agree with you on this, Chris. This was my first season of watching American Idol but Haley was such a neat person to watch develop as the season went on. You have connected the final 4 contestants' journey to what the SP goals are doing for all of us in a very insightful way. Thank you for the observations. emoticon

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LASARRE 7/20/2011 8:02PM

    Good analogy :)

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OREGON-CLASSIC 7/20/2011 7:49PM

  I loved Haley to the bitter end. James was my first choice for guys and definitely Haley. I can't even remember the other girls!

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AHODGES7 7/20/2011 6:27AM

    Oh my Goodness!
What amazing progression. One sees a snippet here amidst a whole bunch of other snippets (I was rooting for James Durbin too) but Haley really did steal my attention with her Joplin sound alike voice but pure passion and charisma.
This was a very entertaining blog and insightful too.
We all have obstacles, and all need to try and find a way to put it all together - at the same time.
Waaaaaaa Hoooooo!
Keep Looking UP!

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DWILCZKO 7/20/2011 12:03AM


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HEALTHYSLIM2 7/19/2011 7:58PM

    What great observations, Chris! I don't watch too much TV, so didn't see the season, but just reading your blog paints a pretty complete picture of Haley' s progression. I also saw an interview where Haley said that the judges kind of picking on her a bit may have gotten her to push harder. It is a good lesson for us all to remember... sometimes constructive criticism can be just the thing to help us over a hump!

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KAT978 7/19/2011 6:49AM

    Great blog! I'm not really a fan of American Idol season 10 (I liked the previous seasons better), but Haley was the one I liked most this year.

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JUNEBUG150 7/18/2011 11:47PM

    I agree with SLBRENTLEY, I don't watch this show either, but I agree with the determination part and like how you drove the point home. Thanks.

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GARIHOOD 7/18/2011 11:20PM

    Yup. Couldn't agree more. Well, yeah, I probably could, but who's counting?

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JENNY421 7/18/2011 9:00PM

  a very insightful blog!

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FARAWAY01 7/18/2011 8:14PM

    Good perspective!

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ROSEWCI 7/18/2011 7:36PM

    I do believe we can all learn a thing or two about perseverence & giving it our all to reach our goals!

ANYTHING is possible...if you want it badly enough!

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SLBRANTLEY 7/18/2011 7:29PM

    Great blog! I don't watch the show and almost skipped reading, but your insights and the way you connected it to Spark, really made sense. Now I'm looking forward to the rest of the series! Thanks for this.

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LINDABENEDICT 7/18/2011 7:05PM

    what an insightful blog ! Thanks !

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STEELKITTEN3 7/18/2011 6:54PM

  Very insightful. I love the way this was analyzed.

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CINNAMONCAT9 7/18/2011 6:14PM

    I absolutely loved the connections you made here. This was an insightful and powerful piece of writing.

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1DRWOMAN 7/18/2011 6:11PM

    I loved it when Haley did Adele's Rolling In The Deep! It was perfection! :)

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SEPPIESUSAN 7/18/2011 5:48PM

    Haley was my favorite this season. I loved her cool smoky voice and her style. I never once connected American Idol to Sparkpeople, but you DEFINITELY have a point about determination being key in both!

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BEMILLER30 7/18/2011 5:23PM

    I loved this!

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BLOOMING52 7/18/2011 4:34PM


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LYNNVERSION2 7/18/2011 4:33PM

    Very insightful blog post! I have watched A.I. from the beginning of time and I totally agree with you about the brilliance of the producers incorporating even more ways to help the contestants improve their performances. I see the link you are making -- there is no limit to improvement and every single one of us has the potential to become the best 'version' of ourselves! Our own conviction, determination and positive attitude combined with SparkPeople's amazing site filled to the brim with all the tools we can obtain, we can realize our own dreams within our own lives.

I just have to give a huge shout out to Haley!!!! She is the BOMB!!! My take on Haley was that she felt discouraged and was struggling with her desire to perform at her best and being authentic to herself. Being the underdog week after week is so relatable to many of us in our lives. At least I feel like the underdog when in actuality we are developing in small ways without even knowing it when we have the right people and the right tools -- and we utilize them. Haley finally used everything she had and reached her amazing, victorious turning point!! She does sound absolutely awesome in the video of her live performances at the concert, I knew she would!!

Next season of A.I. will have me looking at the contestants through different eyes. Thank you for this, it makes one of my favorite shows even better for me personally!


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ANDYSULLIVAN 7/18/2011 3:26PM

  I am an American Idol groupie!! Never miss. Your application is wonderful!! Thanks for sharing those thoughts.

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JETTANALA 7/18/2011 3:19PM

    love finding motivation in the lessons learned by others. Thanks for pointing this out! I watched every week and felt the same way you do!

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DEANNASCARP 7/18/2011 3:18PM

    thanks for the insight, I can now watch and call it research. :)

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KANDKFAM1 7/18/2011 2:49PM

    Great blog! American Idol is a guilty pleasure for my wife and I. We love the show and watch it from the beginning auditions to end where the idol is crowned. Every year brings something different and exciting. We like the judges and Ryan hosting is often funny. We don't always agree that the eventual winner is the most deserving, but we most definitely enjoy the program. We do agree on the positive outcome of ordinary people achieving their dreams.
I am very glad to see that Chris Downie that I have put on a pedestal is a regular guy who watches the same program I do! emoticon

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CORICO 7/18/2011 2:13PM

  In my opinion, Haley should have won. Very disappointing now that it has become "Country Idol for 16 year olds". Liked your blog, though!

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GOHUSKERS2 7/18/2011 12:55PM

    Very interesting

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65DAVIS 7/18/2011 12:38PM

    Thanks for the blog - excellent!

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GOANNA2 7/18/2011 12:34PM

    emoticon Great blog.

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AQUABUNNY 7/18/2011 11:28AM

    so true--I watched the whole thing this past year and we could all learn a lot from Haley. She really blossomed in the last few weeks of the contest, and I was kind of hoping/thinking that she may win it all!

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MRDPOLING 7/18/2011 11:16AM

    Brilliant Blog! I loved it.

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CHIEF_GEEK 7/18/2011 10:58AM

    CAN'T Stand American Idol!! emoticon

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JLEMUS1 7/18/2011 10:42AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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ANNFAUSNIGHT 7/18/2011 10:41AM

    Great insights

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GRRARRGH 7/18/2011 10:37AM


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GRUBBMEISTER 7/18/2011 10:18AM

  Good Blog....Spark On!

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LIZABETT 7/18/2011 9:37AM

    emoticon blog. After reading it , I'll want to watch American Idol---and watch it with an eye toward motivation and learning from the contestants. emoticon Chris

emoticon Next blog, please.

Comment edited on: 7/18/2011 9:38:42 AM

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Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.