Idol Lessons: The FLAP Principle

Allison Iraheta

Allison Iraheta sings Janis Joplin

The blogosphere is abuzz this morning, processing the elimination of seventeen-year old rock-star-to-be Allison Iraheta on last night’s American Idol. The competition is at a point where whomever is eliminated is an outstanding performer and will—if they want it and don’t mind the hard work—have a solid career in the music industry. I think many Idol fans are now voting for their favorite personality, even if their musical performances are marginal. Based on musical performance alone, Danny Gokey’s butchering of Aerosmith’s Dream On should have sent him packing.

Winning American Idol isn’t a golden guarantee of a successful music career.  Anyone who doubts that ought to take another look at Idol’s fifth season. Taylor Hicks took first place, and his flopped first album turned him into “Taylor who?” faster than Simon Cowell can sneer. Like Allison, Chris Daughtry finished the competition in fourth place. After performing live on last night’s program, Daughtry was presented with a little modest wall trinket acknowledging his debut album hitting a phenomenal FIVE MILLION copies sold worldwide. For those in the top ten, Idol opens doors. Once the door is open, they still have to deliver.

Being voted out is an emotional experience, but last night Allison turned all that emotion and heartache inward and delivered a stunning  performance that, if given Tuesday night, could have put her in the top three.

Allison Iraheta's Farewell Performance on American Idol

Watching Allison’s stirring farewell performance last night brought back memories of one of my mentors teaching me The FLAP Principle. Whether it’s losing a job, getting the boot from Idol, or a rejection letter from a publisher, the principle is the same: It’s not the rejection, but how you react to it that counts. Always Finish Like A Pro. In Allison’s case, the emotion and heartache of the moment could have been a disaster, but instead she turned them into the one thing she lacks: the soulfulness that comes with life experience. Instead of a blubbering Tatiana-esque scene, she cut loose and belted out  a rendition of Cry Baby that came from a place far deeper than I’ve ever seen her sing. Who could watch that performance and doubt for a second that Allison will be another Idol success story?

As a writer, rejection is a way of life. It hurts. Sometimes it hurts like fire. Sometimes it hurts so much that I want to quit. In those moments, I recall the sage who taught me the FLAP Principal, and I begin looking for ways to turn the rejection into a growth opportunity. If all else fails, I grab hold of all that angst and grief, tell my dead father he was wrong, and after stuffing all that back into my gut I let it pour out on the page, infusing my characters with newer, deeper levels of reality.

Like Allison, we all have to choose how we handle rejection. How do you handle yours?