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089: Starting Over Again Through Song, with Ta’u Pupu’a

Ta’u Pupu’a is a graduate of the Juilliard Opera Center and former NFL player recruited by the Coach Bill Belichick of the Cleveland Browns (which became the Baltimore Ravens). Born a native of the Kingdom of Tonga, Ta’u moved to Salt Lake City and discovered football in high school. Ta’u was able to attend Weber State University thanks to a full-ride football scholarship, and then he went on to his short career with the NFL.

Matt wanting some fresh air, opened his car door. A ski instructor on the way up the mountains saw young Matt and said, “Come on, I’m about to give a lesson, come with me and I’ll teach you how to ski.”

During his time with the NFL, Ta’u broke the arch in his foot, effectively ending his football career as quickly as it began. Ta’u was forced to consider a different future for himself, so he moved to New York City in a leap of faith. A lucky encounter with a Polynesian opera singer led him to try out for Juilliard, and thus his new career as an internationally renowned opera tenor was born. Ta’u’s story is one of overcoming adversity and starting over again, this time stronger than ever.

On this episode of Finding Your Summit, Ta’u shares his unique story of recovering from a major setback and pursuing a new dream; a story he shares with others to encourage them to reach out to their own dreams. Please enjoy Ta’u’s remarkable journey and allow it to inspire you to believe in yourself and your own potential. Ta’u Pupu’a is a true example of how to start over after you think you have lost everything, and he shows that the darkness of today can lead to a brighter tomorrow.

You Can Do This

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Matt’s life began to change at that moment. He didn’t have gear, he didn’t have a real reason or guide until that instant. Then on the mountain, the magic words from the instructor, “You can do this!” Matt believed and chose a new path.

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What You Will Learn:

  • Ta’u shares his winding journey, from growing up in Tonga to immigrating to the United States, and from his time playing football in college and with the NFL to his career-ending injury.
  • Learn how Ta’u found the strength to move past his injury, starting over again by applying to attend Juilliard with the ultimate dream of singing for the stage.
  • Ta’u shares how he navigated the major transitions of leaving one promising career path to follow another, and how a chance encounter with a famous Polynesian opera singer helped set the stage for the transition.
  • Ta’u describes the pride he takes in being the first Polynesian graduate of Juilliard Opera Center, and why his story of overcoming adversity and charting a new path is one he hopes will help others.
  • Ta’u explains why the hardest part of doing what he does is staying vocally healthy and taking the necessary steps to properly care for his vocal instrument.

Lifting Yourself Up From Loss

Ta’u had a promising athletic career ahead of him until it was cut short by an injury. Where others might have felt defeated or felt that their best shot at success had been stolen, Ta’u turned it into an opportunity to pursue a different passion. He is an example of how to start over after a devastating loss, and a perfect example of the silver lining in every cloud.

Ta’u found the strength and courage to take a leap of faith, moving to New York City with no particular prospects and no support network. That leap was rewarded when he applied to and was accepted by Juilliard, allowing him to turn his passion for singing into a new path to follow. Now he works as a highly regarded operatic tenor with some impressive accolades on his resume.

Tomorrow is a New Day

If there is a lesson that can be taken from Ta’u’s story, it is this: no matter how dark things become, no matter how much you feel you have lost, it is always possible to start over again. The key to overcoming adversity, no matter how great, is to recognize the possibilities that lie before you and to find the courage to seize them.

We’ve all heard the age-old adages a million times: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade; when one door closes, another opens; it’s always darkest before the dawn; every cloud has a silver lining… While these well-trodden words can seem overly simple, the message is true. No matter how hard things seem to be in the moment, the challenges you face today may very well serve as stepping stones to something new and exciting tomorrow.

Follow Mark’s attack on his 6th summit, VINSON! on his expedition’s tab.

Links to Additional Resources:

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