More and more Mormons are finding success nationally and globally. How are they doing it? What makes our Mormon celebrities so successful? Mitt Romney and Alex Boyé, Stephen Covey and Lindsey Stirling, Al Fox Carraway, and Corbin Allred, are gifted and fortunate individuals who have been blessed with success. But are they simply blessed?
If you were to take a closer look — and not just at the headlines — you’d see that there are similar choices each of our Mormon celebrities make that determine their paths to success and mold them into the leaders, performers, and witnesses of Christ that they are today. Through their examples, we can see that success isn’t an event but a process, a pattern of choices. Choices which, if we choose to make them, can lead us to personal success as well.
Following a Humble Path
What could the individuals listed above all have in common?
Lindsey Stirling grew up in modest circumstances. But Mitt Romney attended a private prep school. Alex Boyé was left by his mother at age 11, and remembers wandering the streets of London — homeless. Al Fox Carraway first met with the missionaries because they brought her a steak dinner and obligation got the better of her. Corbin Allred spent half of his childhood in Hollywood. Stephen Covey grew up in the heart of Mormondom in Salt Lake City, UT.
Despite the differences in situation, each of these individuals have chosen to follow a humble path. Romney, Allred, Covey, and Stirling each grew up in God-fearing homes where humility was taught and has transformed their daily lives.
But what if humility was re-enforced by losing the opportunity to reach stardom, like Corbin Allred did when he left the industry to serve the people of Australia? Allred admits his career has not regained the momentum he once possessed as a young actor. But his choices have led him to success in other areas of his life.
Lindsey Stirling was told on national television that her talent was unmarketable. This caused her to take a different direction with her talent. Now, her Youtube channel begs to differ about whether she’s marketable or not. Forbes just named her one of the top five YouTube earners.
What if you learned humility by being publicly ridiculed in front of a TV audience?
Both of these Saints took what came to them and pressed forward on their path. They accepted criticism with humility, which kept them grounded and able to make decisions about their lives that were in accordance with God’s will.
When we choose to be humble, we acknowledge that God is in fact God. When we do that, we allow God to guide our path towards happiness and success whether on a personal level or a global one.
Choosing to be the Change in the World
Gandhi taught us to be the change we want to see in the world. But with the world population pushing 7 billion, how can we make a dent in the hood of the world’s fixer-upper automobile? Romney, Boyé, Fox Carraway, Allred, and Stirling are trying — even if that be in small ways! The key to being the change is choosing to not give up who you are, despite what the world tells you. It is these Mormon celebrities’ individual differences that they bring to the table that makes them successful.
Al Fox Carraway — famously known as ‘the tattooed Mormon’ — recently blogged that she would never even call herself that name and asked that others don’t either. When it was her non-conservative tattoos that garnered so much attention to her new conservative life, it’s interesting that she would spurn the use of her nickname. Yet her reasoning shows her desire to influence change in the world.
“I think talking about what is on my skin is completely irrelevant to where I am now in life and what I want the focus of my efforts to be on — how real and incredible the gospel is and how to use it on our lives.”
Al Fox Carraway strives to change the focus on her skin to a focus on the good news of the gospel in order to change the world.
Mitt Romney was told that a Mormon would never be President of the United States, but he still tried. And even having faced defeat, he continues to be an outstanding political leader. He has changed lives and government. He’s withstood national criticism and disappointment on the public stage.
But what many people seem to glance over is that fact that Romney stays true to who he is — a genuinely happy person.
Romney’s infectious need for some edgy fun started in his youth, when he used his adolescent energy to play high school pranks. Allegedly, he and Ann were arrested after sliding down a golf course hill on blocks of ice. Not much has changed, as evidenced by his most recent fun. At age 68, Romney engaged in a boxing match to raise money for a charity. Who he is is changing the world, one boxing match at a time.
Alex Boyé spreads his light and love of the gospel through his vocal talent. But unlike many musicians, Boyé has chosen to embrace his heritage and use his ethnicity to enhance his artwork. Raised speaking English, Boyé was hesitant to include his Nigerian heritage in his music, because he was unsure if Africanizing his sound would be profitable. However, that changed when he chose to do a cover of a Coldplay song with the Piano Guys. Now with 39 million views on Youtube for the cover called Peponi, it would seem Boyé is singing a different tune, if not a different language.
We non-celebrities may never see international success. What we blog, orate, write, or perform may never reach anyone. But our individual light and personalities may be just the thing to reach the one individual who needs the gospel of Christ. When we choose to be different, we bring something to the world that no one else can, just like our ‘celebrities’ are doing, and we too can be successful Mormons.
Holding the Realization that Failure is Never Final
“Our responsibility is to rise from mediocrity to competence, from failure to achievement. Our task is to become our best selves. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final.” President Thomas S. Monson, Never Give Up, September 1994.
I’ve never lost a presidential election. I’ve never been personally ridiculed in front of a TV audience. I’ve never been shamed or shunned for my appearance. I’ve never been abandoned by a parent. I’ve never lost my livelihood. I’ve never suffered from severe physical setbacks.
