3 Keys to a Truly Remarkable Life

a.k.a. Life Lessons from the Late, Great Aretha Franklin 'Queen of Soul'.

1. GIFTING - this you get from God.

You’ll find he’s generous. You are way more gifted than you think. If your friends are any good they’ll be telling you what you’re good at. ‘Being a singer is a gift,’ Aretha acknowledged again and again. ‘It means I'm using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use.’

2. SKILLS - this you get from other people.

It’s about learning stuff. Takes time. No one wants a brain-surgeon who merely means well. ‘You had to work at it,’ recalls Aretha of her road to success. ‘You had to learn your craft: how to take care of your voice, how to pace your concerts, all that trial and error.’ 

3. CHARACTER - this you get from yourself.

Mostly by making costly decisions. It’s by far the most important of the three ingredients. What you build with your gift, and sustain with a well-honed set of skills, you can destroy overnight with your character. It’s a story played out again and again in the music industry, in politics, in sport and sadly even in church leadership as we have seen again in recent weeks. Aretha’s friend Stevie Wonder put it like this:

“Ability may get you to the top, but it’s character that keeps you there.”

Aretha certainly understood character. ‘Who hasn't had a weight issue?’ she said. ‘If not the body, certainly the big head!’ It can’t have been easy being dubbed the “Queen of Soul” when you’re the child of a broken home, when you lost your mum at nine, became a mum at twelve, and were beaten by your first husband. Aretha’s life was TOUGH. 

But Aretha Franklin overcame racism, sexism, addiction and abuse to inspire respect, to sing like an angel, to stand before a black president and make him cry with “a glimpse of the divine”. Yes, it was certainly a gift. But it was also a finely-tuned skill. And most of all it was a life that overcame through years and months, weeks and days of costly choices - more of them right than wrong .

Thank you Aretha.