11 min. read
In this blog that I wrote I shared my thoughts on how success is seen and how I would define it myself. There are certain things that strikes me when it comes to the public perspective of success. This is another thought of mine that was stuck in my head for quite a while. Let me explain why I think you don’t have to be famous to have your voice heard, for making a difference and to do some good.
Fame as the ultimate goal in life
Human beings have always needed to believe in heroes who appear to have triumphed over the hardships of life. Our current fascination with the real life heroes who’s images are transmitted to us via the modern media serves almost the same psychological function as the more traditional fascination with fairy tale heroes. Tales of triumph told by generation after generation, inspires the same sense of awe and enchantment of the members of traditional cultures that are the preoccupation with the famous brings to our lives today.
In the real world of today, it is fame that has become the symbol of ultimate success and self-realization. In 2012, a study from Scientific American found that the desire for fame solely for the sake of being famous was the most popular future goal among a group of teenagers from 10 to 12 years old. This desire for fame overshadowed hopes for financial success, achievement, and a sense of community.
For many people being famous is the ultimate goal in life. We tend to think that fame brings us value. A new study from 2013 by Dara Greenwood and colleagues showed that people wanted to use fame to help others or make them proud. “Being able to financially support family and friends”, “Being a role model to others”. For some of us the desire to become famous reflects our universal need to matter, to influence, and to make a difference in the world around us.
The way the media generates stories plays a similar role in our lives. And the images that they convey to us with the fairy tale once promised, that we too can become queens of lords of our own destiny’s. That we can see possibilities and opportunities to transform ourselves and our worlds. However, as gorgeous and intelligent as these people may look, like any other human being they have the same kind of issues and insecurities as everybody else has. Let me share why I think all of our voices matter and why striving for excellence might be the great alternative to striving for fame.
Actors, activists and politicians who are leading the conversations
I’ll admit that when I first started speaking publicly about climate or inequality, it felt like its own risk. I was deeply aware that my blog was a latecomer to the issue and wondered if I was the right messenger for the cause. There are many activists, actors and politicians who are already leading the conversations and I was thinking how my blog could add value to that conversation.
An actor like Leonardo DiCaprio for example is using the fame that he has earned as an actor to make people more aware of the risks of climate change. DiCaprio is an example of someone famous who found his voice and is using it to make people more aware of the topic.
I agree that it may look like as if those famous people are the ones who are leading the conversations and therefore, are able to make a difference because they are privileged with speaking directly to a large, international audience. Although this select group of famous people do have the opportunity to use their voice for the voiceless indeed, making a difference applies to everyone else. No matter the conversation is about gender equality, or climate change.
When you ask yourself what you can do to limit climate change, it’s natural to think of things like driving an electric car or eating less meat. This sort of personal action is important for the signals it sends to the marketplace. One of the reasons why more and more businesses are launching plant-based alternatives, is because more and more people started to make different choices.
But cutting down on the meat consumption requires concerted political action too. We aren’t going to solve the livestock problem by telling people not to eat meat. That’s why engaging in the political process is the most important single step that people from every walk of life can take to help avoid a climate disaster.
Progress depends on all of us speaking up. We truly need to be deliberate about galvanizing a wide range of partners to play a role in changing society’s norms and expectations—not just the activists, actors and politicians who are already leading these conversations, but consumers, shareholders, faith leaders, entertainers, fathers, husbands and women.
Richard Branson shared his philosophy on making progress on his blog. I learned that from the master himself, Richard Branson. Drawing circles around myself helps me to make sure that everything inside that circle is taken care of. For example, am I looking after myself, am I seeing my friends enough, do I invest in my interests enough, etc. Once I feel that circle is fine I widen the circle to include family and friends and do everything I can to help them and make a difference there too. If all neighbours drew circles around themselves and their homes soon many would overlap and the elderly, the lonely, and people more generally would feel connected, loved and cared for. The same goes for our environment, which is in desperate need of this attention. The bigger our circles get, the more they start to overlap and start to include wider networks.
