One day my wife showed me a YouTube video that inspired the heck out of me.
James Arthur, a young unemployed guy from Middlesbrough,
took part in the X-Factor competition and he sang his soul out. This performance blew me away. I really recommend you watch it. The actual performance is between 3:34 and 5:55.

I could rant for hours about how shallow and empty the music industry is nowadays, but I won’t. James Arthur reminded me what the art really stands for.

There are a lot of lessons in James Arthur’s story: about cultivating talent, perseverance, success and personal progress, among others. I know this just from watching that video (which includes hints about him) and skimming the news on the Internet.
Those are important lessons, but I wasn’t inspired by them.
My soul was touched by his authenticity and transparency.
He wasn’t afraid to sing about his life, which allowed him to sing with unrelenting passion. I bet it made everybody in the audience think about their lives as it made me to think about mine. They connected to him on a personal level, on the innermost level, where we very rarely meet with each other.

Those moments of intimacy are always precious. Recall your own such memories – with your spouse, your children, other family members or with friends. They happen when two people abandon their internal fortresses and come out to meet another person without lies, masks or pretense. Such moments give births and fuel for love. They create the bonds for life.
That’s what the art is for. That caused the audience to give him the standing ovation.

I want to be like James Arthur

After watching this video, the very same evening I wrote a poem about how I would like to be so transparent in my writing, about showing my true pain and the story of my life, and use them to inspire others.
The next morning I composed a prayer which I say every time I write any piece of content (that is, if I remember to 😉 ).
In a nutshell I ask God to give me the strength and ability to show my real self to my readers, and I hope they connect with me on a personal level and feel what I felt when I watched James for the first time.

Authenticity and transparency establish the first important layer of what I want to communicate through my writing.


The second layer is what it takes to be transparent: The courage to be myself, to be vulnerable, and to share my story. I’m not perfect, and neither is James’ story. His song is not about an artificial and easy life; it’s about his life. It’s real. It’s humane.
I need this touch of humanity in every book I read. For example, I hate “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” because it is a fiction story presented as the truth. I have nothing against teaching and moralizing via fiction, but I have everything against pretending that it’s true. That’s the worst type of falsehood. It is hypocrisy, and I don’t want to commit it.
It takes courage and discipline to maintain one’s integrity. Sometimes I have to confess my vices and failures, especially when I want to warn you against committing the same mistakes I made.

Be somebody

The third layer is to have something worthy to say. It’s cool to be authentic and have courage; however there is nothing to be proud of if you are an asshole.
James Arthur didn’t just come up on a stage one shiny day and become a rock star. He practiced his craft, he trained long hours. He had been working hard for many years, through an endless succession of bands and gigs.
And most importantly, he matured. He has grown enough to weave the threads of his life into his art, to recognize the patterns in others’ songs that are relevant to his story. It’s what he has done with Tulisa’s “Young,” and later on with every single song in the X-Factor, including his famous “Impossible.


I need to be someone worth listening to. If I just sat on my hands for the last 16 months I wouldn’t have stories to tell you, because that’s what my books are really about – my personal stories. They tell about an ordinary guy’s mission to find purpose, to lose weight, to hone his reading or time management skills, to support his kid in learning, and so on.
Those stories make you believe that you can do it too. They steal the mystical envelope from the subject of personal transformation.

That’s why I strive to be the best version of myself. It takes a ton of discipline and mundane hard work. Sometimes it is simply boring. The whole process of expanding beyond myself would suck if I was just doing this for myself.

But I want to be like James Arthur. I want to touch your heart.

A word to you

I don’t want to get a standing ovation for the sake of a standing ovation. Surely it’s nice to observe how my latest book has sold several hundred copies a month, but I want to see people moved by my work. I want them to take action and get results.
So my reader, if I ever string a chord in your soul, don’t hesitate to share it with me. That’s my real reward. You know, I’m not a saint. I don’t write like crazy just to touch your heart. I wish my heart to be moved by yours too. Give me feedback: Email me, Tweet me, comment on my blog or give me a review.
Using James’ words: “Thank you. It means the world to me”.

To be like James Arthur

30 thoughts on “To be like James Arthur

  • February 24, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    I think you succeeded in your purpose with the post. I don’t watch that many Youtube videos, but I trusted your judgment here and I wasn’t disappointed.

