Thursday, November 25, 2010

‘Beyond Me: Finding Your Way to Life’s Next Level’ by Melinda Doolittle with Ken Abraham – Book Review

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One of my guilty media pleasures is watching ‘American Idol’ – I have watched it (off and on) since its first season. I have always rooted for the singers who were Jesus followers. One of the strongest Christians in the history of ‘American Idol’ is Melinda Doolittle. When I discovered she written an autobiography, ‘Beyond Me: Finding Your Way to Life’s Next Level,’ I knew I wanted to read it! And after I read it, I knew it would be a perfect book to review on Thanksgiving!

Here is the synopsis of this inspiring book:

She was so tone-deaf as a child that her choir director pled with her to just move her mouth and not let any sound come out. Undaunted, Melinda Doolittle’s faith and love of singing drove her to enter a talent show in the seventh grade. Miraculously, she sang with perfect pitch and brought the house down! That’s when Melinda began to realize that success in life was something bigger than her – something beyond her. And yet something that she could attain by taking certain, timeless principles to heart.
She began praying about, setting and systematically reaching her goals, such as singing background vocals for many of her favorite music artists. Then, by an amazing turn of events, she burst onto the music scene with her flawless vocal performances on American Idol, becoming the clear favorite of the show’s most difficult judge, Simon Cowell.
American Idol’s Melinda Doolittle inspires you to dream big and find yourself at life’s next level. There are enormous obstacles standing between where you are and where you want to be. Few know that better than American Idol star and recording artist Melinda Doolittle.
Her rise from musical anonymity as a back-up singer to success on television’s most-watched stage caught her by surprise. A celebrated recording career has followed. But in all the ups and downs, twists and turns of life in the spotlight, certain lifelong principles have sustained and guided Melinda. Principles she will share with you. Her experiences prove that no matter how big the obstacle, you can dream big and find both success and joy, especially as you look beyond yourself and invest in others.
Through poignant, often humorous stories, Beyond Me not only provides a backstage glimpse of one of America’s biggest pop-culture phenomenons – American Idol – it shows how Melinda turned that stress-filled environment into a springboard from which she could soar. Her story will inspire you to do the same with your biggest challenges.

Here are the biographies of these authors:

Melinda Doolittle is an acclaimed recording artist who had a meteoric rise to fame on American Idol. She performs regularly on television and in concerts internationally and is a spokesperson for Malaria No More and The Boys and Girls Clubs of America. She released her first CD, 'Coming Back to You,' in February, 2009.

Ken Abraham, who has 12 New York Times bestsellers to his credit, also collaborated on Lisa Beamer’s Let’s Roll and Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now.

For those of you unfamiliar with Melinda, here is her audition on ‘American Idol.’ This shows her personality and her immense talent!:

The Foreword was written by Jordin Sparks, the ‘American Idol’ winner from the season Melinda was on:

Melinda has called her book Beyond Me, and I know that is where her amazing strengths come from. I loved reading about the adventures we shared on AI and seeing the same events from her unique perspective. But even more, I loved reading about the stories that were new to me – insights and memories from her childhood and growing-up years. It really made me see where she got all that wisdom!
I’ve read that happiness is elusive, but if you ever have the good fortune to meet Melinda, you’ll know you’ve found it. I’ve never known anyone with so much joy in her life – and she’s teaching me how to live that way, too. I remember during the show – and even now when I need the reminder! – she would always say, “Don’t worry about anyone else and what they’re saying; just worry about you and yourself.” Now I know we’ve all heard that before, but for me, coming from Melinda – someone I so admire and respect – it had all the more power. These days, when I have young people come to me and ask for advice, I tell them the same thing. When you’re yourself, people love you for you, and that is a great thing to know. I know it’s her faith and love of music and people that gives her that “joy of life.” It’s a remarkable quality that we all want. What an honor that Melinda is so willing to share her secrets to getting there – with me and everyone else on the journey. (pp. x-xi)

Wow – that is a ringing endorsement!

In Chapter One, entitled ‘Dream Big, ‘ Melinda explains how both her mother and father – who were divorced before she was not quite one year old – instilled in her a lot of love and a strong work ethic:

That was the way I was raised: Figure out the best thing about a situation and run with it. So, not surprisingly, that life principle has stuck with me – and come in very handy over the years.
I was also raised to believe I could be or do anything I put my mind to. And how do children figure out what they want to do or be? They try everything! Thankfully, my mom was up for the challenge, and she let me try almost any sport, instrument, or childhood activity at least once. (p. 3)

I love this lesson Melinda’s mother, Marguerite, taught her only child:

Sometimes we say words – good, bad, uplifting, or nasty – and think they will simply disappear into thin air. But I was raised to believe that our words matter, that the words we say have the power to build someone up or tear that person down. Mom held to the principle: Say three nice things. “Baby, if you’re going to say something bad about someone, you need to say three good things about that person first.”