The power of one voice is strong, but when it comes to justice or climate, the power of our collective voices is unstoppable. Through our voices we really can effect change. Some of us will do the important work locally at the micro level to awaken our neighbors.
Some of us will work for progress regionally. And a few of us will be like Kalief Browder, a modern-day prophet whose death two years ago started a discussion that continues today about how poor, black juveniles are treated in the criminal justice system. If you are interested in the Kalief Browder Story, then go watch this documentary series. It’s produced by Jay Z on Netflix, and the series is available in all countries.
Greatness through service
In one of his speeches Martin Luther King encouraged us to seek greatness through service:
“If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”
In this way everyone can be great and add value, because everyone can serve. Needless to say, everyone is equally important. And there are many areas that desperately need new and strong voices.
Finding the right people
So once you find out for yourself what you want to do, it’s more important to find the right people for the things that you want to achieve, than to become just well-known with random people.
If you’re passionate about pepper seeds and you want to start a business, let’s go find the people who also passionate about that. Once you find the right people, you’re more likely to serve them well, know what’s really in their minds and to give back.
Being well-known by 10 people who can do stellar things for your career is far superior to being known by 200 who can’t help you whatsoever. Size doesn’t matter, but engagement does. So you’re successful if you know how to promote yourself for the right reasons.
That means that, besides the fact that there is no place for everyone to become famous, it is also not needed to become famous in order to do meaningful work and do good. You only have to find the right people to make things work. It’s the number one rule in marketing and business.
Find a way to serve
Therefore, using your abilities to serve others in a meaningful way is another important one for why you don’t have to be an actress or politician to do some good.
I mean, because I have a background in social sciences and business I’m more likely to write content for you that is useful and meaningful. The experiences that I have, my knowledge, my values and ideas create the opportunity to serve this community.
Although I don´t reach millions of people, I do think that there are certain ideas and messages on my blog that can be useful for the online audience that I speak to.
And maybe you are a teacher, working with disabled children. Or you work in the film industry where you experience the underrepresentation of women. Those challenges combined with your own talents, skills and expertise, can create an opportunity for a better future.
When it comes to making a difference, I am sure that in your situation there are things that you can do and use to make a difference. And although it may seem that being famous is needed to reach millions of people, those famous people have opportunities and boundaries too. It all comes down to the question what you’re going to do with the things that you do have, to make a change.
So there are some reasons to believe that you don’t need to be famous or whatsoever to do some good to the world. Although some of us are lucky enough to have the resources to reach a lot of people around the world, doing good also applies to everyone else who wants to make a difference.
Although famous people may reach a wider scope and with that are able to reach millions of people, we all have talents, values, skills and therefore, opportunities to make a meaningful contribution to other peoples lives. No matter where you are at the ladder of society.
Also, making a difference is not about finding the biggest audience for your story, rather than finding the right audience with the right people. The change you seek to make should fit the needs of the group of people you’re trying to help. Besides that, if fame is not the same as success, we really have to find out for ourselves what success is and how we personally would define it. Doing good and being successful comes in many forms and in some ways fame can be complementary to your success. It can enable you to do more of the things you love to do.
Making a name for yourself can be in any field, and there are many problems to solve in this world. Big – or small, you only have to pick one. My philosophy has always been related to the one of the circles – if we make ourselves happy first, then we are able to expand that to other peoples lives.
If you are an actress or not, it is just a matter of getting more people to do work they love. Let’s try to focus on excellence. Let excellence be your brand. Focus on improving ourselves and trying to make a change in many industries at the same time. If we try to focus on improving ourselves and doing things that we love to do in order to serve others, we end up adding value to peoples lives. Anyone can be great, because anyone can serve.
So formulate your own definition of success and how it should look like, find the right people that need that change you seek to make and use your expertise to serve them as good as possible.
So I am very happy to hear from you. What do you think about this and when do you think making a difference is done well? Let me know!