Today is one of those days I spent five hours writing an entry that I then decided not to publish. It was one long rant. I’ll spare you the gory details but I’m annoyed when people think “clothing manufacturer” and “sewing contractor” are synonyms. One downside to transparency is that people are increasingly flinging words around -in the wrong context- so you end up baffled and confused. Worse, they treat you like you’re the stupid one. The dilution of terminology is making communication increasingly difficult.
Anyway, after five hours of flogging a dead end subject, I needed a new topic to churn out before the close of day. Handily, Penelope Trunk’s entry on Is your life happy or interesting is, well, interesting. It’s a quiz kind of. I scored a zero. -2 to 2 means one is suspiciously well balanced. Or lacking self-identity. She isn’t sure which one. I’m relieved. I am happy and I think I have a mostly interesting life and usually interesting work. Whether people who meet me at cocktail parties agree, I couldn’t say.
The reason I found this compelling is because it seems there’s an increasing number of people getting into the industry (or trying to beat down the doors) who want to be a designer rock star. That seems to be the goal. This is the career they envision when they picture themselves starring in their own lives. The idea that someone would actually want to be famous is just so alien to me. It doesn’t seem healthy wanting to be the center of attraction. Here’s the question from PT’s quiz that made me think of it:
3. Are you nationally recognized as being great at doing something or do you have nationally-recognized expert knowledge in something? Or are you reorganizing your life in order to achieve this end? Minus one
Interesting people raise the bar on themselves. They are singularly focused because they recognize that in order to be great, you need to be focused. They will sacrifice other things in life for this obsession.
I did assign myself the minus one for this question but not happily because I have never reorganized my life in order to achieve the (unintended) outcome. At least I don’t think I have. I mean, I didn’t reorganize with the intent of becoming an authority. I have a big mouth, it just kind of happened.
But you know what I mean about designer rock star wannabes. Is this a generational difference or fed by reality TV? Apparently it is increasing; according to Pew Research, 51% of Gen Y want to be famous. Says the NYT:
People with an overriding desire to be widely known to strangers are different from those who primarily covet wealth and influence. Their fame-seeking behavior appears rooted in a desire for social acceptance, a longing for the existential reassurance promised by wide renown.
A book called “The Fame Motive” is coming out soon. According to the book’s author, only one or two percent of people rate fame as their most coveted goal. That seems so low as to be all but suspicious (especially considering Pew Research’s conclusions) but I suppose they’d know being experts and all but from where I sit, fame seekers are a hefty percentage. I suppose this industry attracts an inordinate number of them. Maybe only music, modeling and acting are worse. You don’t get into sciences to be famous. We only have room for one famous paleontologist, one famous biologist, one famous anthropologist and one famous oceanographer. With all those slots taken, they have to go into fashion. Besides, fashion is not as much work. Heh.
There’s something else in the NYT story that isn’t clear; a psychologist was cited as saying our sense of mortality can be a fame motivator:
“We accomplish that by trying to view ourselves as enduringly valuable contributors to a meaningful world. And the more others validate our value, the more special and therefore secure we can feel.”
But I don’t agree. I think there’s legions of people aspiring to contribute in meaningful ways who aren’t motivated by validation to feel more special and secure. Validation is great but you don’t pick up the heavy end of anything if you’re an emotional cripple. Accomplishing something truly great requires centering and you can’t do that limping along on three cylinders.
So, do you want to be famous? Do you want to do good work? Do you have to be emotionally fractured to undertake a monumental task? And take Penelope’s quiz if you’re curious as to whether you’re interesting or happy. I’m neither. Or both. How about you?