Fame! According to the song it’s gonna help us live forever. Not only that, we’ll learn how to fly (high!) and people are gonna remember, remember, remember our name.
Sounds promising. But the media is full of the opposite. Famous people whose lives manifestly don’t work, who are stressed, anxious even downright miserable. There are as many casualties as winners in the fame game. Just think of the celebrities in rehab. So why does fame have such a pull on us? And how can we deal with this in a healthy way?
A nearly famous breakfast
The Wolseley in London is a restaurant that’s all vaulted marble, pre-war chandeliers and bustling waiters in black and white. It’s one of THE places to go to meet, eat and be seen. It also does wonderful scrambled eggs – which is why I was there catching up with a colleague. At the centre is large circle of tables where they put the VIPs, notables and celebs. There isn’t a red rope dividing ‘them’ from ‘us’ – but you sense one.
Over my breakfast partner’s shoulder I couldn’t help noticing another David, the A-lister that is comedian, author and charity channel swimmer David Walliams.* My partner followed my eyes asked me: “So David. Where would you rather be? Out here with the normal folk or in there with the famous ones?”
It set me thinking about fame. What is it we imagine will be different if we are famous? Do we need fame to achieve these differences?
Fame! We’re gonna be remembered…
We tend to think fame will make us live forever, or at least not be forgotten. It won’t. If you really care about your legacy then live every day as though you were building one. Make it something you’d want to be remembered for and proud to be associated with. Ironically this often means thinking less about yourself and more about others. Remember that people live on through the thoughts, memories and goodwill of others.
Fame! We’ll have a satisfying work-life…
We tend to think that if we were famous, we would get paid for being who we are; our life would become our living, so to speak. If this appeals to you, then you might like to bear in mind the Greek Philosopher Aristotle’s recommendations for a satisfying career. He suggested you first consider what you’d do for nothing. This is your passion. Then see where this passion intersects with the world of work.
Fame! We’ll be noticed…
You cant help feeling for those VIPs who’ve spent their lives getting the limelight only to hide themselves in dark glasses and baseball caps once they have it. “Fame hit me like a ton of bricks” said Eminem. Ouch.
I think there are easier, less exhausting ways to be seen. One thing I highly recommend my clients do is practise Appreciation. Starting with themselves and including anyone and everyone they ‘value’ (the root of the word appreciation). This can power up a person, a team or company like high octane fuel. A PA bounced up to me last week showing me an email her boss had sent her which was addressed to ‘My Super PA’. She was glowing like a star.
Fame! We’ll be successful…
Fame is used as a way of keeping score: “She is really famous so she must be really successful.” In our celeb-obsessed society famous people are very often successful at one thing – being famous. Having spent time with successful people who don’t feel successful (and some conventionally unsuccessful ones that do) I can’t help thinking the most important things is to consider your own recipe for success. It will be different from mine but it’s a much more accurate compass for your success than any you’ll see in advertising or the media. As the business guru Charles Handy once said to me, “knowing your own recipe for success is probably the only reliable recipe for success”.
“So, David. Where would you rather be? Out here with the normal folk or in there with the famous ones?”
My answer is: There may look nice, but here is better.
* If you still think fame is a cure-all, you might want to take a look at the darkness that can lurk behind the glittering facade in David Walliams’ painfully honest new biography Camp David.