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Whitney Houston: A career of contrasts

Published:Wednesday | February 29, 2012 | 12:00 AM
In this April 10, 2000 file photo, entertainer Whitney Houston strikes a pose during her performance at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles during taping of the "25 Years of No 1 Hits: Arista Records' Anniversary Celebration". Houston passed away February 11, 2012. - AP

Glenford Smith,  Career Writer

the breathtakingly high notes of hits such as I Will Always Love You
and The Greatest Love of All, to the movingly husky but reduced vocal
range of her 2009 hit single I look to You; from the stratospheric
heights of pop music stardom to the fatal depths of drug addiction and
alcoholism, Whitney Houston's career was a study in contrasts.

She had it all, then let it slip away. She entertained and inspired a generation, then left us broken-hearted and sad, at only 48 years of age. At her best she was adulated and anointed with the inimitable title The Voice, now all that's left is the void created by her departed genius.

Whitney Houston was an American musical icon, and more - she was God's gift to the music world. At her musical best, she epitomised flawless perfection and uncompromising brilliance in the practice of her craft.

I write this column in tribute to Whitney's memory, and to share two reflections that you'll find instructive and cautionary in your career.

First, Whitney discovered her unique gift and made it her career. Her greatness came as a result of serving and uplifting the world with her talent.

Whenever I listen to Whitney sing my favourite pop song of all time, One Moment in Time, I am reminded that each of us has a unique gift. Whitney was born to uplift people's spirits through singing.

What is your unique talent? New Thought pioneer Wallace Wattles has asserted that "desire is potential seeking expression".

What do you earnestly desire to accomplish? Do you have a business idea you're excited about? Do you harbour dreams of being an actor, musician, writer, singer, pastor, teacher, or nurse? That's your potential and genius waiting to express.

Emulate Whitney. Discover and develop your best talent and use it to serve the world.

Second, Whitney's talent and musical conquests stood in stark contrast to her inability to master herself. She failed to appreciate that talent was not enough.

Dr Stephen Covey, in his book Principle Centered Leadership, notes, "Lasting happiness and success come from the inside out", and that "private victory precedes public victory".

He advocates for the 'character ethic', which focuses on inner qualities such as self-esteem, self-discipline and integrity, not just talent.

You may be excellent at your job. You may achieve wealth, social status and even fame. But if you can't control your sexual urges, moderate your alcohol, drugs and food consumption, discipline your spending, or control your anger, you may eventually undermine your hard earned success.

No amount of affluence, accolades or public adulation can substitute for strength of character.

Whitney left a legacy of love, career brilliance, and lessons from her personal mistakes for us to learn from. Perhaps we can learn from her the greatest lesson she sang about but never quite learned herself - that the greatest love of all is learning to love yourself.

From contrasting lessons in how not to make disastrous decisions, to lessons in achieving career brilliance, we can "learn from the best" - Whitney Houston.

Whitney, we will always love you.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of a new book 'From Problems to Power: How to Win Over Worry and Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities'.