Often times we allow the smallest of roadblocks to keep us from pushing on. We find excuses instead of finding solutions. Each of our Mormon ‘celebrities’ have felt the weight of these defeats and have chosen to press forward anyway.
Romney put tens of thousands of dollars into a campaign that didn’t pay out.
Lindsey Stirling battled anorexia.
Al Fox Carraway spent years wondering if a straight-laced Mormon boy would ever want to be with her. She says of her experience:
“It was a long and incredibly lonely time before I would even be considered for a date, mostly because guys couldn’t get past my appearance. . . . Guys my age were looking for temple worthy girls, however, I didn’t exactly look temple worthy, that they didn’t even speak to me. . . . I would notice the kind of girls that were getting asked out and I began to be afraid that because I didn’t look “perfect,” grow up in a strong gospel centered family, or know how to cook or make my own skirts, I was forever going to be overlooked.”
Can’t we relate to that feeling? Satan wants each and everyone of us to feel as if we are not worthy, we are not attractive, we are not capable. These lies only hold us back from what is our divine destiny as children of God. When we choose to overthrow these lies and move past our failures, what stretches out beyond is endless potential, not just in this life, but also in the next.
Moving on from disappointment is a process. It starts by deciding to take the first step, by shifting one degree towards the new goal.
But overcoming failures always requires the decision to start over.
For many boys in Junior High, athletics often times determine social acceptance. So when Stephen R. Covey was diagnosed with Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis, a disorder which is caused by a fracture in the growth plate resulting in pain to the hip and groin area, much disappointment must have lay in his path. This diagnosis effectively ended Covey’s sports career. However, Covey chose to shift his attention to other objectives. By choosing to focus intently on academia, Covey graduated high school early. Even without what some consider the best leadership training possible — participation in athletics — Covey went on to be one of the most influential teachers of leadership. Covey decided to take the first step.
When we choose to accept our failures and move forward anyway, we are choosing success. If we have the courage to take the first step, our loving Father in Heaven will guide our feet.
What could choosing love have to do with success? The world says success = money + power. Shouldn’t that mean that we choose work and education? Not according to our ‘celebrities.’
Choosing love doesn’t always mean putting family over career, though Covey made sure to always prioritize his time in order to be home for birthdays and baseball games. He won the Fatherhood Award in 2003 from the National Fatherhood Initiative. In the Covey Family Tribute to a Highly Effective Father, his children say of him, that his wife’s opinion meant more to him than anyone else. Truly, Stephen R. Covey chose love.
For Stirling, choosing love meant fighting to overcome the psychologically and physically debilitating illness of Anorexia. In an interview with ABCNews, Stirling told viewers,
However, sometimes choosing love means choosing yourself.
“If I left this huge part that had consumed my life, if I left that behind, would there be anything left of me that had value? And I learned that there was and that I could learn to love myself for what was real.”
But it was a battle, as mental illnesses always are. Now Stirling shares her story of discovering self-love through her popular Youtube hit, “Shatter Me”.
Stirling says of her failures and experiences thus far, “The biggest moment of your life is always ahead of you.”
And the biggest moment of Corbin Allred’s life was always ahead of him too. Thrust into the spotlight at age 12, Allred was a natural when it came to acting. However, as 19 crawled ever closer for Allred, so did his departure from the big screen. Intent on serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Allred made his plans known. Hollywood didn’t believe him. When Allred opened his call on the set of Diamonds, however, reality set in for his coworkers. Kirk Douglas, co-star and friend to Allred, wrote him later, expressing that despite the negative criticism he received for his decision, that Douglas knew that what he had chosen was right ,and Douglas continued to write to Allred while he served.
For Corbin, the choice was between his love of acting and his love for God. But God will never abandon those who choose to follow His will. However, Allred’s career in Hollywood was not reignited upon his return. At times there is a misconception, that if we do the Lord’s will, then we will be blessed in the way that we see fit. Allred’s life has been blessed in other successful ways however. He continues to act while pursuing other goals. He has a beautiful family. He has hope that his biggest moments are still to come.
Like Stirling, self-love is something each of us must come to choose. For some, it is entirely impossible to love the person they see in the mirror. But loving oneself is not the same thing as narcissism; appropriate self-love is an acknowledgment that your God created you for a purpose and that you have a divine mission to complete. If you cannot love yourself, it is very difficult to truly love others. And love changes the world.
Times will come in life we must choose between things that we love and are passionate about. I would encourage you to always choose God, for he shall “direct thy paths”.
Mormon Celebrity Guide to Success
At the end of the day, it is we who decide what success means to us. Each of our Mormon celebrities decide too. Whether we want to be a successful international pop-sensation, a Forbes Top 25 Most Influential Person, or just a successful college student, the steps and the traits we need to take and develop are the same. Humility, Being the Change the World Needs, Acceptance of Failure, and Choosing Love will help us to become the people we want to see in the mirror.
Developing these traits will not only bring us the success we yearn for, but will mold us further into disciples of Christ whose humble mission to change the world was to not accept failure and death but to redeem all mankind through love.