Thursday, August 4, 2011

Advice From a Famous Person

From an original post to Studio 30 Plus on my blog there.

I once heard a smart man talk about fame.
He spoke of why we shouldn't bother seeking it. He asked young people to name the four Beatles. Most couldn't.
But forty years ago nearly everyone in the world knew who they were. They were possibly the most famous people alive in 1970.
In less than the passing of a single generation, most people in the world can't name more than one of them, if even one. If ever there was a perfect example of how fleeting fame is, that is it.
I see so many people who simply want to be famous, for any reason. Mostly, they choose behaviors that make them notorious instead.
Of course, we confuse notoriety with fame. We confuse infamy with fame. Do you know the difference?
Or care?
If you seek fame for its own purpose, then how is that different from seeking notoriety, or infamy? Seeking fame is no different than a child who behaves in a certain way in order to get attention, other than the degree of self-awareness and age of the person seeking the attention.
Astounding is the degree to which people will go to get attention, regardless of the impact on other people, or the world around them. In this, little has changed over the course of human history – perhaps just the scope of the “audience”.
In 1300 A.D., a fame-seeker would generally never be famous beyond his own town (skipping the obvious politicians and warriors). In 2011, a fame-seeker can be seen by a billion people around the world in the time it takes to upload a video to the internets. No filters, no forethought. Simple-minded actions can go out to the world in the blink of an eye. I need give no examples. You know so many already.
Andy Warhol was right and wrong. Everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes, he said. He was right in that we can be seen by the world. He was wrong to call it fame. It is most definitely not fame. It is less than a passing thought in most cases. However, his point of the brevity of the notoriety is what has always been so accurate.
So why seek the attention of the world for mere  seconds? What purpose? Does it fill a void in your soul? Does it make daddy come back to mommy, or erase the memory of him beating you when you were six? Does the brief infamy replace any need you have for longer than the time it takes for peoples' attention to be diverted to the next big thing? Being famous does not equal being loved. It will not help the world. It will not help you. It will only make you smaller than you ever imagined.
My advice: be the most famous and beloved person to one other person in the world. Be a mentor  to the child who has never seen an adult of good character. Want to be a father or a mother? Then make sure what you really want is to be a human being who has decided to commit yourself to creating life, and who will dedicate yourself to shaping that life into someone who will leave the world a better place. 

Be kind to someone who can do nothing for you in return.

The strength of character needed to achieve this kind of fame will be contagious, and will build a world we would much rather live in than the one we do live in now. And it lasts forever.


  1. Fantastic. That last line. Wow.
    What inspired this?

  2. Thanks, both of you, very much.

    @dbs: This was sparked by a birthday of mine coming up, and me wondering if I've been living a life worthy of my ideals and one that helps make a better humanity.

    That got me thinking of a few other things, including the relative values of character, social contract, ethics, obligation, vs. prominence, fame, wealth, and the midset of seeking these various things.

  3. I enjoyed the post but I don't see anything wrong with wanting to be famous. I do see something wrong with just wanting to be famous and not caring how. I also think there are plenty of young people who could name all four Beatles, like people as young as 12, though certainly not as many as could in bygone decades. And in another fifty years there will still be 12 year olds who can name all four Beatles. I think it would be cool to be famous for doing what I love, writing. I'd like to able to share it with a large number of people, and I also desire praise and attention just like anyone else.

  4. Hi Elliot! Thanks for adding your perspective to this. I appreciate it very much. I believe there are lots of gray areas with this subject, and your point about not caring how one becomes famous is a good illustration of this. It indicates part of my argument (not included in this particular post, but written about elsewhere) that intent is important in one's actions.

    As for craving praise and attention like everyone else, the need for social interaction, closeness and affirmation of some sort is certainly by now hardwired into our evolutionary selves. Humans, like many other animals, are very social animals. The distinction I want to make clear in my writing is that there is a vast difference between the need for feeling "important" and famous with people with whom one has no actual relationship, vs. the close bonds of personal relationships.

    In much simpler terms, I would rather be considered a good man by a spouse or child, friend, or relative, than a rock star by two hundred million strangers, who love me for my image. Especially, if my creation and shaping of that image was for the purpose of simply becoming famous.

  5. You can never to wrong treating people how you would like to be treated.

  6. Very powerful. Sharing on my Facebook and G+. Love.

  7. @Mrs. T: I've found that to be so true. It's that easy.

    @Nubian: Wow! Thank you! Honored and humbled by that.