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It could be you - but don't give up the day course

PERHAPS it's an epidemic of the January blues, but suddenly I can't move for wannabes in my classes. Some just wanna be rich. Some just wanna be famous. And some just wanna be rich and famous. Yes, even for one day.

Assessment schedules, work schemes, forward planning? Boring. What's the point of diligent application when any minute your life could be transformed by the wave of a magic wand, a sprinkling of stardust and an exploding bottle of champagne?

You've taken to heart the sales pitch - It Could Be You. Take Jack. He's fallen behind in his course work, and turns up full of remorse and good intentions, but never gets any real work done. He breaks his pencil, he falls off his chair, he plays the fool and is totally engaging, but is also about to fail in his course. His heart is set on a recording contract for his band, and he's finding it impossible to concentrate on anything else.

Take Lisa, who's got her sights set on a modelling career and sits through classes with a faraway look in her eyes. But are wishing and hoping enough?

My priorities are not theirs, and it's too easy to become impatient. The fact is, it could be you. And there's nothing wrong with dreams. As George Eliot said, mankind cannot bear too much reality.

Turning fantasy into reality, however, is usually less about wishing and hoping and more about putting in the groundwork. This week, Rob apologised for missing an assessment: "I was in the pub. And I can prove it," he announced, spreading out cuttings from the local paper and a selection of photographs.

He'd been chosen as an extra in a film. "That guy's elbow next to me had a microphone taped on it," he explained, going through the photographs, "and my pint had a piece of tape stuck on it so that we could get the levels of Guinness right through a sequence of takes." Since he's planning to write screenplay, Rob's keen to learn as much as he can and jumps at every opportunity. When he's discovered, when he's an overnight success, it'll be after a deal of hard work.

Janice had been writing for years, but had never shown her work to anyone. Finally she plucked up the courage to join a class. Her best work is humorous. One week, instead of preparing a monologue, she wrote a stand-up routine. Since timing is all in comedy, she felt she had to deliver it to the class. So there she was, hairbrush as a prop, working her audience. (For any lecturers having the misfortune to teach next door to me that week, I apologise unreservedly for the hilarity.) Her interest in stand-up grew and she joined a comedy writing project which culminated in a local gig. Suddenly our shy Janice was appearing on stage entertaining punters paying real money. Stand-up. Now that's living dangerously. The whole class went along, protective of our Janice, and she had a great evening.

Afterwards? "That's it," she said. "It was wonderful and I can't believe I did that, but never again." So sometimes 15 minutes of fame is quite enough. Sometimes fame can last a lifetime.

Jenny brought in the Guinness Book of Records, where she appears in her banana-yellow tracksuit, running in the London Marathon. She's now officially the oldest female marathon runner in the world.

That kind of fame isn't just handed to you on a plate. Jenny can tell you about the constant slog of training in all weather. Get to know Jenny, however, and you soon realise that if it wasn't marathon running, it would be something else. She is programmed for success.

Maybe if I get Jenny to have a word with Jack and Lisa, they'll give up on wishing and hoping and learn a thing or two about the qualities that make you a winner.

Dr Carol Gow is a lecturer in media communication at Dundee College.

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