Photo Source: EMI Records - David Bowie - Young Americans
What if I became famous? The thought actually scares me. I’m not sure I’d like it.
The few times I’ve actually gotten lots of attention I haven’t dealt well with it. I always ended up feeling panicked. Suddenly I’m not in control of the way people see me anymore.
And fame is more than just attention. It’s a life-changing, one-way street to too much attention, not all of it positive. Would I want to expose myself, my family, to that?
This week, though, I happened to watch a clip of Mr. Rogers in 1999 being inducted into the TV Hall of Fame. In his speech, he wisely said: “Fame is a four-letter word. And like ‘tape,’ or ‘zoom,’ or ‘face,’ or ‘pain,’ or ‘life,’ or ‘love,’ what ultimately matters is what we do with it.”
I appreciated that a famous man who managed to keep his heart and his family together would speak candidly about the problem with fame. Most four-letter words aren’t that nice. But his point was excellent and it gave me an idea about how to look at the problem.
What if instead of dreaming about fame, or fearing it, I actually created a vision about what I would do to with it? Is there something I could achieve with that attention and power that I couldn’t have before, something that makes me happy, or even allows me to serve in a greater way? Then I’d not only be in control of the process, I’d have a direction for it.
I think there’s a parallel here I can offer my students. I wonder how many of them are afraid of success because they don’t know what the trip over the edge would be like. Will they have to live up to higher expectations from now on? Will they ever be able to fail again?
If I had to teach them how to succeed, I suppose I’d tell them this.
“Go ahead and think about what life is like after you’ve succeeded beyond your wildest dreams. Imagine that it’s not happening to you, like a wave crashing over your head, but that you are now on a surfboard, riding high and moving fast. You’ll only be out of control if you don’t steer, if you don’t think ahead.
“So think ahead. How long would you like to keep surfing? When the wave runs out, do you want to get on another one?
“Do you want to see as much of the ocean as you can from up high, a view only surfers get? Do you want to use your new surfing power to learn how to skateboard? Or do you want to teach someone else how to get on the wave, now that you’ve been there?”
What do you think of my idea? Are you famous? Have you had this experience and would you like to tell the rest of us how you handled it?