Note: This post is simultaneously published at This Woman Writes, the new name and new location of Middle Aged Plague. Transition — it’s never easy.
I just finished reading one of those inspirational stories that is supposed to energize me but actually makes me want to rest my head on my paper-cluttered desk and weep.
Let me summarize:
Famous Person agrees to meet fans for specific time period. Smiles, signs autographs, connects.
Specific time period comes to close. Famous Person glances significantly at Event Coordinator.
“That’s it,” Event Coordinator announces to crowd. “No more time.” Crowd grumbles, begins to slowly disperse, but Famous Person seems oblivious to what is going on and continues to sign autographs. Famous Person then looks up:
“Hey! What’s going on?”
“The time’s up, Famous Person,” Event Coordinator explains apologetically.
“No way! I’m staying here until each and every person here gets an autograph and we get to say ‘hello’ to one another!”
Crowd cheers, everyone’s happy, Famous Person adds more fans to the base. Lesson to me, and you — if you want to be successful, you need to be a showman, because people love this.
If that scenario were spontaneous and genuine, it would say a lot — a positive lot — about the Famous Person. If it were coordinated, as the writer of the article seems to think it is, it also says a lot — but not necessarily a positive lot — about the Famous Person.
The question is, can we see the difference between these two scenarios, and, more importantly, does that difference mean anything to us?
In other words, is there a difference between actually caring about somebody and giving the impression of caring about somebody?
I think so. I imagine that anyone involved in a committed relationship with another person would appreciate the distinction; I know that the Norwegian Artist and I wouldn’t have celebrated 30 years of marriage if one or the other of us was an exceptional actor, as opposed to being a genuine spouse.
“But that’s a marriage,” we say. “These are public figures, and that’s different.”
Sadly, that’s true. The same honesty and integrity we look for in our friends, family, and co-workers is frequently missing in our public figures, and although we admire and esteem them as if they were who they say they are, when they fall short of these expectations, we’re remarkably — almost stupidly — forgiving.
“That’s the way things work in this world,” we shrug.
No, that’s the way things work in their world, and the result of being disingenuous — such a nicer sounding word than “deceitful” or “insincere” — is generally financially lucrative. It’s true — if you want to make it big, it helps to be a showman. Craftiness works.
It also destroys, and the better you get at it, the more desiccated your soul.
While it’s not impossible to win friends and influence people without resorting to clever schemes, it is more difficult, and if your sole goal is fame and fortune, then scheming is the way to go.
But you look in the mirror every day, and if you’re lucky, you have small or vulnerable people in your life who look to you for guidance and love.
Will you give them the real thing, or just the illusion?