If ever there were lessons to be learned through pop culture and applied to our life, these have got to be some of the most colourful.

By now, all have heard about the fall Madonna took during the 2015 Brit Music Awards.  For those that aren’t aware, shortly after her entrance and just moments into her number, Madonna was unable to untie her cape before she was pulled backwards off the stage – down some steps.  She picked herself up, dusted herself off, and continued on to perform her set, with nary another blip or bat of an eye.

Her experience and performance however speaks volumes to so many themes that we can each take away for ourselves.


1.              Timing – the “incident” happened at the beginning of the performance.  The song had not reached its crescendo – in fact was just getting under way – and there was still time to enthrall the audience.

We can never choose when unfortunate things happen to us but sometimes it is better to have it happen at the beginning, when we have time to recover.  Plus when it happens before the story really begins, the tension happens early as opposed to building to a crescendo.   Unfortunately in life, timing is one thing that we often have very little control over.  If we live as much as we can in the present, then at least we can tell ourselves that we are close to the beginning.   No sense taking something that happens to us to heart and never take the opportunity to live out the balance of our “act” with as much grace and style as we can possibly muster.  Plus now is always just the beginning.  The rest of the story still continues from this point in time, so the best time to act on anything is “now”.

2.              Recovery – how you get up and pick yourself up after something “bad” happens to us or doesn’t go as planned, sets the tone for how others (and therefore you) respond and react.   Resiliency sets the tone for how / when you move forward.

Do you remember being around a little person that is just started the joyous discovery of walking?  Try, fail, try, fail, some success, try fail, etc.  When they have taken a few steps and find themselves plunking down on their little bottoms or aren’t so good at steering and run right into something that collides with all the moving parts of their body?  Often how we react sets the stage for how the little one responds to this shocking thing!  It’s almost how they absorb our emotions and play them back for us.  Being aware that we are all connected and how others respond to our situations will assist us in putting things into perspective.

3.              Control – taking this kind of tumble has huge impacts on the artist physiologically as well as emotionally.  LOTS of stress!  Pounding heart rate, vibrations in the voice, pain in the body itself, etc.  – not to mention all of those that are around at the time.  Can you imagine how physically and emotionally hard it was to go on for those that were at the “tugging” end of that cape? 

Being able to bounce back and regain control is part of what will get you through, as your body and mind are recalibrating, like a wrong turn on the car’s GPS.   Most everyone has heard that voice “recalibrating, recalibrating”….  Sometimes it helps to have that voice in our head, rather than merely playing over the speakers of the GPS.

For an entertainer, that may be getting your legs to support you and to take the vibration out of your voice.  Similar for the rest of us – things happen at work or in our day-to-day lives that can take the wind out of our sails – the steam out of our engine.  The sooner you regain control, the more empowered you begin to feel.  Nothing is more empowering that the feeling (“illusion”) of being in control.

Rory Sutherland is one of my most favorite speakers and he succinctly reminds us that reframing is very important to our resiliency and that perspective is everything. 

4.            Sense of self – Madonna conveys a very strong sense of who she is perceived to be or the “package” that is her brand.  She appears to have a strong and clear vision of the persona that she represents.  In completing her performance in the face of regaining the focus of the audience, she reinforced our perception of her as being the “toughest” of the lot.   The fact that the song she was singing was reinforcing the message she wants to deliver to her audience is all the more ironic.

Being able to see a clear picture of yourself outside of this isolated incident will aid in getting you back on track and moving in the direction that you want to go.   What is also important in this process is to continually take out the image of you are (and who you want to be) on a regular basis.  Get comfortable with it; examine it from a variety of perspectives and angles; and be prepared to re-evaluate as well as be comfortable that sometimes the most interesting things come out of things not going as planned.  

5.     Focus – if you have a strong sense of yourself, you also need to keep that vision in focus.   Losing yourself as much as you can into a song that you have rehearsed or a dance routine you can do in your sleep, can work wonders on bringing you back to a constructive perspective. 

Often times life is just like a big old eye exam.  Constantly we go through “better….. or worse…” scenarios and testing.   Continually ask yourself the question, “what role do I want to play in the screen version of my life?”  The director building on cues and emotions OR an extra, limited to taking direction and not being able to chart a path of their own? 

When I was younger (say…. Yesterday!) there was a popular expression, “Keep your eyes on your fries!” – which implied if you don’t they can be snatched away.

6.     Credibility / Respect – in the example of Madonna, nothing is quite like the reaction a seasoned professional has versus some who was not prepared….and prepared….. and prepared.  As she has been quoted herself as saying, “I rehearse everything, everything, everything.”

“I like to be amazing.  I rehearse and rehearse so when I do a show it is effortless and I create magic.”

Just showing up to life doesn’t garner the respect.  That comes from practicing your craft until it is in the shape that you are proud to deliver it (anything!)   MAGIC!

Experience and fortitude have their place and often work nicely together.  Recognize and applaud those who have shown up, put their skills on the table and who bring their “A” game to the table.  Even if it falls short, they can be proud and we should respect their bringing their best.

7.     Connection – there are 2 connections that are very important in life, as we make our way along our respective journeys.  The first one is mentioned above – connection with your self and your vision of who you are or want to evolve to.

The second one is recognizing that you are not alone.  In the performing arts, you have the audiences and your fellow teammates / cast / crew.  In life it is your family, friends, co-workers, neighbours, your fellow humans, etc.  One of the most important lessons in life is that we are not isolated islands – functioning independently.  We are connected and one of the ways we can establish and reinforce those connections to others is through vulnerability.

It is how we connect and handle what’s within our control that we really experience the power of being vulnerable.

I have long been a Madonna fan but couldn’t really count myself as a Madonna FAN!  Her vulnerability and how she handled this “misstep” made her human to me….. and I do connect with her more as a result.

Once the shock wears off and the dark voices come further into the light, my recommendation to all is to learn and internalize the lessons that are available to us and to continue to be supportive; sticking blaming fingers back into pockets.  I really don’t need to see apocalyptic analyses of every instant and moment of Madonna’s performance at the Brit Awards.  I choose to believe that the lyrics of the song are true and that:

Now that it's over
I'm gonna carry on
Lifted me up, and watched me stumble
After the heartache, I'm gonna carry on
Living for love
Living for love
I'm not giving up
I'm gonna carry on
Living for love
I'm Living for love
Not gonna stop
Love's gonna lift me up