What great advice; no wonder Melinda dedicated her book to her wise mother! 
Not only are spoken words damaging, but so are written words; words are words! This is a great reminder to be gracious and kind!

Melinda has translated this advice in her assessment of Simon Cowell, the now former judge of ‘American Idol:’

Even today, interviewers will sometimes get frustrated with me because I choose to say three nice things first rather than begin with the negatives. It’s not my fault that most interviews are so short that I only have time to get to the nice stuff! The question I am asked most often is, “What is Simon Cowell really like?” Knowing Simon as the sometimes painfully honest, difficult-to-please judge on American Idol, interviewers expect that they will finally get me to say something negative. Instead, they are shocked to find out that Simon is my teddy bear. Simon’s underlying purpose is to jolt you into doing your best. He simply doesn’t have a filter, and he never learned to start with three nice things. (p. 12)

That is a gracious way of looking at Mr. Cowell!

And this is a mature way of understanding why people are negative toward others:

Why do some people feel it necessary to point out the mistakes, sins, or failures of others, often ridiculing or gossiping about them, rather than trying to say positive things? Maybe the most caustic critics were raised that way themselves, so now they feel compelled to cut other people down to size so they can feel better about their own shortcomings. Regardless of the reason, it is wrong.
Our society today seems obsessed with building someone up only to see how quickly we can tear that person down. But it’s really not hard to be kind and encouraging. One you get into the habit of attempting to say three nice things, you find your mind taking you there rather than toward negative, destructive comments. (p. 17)

Melinda believes that preparation is key to her success; so is prayer:

Dreaming big is important, because if you don’t see yourself doing what you want to do, you can be fairly sure that nobody else will imagine you doing it either. So set your sights high and post your goals in front of you on your “faith wall.”
Praying is important too. And by praying hard, I don’t mean yelling at God. On the other hand, I also don’t mean mumbling vague, ambiguous prayers, simply hinting to God that you would like to do something great. I believe in specific, consistent, and intense prayer. When you pray and follow God’s direction, He can open the right doors for you at the right time. (p. 33)

Melinda has gotten involved in some philanthropic organizations, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of American and Malaria No More. She encourages her readers to do something to make the world a better place, and to become the hands and feet of God here on earth:

When you look for some way to make a difference, don’t worry that you cannot touch the entire world. Simply look for a way that you can touch one person. God can touch the world, and He will start through you. And there’s an extra blessing! As you get involved in helping meet the needs of helpless, hurting people, God will meet your needs in ways you cannot even imagine! (p. 52)   

Psalm 139:13-16 is an important Scripture to Melinda – that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him. That mindset will help us be more content and happy:

To me, that passage says that we matter to God: He made us, and even before we were born, He established a plan for our lives. We cannot base our estimation of ourselves on the fickle opinions of other people.
That’s why I believe I am only in competition with myself. Certainly, I want to be the best “me” possible, so I work at my craft. I try to take good care of my body, mind, and spirit. But I don’t base my self-esteem on someone else’s idea of who I should be. Funny, many of the images of celebrities or models in magazines nowadays are “computer enhanced,” altered to look better by someone who is handy with a mouse. The images themselves are not even real, much less valid comparisons.
So rather than comparing yourself to anyone else, simply relax and enjoy being the person God made you to be. You are your own competition. In fact, you are your only competition. (p. 83)

Melinda has used her platform to glorify God. She shares how she was able to choose a song that was uplifting:

A most amazing opportunity came during Week 7, when the entire program was designated as “Idol Gives Back.” Because of the tenor of the show, contestants were asked to perform “inspirational” songs, which I was only too happy to do. I selected “There Will Come a Day,” a song originally recorded by Faith Hill and one that gave me a natural opportunity to state my faith to millions of people. (p. 138)

This is such a beautiful and powerful song, and Melinda did such an amazing job with it!:

Melinda believes she is in the center of God’s will for her life. She closes out her book this way:

Every singer or musician who has ever stood in front of an audience knows the feeling – when it seems that everything about the show is working. The sound is perfect, the lights are creating just the right ambiance, and the crowd “gets” what you are trying to put out there – every true artist knows deep within that overwhelming sense that something more is happening than mere music. Something greater, something bigger, is at work. That’s how I feel when I step up to use the gift God has given me.
I am still in awe at what God has done in my life. In fact, I am amazed by God, period. What He does for, in, and through me is far…far…beyond me. (p. 160)

This book is warm and engaging – just as I expect Melinda is in real life! And I loved reading about ‘American Idol’ from a participant. Melinda lives her life in glory to God, and her light shines so brightly! I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves ‘American Idol’ – and anyone who wants to be enlightened and uplifted by a mighty woman of God!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Zondervan Publishers and provided by them for review purposes.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Hope you had an awesome Thanksgiving!

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