    “My soul was touched by his authenticity and transparency.
    He wasn’t afraid to sing about his life, which allowed him to sing with unrelenting passion. I bet it made everybody in the audience think about their lives as it made me to think about mine. They connected to him on a personal level, on the innermost level, where we very rarely meet with each other.”

    — My interpretation is slightly different. While I didn’ think his song was necessarily the best, I was really impressed and touched by the intense vulnerability he showed. And I think that such vulnerability represents some of the highest and most powerful aspects of mankind. That sense of purpose, that sense of “primal importance” that most people strive for at some point of their lives, but somehow loses touch of.

    Most people in that audience, I would presume, go there with the inner expectation of borrowing such a purpose. Even if just for a moment. And that night, James Arthur was the guy who delivered it.

    Kind of a messy explanation, but I hope you get it. I think you do.

    Didn’t know that Rich Dad Poor Dad was fictionalized. Robert Kiyosaki is a tricky guy. And it’s highly ironic that he went bankrupt a few years ago.

    • February 26, 2014 at 9:16 am

      I think it’s the case of our personal lenses. You are very intense in following your purpose and you recognize it in others.
      I see something little different. But James’ magic is such, that we both see something in his performance. And so did the whole audience.

      PS. Yes, it’s ironic. But his believers will trust him anyway :/

      • February 26, 2014 at 11:25 pm

        Yes. I suppose.

        –Haha. I guess we shall see.
        Do you also know who Mike Maloney is? If you do, what is your opinion about him?

  • February 27, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    When he came out at first, I was like, “Where’s the guitar?!”

    4:50 started giving me the chills…

    He almost cried in the end. I started weeping man. I love videos like this.

    The whole “pouring your soul” really got to me as well.

    I have a question.

    You said, “In a nutshell I ask God to give me the strength and ability to show my real self to my readers”

    Why do you think people don’t? Why do people need strength for this?

    • February 28, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      Jim Rohn said: “Every good will be attacked on this world. Don’t ask me why, I wasn’t here when some early decisions had been made.”
      He meant that doing good things is though.

      Reaching out, being transparent and vulnerable is tough. You need strength for that. We don’t see people acting like James Arthur on that stage every day, do we?

  • March 2, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Very well put! Can’t say I’m a fan of talent-shows such as the one shown above but this post proves an important point.


  • May 9, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    Thank you for writing this. These are the words that I could not speak, but have felt since the moment I watched this incredible performance by James Arthur. His voice and his presence spoke to a part of my soul that I had not realized was closed off.

    • May 10, 2014 at 4:59 am

      You’re welcome Annette. He did something similar to me.
      He is quite an extraordinary guy.

  • May 10, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Wow this is so powerful! You are so right though. James Arthur has changed my life. He has taken me from the depths of despair and given me hope. Without his music, its safe to say i wouldnt be here today. When God made you he was showing off 😉 i love you with everything i have james. And to the man that wrote this , wow you too are amazing, james arthur has changed both of our lives for the better, and that really is something to shout about 🙂 xx

      • May 11, 2014 at 6:40 pm

        Please know that you writing this will be an inspiration to so many others who read this. I have always loved james and want to thank you for writing this… There has been so much negative press lately about him and its sooo refreshing to see you write about the real james arthur. Sending my #LOVE and bless you michal xx

  • May 10, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    That was the best thing iv ever seen in my whole like. This guy will go down in history as being one of the greatest and iv only watched this one video of him.

    This was a great read, thank you.

  • May 10, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    In late 2008, my husband left me. We had been together for 43 years, married for 40 and were both 60 years old. We had an 18 month old grandson, a newly built, architecturally designed, house and no money worries. We were in the UK on holiday when I saw texts on his phone! He left me for an older woman (mother figure?) and, for the first time in my life, I was on my own.
    For the next 2 years, I would wake in the morning wishing I hadn’t. My son and daughter basically kept me going while I worked through every emotion known to man.
    Another year on – 2011 – and things were a little better. My family were great but my life felt empty. I missed being part of a couple, I missed my social life and I missed being a proper family. I needed someone yet I wanted no-one. I was simply going through the motions. And then……
    One night, in 2012, I went on Youtube where I noticed an advert for XFactor UK. I remembered back to the time when I watched Leona Lewis win so I took a quick look, wandering around the various contestants.
    Suddenly, in front of me, was a young lad. His name was James Arthur. I watched in awe as he wowed the judges and from then on I was hooked. Week after week I’d watch, mesmerised, as he sang like an angel. And when he won I wept like a child.
    For the last 2 years I’ve followed James from New Zealand as if I were a young fan girl. I’ve loved all his videos, listened to all his songs, watched all his interviews. I’ve laughed at his humour and cried at his lyrics. He’s brought meaning back into my life and for that I am so thankful.
    Age is no barrier where music is involved and the more I hear James Arthur the younger I feel. I hope that he continues to make music for all his fans for many years to come because…… Life without James Arthur? I don’t think so.

