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What’s the most important thing you should do to make a success of your life? We talked to singer and actress Charmaine Bingwa about the X-factor that gets her where she wants to be.
Discipline from the very beginning
I was born in Australia, but my parents moved here from Zimbabwe. They arrived with almost nothing, about $500 was all the money they had. And so they worked hard, saved hard and made smart decisions about buying properties, making a success of family life in Perth. They were determined to put me and my brothers through private school because they really believed, as I do, that education brings you opportunities.
Seeing what they had to do to prepare for a better future has given me a very strong work ethic. I’ve always been ready to put in the hard graft because I don’t expect anything to be handed to me. And with careers like acting and music, talent will only get you so far. You have to invest hundreds of hours to really develop as a performer and realise your potential. At Music School I practiced for hours every single day to get past that plateau you reach when you’re working at something and feel like you’re not moving forward. It took a lot of discipline, but I had sort of fallen in love with the process of putting that effort in and I knew I’d get results if I kept going.
Listen to your instinct
There have been many times in my life when it’s been hard to pay attention and follow that voice inside telling me what I need to do. I was 18 when my father died and I had just moved to Sydney from Perth. For a while there I sort of lost my way and struggled to figure out who I was. But I still knew what my values were so it didn’t stop me from working hard and setting goals for myself, in my career and finances. With some encouragement from my brother, I bought my first property which has given me the financial freedom to make decisions based on passion and instinct rather than how much money I can earn.
After getting back on track, I started to build a career in marketing and by the time I was 27 I had this terrific job at Bonds. Thanks to a restructure, we were all given the chance to stay in the team if we were prepared to move to Melbourne. When asked what decision I was going to make, I knew right then I wanted to sing. Even though my family and friends said I was crazy, I followed this inner guide telling me what I needed to be doing with my life. And after a successful try out for the X-Factor and getting to the boot camp phase, the voices of doubt around me turned into messages of encouragement and support. Sometimes you just have to have enough confidence and trust in yourself to follow that intuition you have about what’s right for you. In my experience, the more you listen to that voice and follow it, the clearer it becomes and the choices you make become easier and more natural.
Planning matters, too
Having said that, I’m guided by inner wisdom. There’s a lot of logic and planning in the way I work towards my goals. I used to chart the number of hours I spent acting each day so I could see how I was making progress from week to week with developing my craft. You also need to invest in financial security and your physical and emotional well being while you’re pursuing these big goals. If you neglect these things, you won’t have the resilience for the hard work, or the clarity you need to hear that inner voice. So having a plan that includes a budget, and time in my schedule to rest, recharge and reflect is just as important to my goals as putting in hours and hours of practice.
Don’t go it alone
Although I’m very clear about what I want to do with my life and and how I’m going to make it happen, support from family and friends has been really important to me. Having my brother come across from Perth to see one of my plays in Sydney was amazing. He immediately recognised that I was making a success of my new career and became a real champion of my future in acting. But as well as having that backing from people who know you, it’s also worth seeking advice from those who are experts at what they do. Having a solid team around you to plug knowledge gaps and provide you with perspective, to help you ‘see the wood from the trees’, can really make a difference. It allows you to feel confident in making decisions, and gives you a strong foundation for planning ahead and to chase your dreams.
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