You and Simon Cowell

19 January 2012 by Conor Published in: Inspiration, Musings 22 comments

I want to watch American Idol. I really do. Not because I love the show, but because it is something that my wife and I bond over, and it’s either that or The Bachelor. And The Bachelor, which falls somewhere between crack and cocaine on the addictive scale, is kind of depressing. Even the winners are doomed to a hideous public break up that people like me, recovering celebrity gossip junkie that I am, will track with breathless excitement.

So why don’t I watch American Idol? Good, clean fun that it is?

Because Simon Cowell left. And I could only watch Stephen Tyler make so many sexual innuendos at seventeen year old girls before I wanted to pour bleach down my ear canals. (Also, he looks like some kind of Brooklyn hipster’s leathery art project.)

Simon Cowell’s absence made me realize that for me, he, and he alone, made the show not just watchable, but inspirational. I know that’s a funny way to describe him. But watching Mr. Cowell reminded me how important it is to have that person in your life who can help you truly become not just yourself, but the best version of yourself.

Very Hallmark, I know – just hear me out.

We all need people who will build us up, who will love us unconditionally, who will always take your side. But we also need that person who in whose judgment you can trust completely. Who will tell it like it is, because that’s the only way they know how. Who considers the truth paramount, even over sparing one’s feelings.

Hopefully that person is not your spouse – and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just meant that our spouses have a lot of responsibility when it comes to keeping us stable.

Take my wife, Liz. She has my back. Always. Always, always. I love that. When it comes to the things I am most sensitive about, she finds a way to protect me. Now, here’s where it gets tricky: she’s also a great editor. So I want her to read my writing, but I also want her to protect my feelings. So we came up with a code. If she likes what I’ve written, she says “I love it!” But if she doesn’t, she says “It’s good!” And I know to go back and revise.

That’s a pretty awesome wife, you ask me.

Now, what about those Simon Cowell type people in your life? I think deep down, we all crave having that person in our lives. Because even though Simon Cowell can be a bit of an ass – I mean seriously, the girl singing up there is, like, twelve years old! Can’t you just pretend to like her? – we know that he’s a rock. We know that when he speaks, he speaks the truth. We know that when we lose sight of ourselves, he can bring us back.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not always easy being around that person, especially when you want their opinion on something you’ve done. But if I’m honest with myself, my apprehension is more about me. It’s because I’m trying to be somebody I’m not. And I know that person will call me out on it. And I don’t want to be called out.

That’s really at the heart of it. In front of this person, you have to be yourself. That’s valued above all else by your Simon Cowell.

My Simon Cowell is a guy named Charlie Agulla. I’ve probably mentioned him before, maybe even this particular trait of his. I’ve known Charlie since my first day of college. Charlie seems incapable of lying, or even buttering people up, and yet he’s a really nice guy – normal in every way. Except this one: if he saw me laughing at some kind of inappropriate joke because I was trying to fit in (because I like to fit in), he would sit there, the only one not laughing, and just look a bit confused, and ask why I was laughing.

I’ve learned a lot from him in that way (not in any other way – in most ways, I’m sure he’s learning tons and tons from me, since I’m so totally awesome). And what I’ve found is that people really respect that trait in people. Maybe not in the moment – in the moment, frankly, it kind of sucks – but it shows integrity. It helps us be honest with ourselves. That, I believe, is what makes us happy.

I was thinking about all this for two reasons. First, American Idol is on right now, and I’m not watching it. And second, it’s Charlie’s birthday today. And I was just thinking that I’m happy we’re friends.

Even though he can be kind of an ass.


  1. Tracy
    Thu 19th Jan 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Well said! I watch YouTube videos of Britian’s Got Talent all the time just to hear Simon’s comments. If he approves, you know they’ve really done something great. And that’s the best compliment anyone can get.

    • Conor  –  Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 5:20 am

      I know – I’m so glad to know he’s still on the air, and when you get his praise, it really,really means something. I love that.

  2. Adrianne
    Thu 19th Jan 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Boy oh boy, do you know Charlie well. This has instantly turned into his best birthday ever!

    You are so right about his brutal honesty, although I’d contend it’s a pretty good quality in a spouse. :)

    • Conor  –  Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 5:22 am

      Hi Adrianne-
      Shoot – I was secretly hoping my comparing him to Simon Cowell would put him into a deep funk that would take him all through winter…well, maybe next time?

      We miss you guys! You’re the last hold outs – hopefully we’ll get you relocated to the east coast soon!