    • May 11, 2014 at 7:55 am

      This story is so great!
      I feel the same about James!
      He totally amazed me from the second I saw him.
      I’ve listened and I listen to his music everyday and I’m nearly 40.
      I’m so happy that he’s part of my life!
      Sorry for my english.
      Thanks for your article Michal.

      • May 12, 2014 at 11:12 am

        No need for apologies, my English doesn’t seem to be much better 😉
        And you are welcome.

        • May 14, 2014 at 6:51 am

          Thanks for replying. It’s very kind.

  • May 10, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    This is a wonderful piece of writing which totally sums up my thoughts (in a rather more graceful and articulate way). It really validates my own feelings around James Arthur and his music. Thank you for sharing this.

    • May 12, 2014 at 11:14 am

      You’re welcome Christine. I just wrote the truth about my reception of James’ art.

  • May 12, 2014 at 8:55 am

    How absolutely wonderfully put…and not before time either.James Arthur is a true artist and has become part of my life.
    I have an autistic son who James has brought so much pleasure and he has learnt so many new words in sign language because of James and his music…I have taken him to see James perform 5 times and his fear of crowds has now gone.
    Every time James waves he thinks he is waving at just him and waves back !!!
    Unfortunately my dear mum passed away and was her funeral last week and I had the minister play ‘Get Down’….perfectly fitting words too.
    One Day I hope my son will meet James…
    I express gratitude and #LOVE to the voice and the young man who is James Arthur..
    One day I hope my son will meet James and it would be a wonderful meeting for both I would hope.

  • May 12, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Thanks for sharing this story JJ.

    Yes, I definitely consider James an artist. Just a handful of other singers had similar effect on me and they all were creating in my native language.

  • May 12, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    I think you went very close to what I felt when I first saw his audition, I say close because words sometimes are not enough to catch such deep emotions.

    His audition, his performances, his voice literally changed my view over music because I never considered its power until I saw him. I’m so glad he’s part of me, when I sing out loud along trying to get close to his energy and tone is something indescribable.
    His voice is so true it’s ridiculous as it is ridiculous how all these years haven’t felt the same about somebody else. Never get tired of listening to his songs played over and over.

    I honestly hope he’ll get free soon from this industry and work alone on his music in order to make those powerful interpretations of life touching deep in and never leaving.

    • May 12, 2014 at 7:04 pm

      I also preferred his performance in X-Factor over most of the songs from the 1st album.

    • May 14, 2014 at 7:05 am

      I’m so moved by his old songs. For me most of them are masterpieces. I’m never tired of listening to them either. It brings me such pleasure! James gave me one of the greatest gifts of my life letting this free online. I thank him so much for that.

  • May 16, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Hi Michal,

    I really love people like you who can look so into depth and create positive change from a talent show audition. Not everyone can do this.

    There’s no doubt James Arther has an amazing voice. I don’t watch X Factor (or maybe it’s the other show) but I got to realise the intensity of his voice when ‘impossible’ was realise. It was 100% better than the original song. So good most people can’t remember the original that’s was realised about 1 year before James’s.

    He has struggled with the fame. I think he has found it difficult to produce music in a sterile music industry you’re put into after talent shows. Real music is like a free bird and I think the bosses want a ken doll role instead.

    But besides that, great article and although it’s about a current artist, it’s a highly evergreen post.


  • March 30, 2024 at 11:35 am

    As a big fan of James, I have to say, I felt his vulnerability. That is his magic. James story is a special story …. am I biased, yes but why? I saw a lost child who was fighting to escape from quicksand. Thank goodness he found the strength to face that judgement …. so glad…. I have a better heart for my time seeing James success, right from his first audition … he is still not given the recognition he deserves but his lifestyle and success is so very deserved.


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