” A prophet is not without honour, except in his own country.”
Searching for Sugarman, about the enigmatic Mexican American musician, Rodriguez, is one of the most moving films I have seen. A hugely talented musician and songwriter, Rodriguez writes powerfully and poignantly about the pain of the archetypal everyman living in a city – in his case, Detroit, a city in the US, a country which espouses the pursuit of the great American Dream. Life is not fair to him. Despite his enormous talent; despite being “discovered” by two talent scouts; despite now being recognized as one of the greatest songwriters of his time, Rodriguez has lived in relative poverty and obscurity for much of his life.
After what appeared to be a failure as a musician, Rodriguez slipped into the background, strumming his guitar in the privacy of his home, after many a hard day as a blue collar worker. What Rodriguez, and apparently no one else in the whole of the USA knew, was that his music had found its way to South Africa – a country at the time in the grip of Apartheid, and in need of heroes who would give them courage to fight against the establishment. Rodriguez became a hero; and his records sold about 500 000 copies – many of them pirated, and passed on from friend to friend. Rodriguez, life inspiration to many South Africans, was reported to have died in the seventies – according to one report he had shot himself in front of an audience; according to another, he had set himself alight at the end of a performance.
Eventually, a small group of South Africans who had pursued like a holy grail the uncovering of the mystery of Rodriguez, received the surprising news that he was still alive and living in Detroit. One thing led to another, and the end result was that Rodriguez toured South Africa in 1998, appearing about 8 times to massive audiences. As Rodriguez is a shy, unassuming man, probably an extreme introvert, his South African manager feared that he may be intimidated and even frightened by the crowds. Instead, he was a picture of calm.
One of his daughters who accompanied him on tour said something along the lines of: In his own country he was an outcast; and here on stage he was more himself than he had ever been. He was what he had been born to be – a star performing in front of adoring fans. He was living the life he had been destined to live.
And I suppose this is where the leadership and life coaching moment comes in. I believe that we are all uniquely talented; that we all have a destiny that is ours alone to fulfil. For some it is a dramatic destiny – one which brings them to the attention of hundreds of thousands of people; for others it is quieter – perhaps it is being an inspiring teacher who makes an impact on many young people; perhaps it is producing works of art which move people and give glory to the ultimate creator; perhaps it is using their unique set of strengths in ways which give meaning to their lives and to the lives of others.
Rodriguez probably did not see himself as a leader; but he is followed by many thousands of people who love his music and see him as a legend. He has made a significant difference to the history of music, and to the lives of every seemingly obscure person who has a dream.
As a leader what is your dream, and what is the blueprint you are going to follow in order to live out the fullness of your potential?
Remember that “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” –Vince Lombardi.
Posted by Juliette Jooste Gyure, leadership, life and career coach, specializing in change and transition processes.