  3. Kim
    Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 4:21 am hit the nailon the head! We also stopped watching when he left… I think we should all have a “Simon” in our lives… Great post Conor. Nearly aspirated my tea reading the bleach down my ear canals… Hahaha

    • Conor  –  Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 5:24 am

      I’m so using “aspirated my tea” and appropriating it as my own. Apologies in advance for my blatant plagiarism, but think it of it as flattery, maybe? Does that help?

  4. Marcy Prager
    Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 5:47 am

    Conor, You got me at pouring bleach down my ear canals!

  5. Marcy Prager
    Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 6:02 am

    I see good teachers as inspirational people – accepting, but encouraging each student to take the time to think of new answers to probing questions and enable students to ask their own powerful questions. Each student should feel safe in a classroom to take risks and add what they truly think to discussions. Teachers should conference with each student as they write to get positive feedback and receive encouragement to add more details to improve their work. High expectations and scaffolding to reach them is what teaching should be all about. Teachers should know what they need to grow as well – new pedagogy, better content knowledge, etc. As we grow, all of us need that course, that person, to inspire us to greater heights. I’m not sure about Simon Cowell – he could be really cutting, but Charlie has the integrity so one listens and can be inspired…Happy Birthday Charlie! Conor is lucky to have you, Liz, his own kids and the kids from Nepal to keep him on the straight and narrow!

    • Conor  –  Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 7:59 am

      Yes, when teachers do it, it’s amazing – and they are the ones you remember because ultimately, they put you on the right track in your life. Couldn’t agree more.

  6. Marcy Prager
    Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 6:06 am

    I just happened to come across this quote at the right time:
    “My challenge to you: Consider looking at your challenges as friends that are going to help you grow.”―Claire Wineland

  7. Nancy
    Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 7:24 am

    Love the post! The person “who can help you truly become not just yourself, but the best version of yourself.” Take a wild guess who my Simon Cowell is? Oh and he is not an ass. Probably incapable of being an ass! And I think you’d agree he makes a pretty good Simon Cowell. Hmm… enough hints?

    • Conor  –  Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 8:01 am

      Farid is SO the ultimate Simon Cowell. I always think of him as our moral compass at NGN – all ideas go through him and are vetted for integrity. Thank God for that!

  8. Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 11:04 am

    Great blog post Conor. It really resonated with me. My best friend is my Simon Cowell and you are right. In the moment it’s difficult to handle the tough love. She usually doesn’t mince her words, but 99% of the time she’s right! Or wants to knock some sense into me. Although, I believe in telling my friends what I think and I do not sugarcoat it, I’ve come to realize it’s all in the delivery. Some people just cannot handle the truth!

    • Conor  –  Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 11:24 am

      Right – and some people I really want to hear just nice things from, and some I want to hear the truth from. More nice than truth, maybe, to be honest, but I know it gives me that kick in the butt.

  9. Natalie
    Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 4:17 pm

    My Simon Cowell was my Chemistry teacher. He too was a bit of an ass. But he wanted his students to succeed and would bend over backwards to help us. When he gave praisw, you knew he meant it. Becausw it was true, and no one could argue otherwise. He retired last year, so I was his last class. Though I didn’t think it when I had him, I’m glad I did get the opportunity.

    • Conor  –  Fri 20th Jan 2012 at 9:15 pm

      That’s sort of my nightmare – my chemistry teacher as my Simon Cowell. I sucked so bad at chem, he would have never stopped yelling at me. Simon style.

  10. Dad
    Sat 21st Jan 2012 at 9:07 am

    Good one, Conor. Your Charlie reminds me of Mick and me in the old days.

  11. charlie
    Sat 21st Jan 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Holy smokes. I’ve been on the road for the last few days and haven’t kept up with things. When i saw that you had a blog titled “you and simon cowell” i didnt expect it to be ME and simon cowell.

    I really appreciate the nice words there. I suppose you dont completely suck today.

    Seriously- thanks.

  12. Tue 31st Jan 2012 at 8:52 pm

    So I was looking for some great travel ideas on where to go this April, when I stumbled on your American Idol articel…. and I so agree with you.
    I too love American Idol…. and its just simply entertaining and fund to watch

  13. Wed 08th Feb 2012 at 4:31 am

    Very well said, Simon Cowell’s was soul of the show somehow and made it much interesting and watchable.
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  14. jane ryan
    Fri 10th Feb 2012 at 6:59 am

    No way simon is out ?! American Idol will never be the same ! his comments are sacarstic, fun , and very witted … i think it will be boring without him … In 2007 i even arranged a vacation rentals in LA to watch the final live on the studio ! now its just gonna be boring

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