Stop Treating The Rich And Famous Like They’re Better Than You

There’s something about meeting the rich and famous that makes people lose their brains. Just these past few days, I’ve been reading tons of gushing posts about being at TED. My fellow MyWay blogger Matt Blumberg even wrote post entitled “Humbed at TED.”

This kind of fawning makes me sick.

No matter how famous a person is, they’re still only human. Bill Clinton has to get up in the morning and put on clothes, just like you and me.

Treating the successful as if they were on another plane simply perpetuates the belief that you’ll never achieve the same kind of success. Which is rot.

Success isn’t a god-given right, or a sign of divine favor. It’s the result of smarts, hard work, and a good dose of luck. And you shouldn’t treat a guy any differently just because he has a few extra zeros in his bank account, or a few extra interns in his pants.

Gretchen has a great post about why we love simply seeing the famous. It’s an atavistic, religious response:

Darshan is a Sanskrit Hindu term meaning “sight” or “auspicious viewing.” Darshan is the beneficial glow that comes from being in the presence of a great spiritual leader (or holy place or object). Merely looking at such a person – and even better, receiving his or her glance – bestows a blessing.

In Vikram Chandra’s fantastic novel set in India, Sacred Games, I noticed, people also sought darshan of a rich and famous mobster.

So when people crowd into a store because Jennifer Aniston is inside, or follow Woody Allen down the street for blocks, or stand outside in the freezing cold to see Barack Obama speak instead of watching him on TV, it’s because they want darshan.

Look, I’m not trying to denigrate the rich and famous. Many, if not most of them richly deserve their success. But as they say in the mutual fund industry, past performance is no guarantee of future results, and that’s even more true when it comes to issues outside their area of expertise. Bono may be a great musician, but what the hell does he know about economics or foreign policy? Would you take fashion tips from Bill Gates? Hell, you probably shouldn’t even take technology tips from him. And Lord knows, I’m not sure what Silicon Valley has to learn from Cameron Diaz.

Hero worship, fame, religion…it’s fine to feel an emotional reaction to extraordinary circumstances. But don’t let that feeling overwhelm your faculties. In the end, you should seek the truth and believe in yourself. That’s the only sure formula for success.

5 thoughts on “Stop Treating The Rich And Famous Like They’re Better Than You

  1. Chris, I agree with your entire post, except citing Matt’s article. In my reading he wasn’t humbled by the riches, fame or success around him, but simply by the intellectual level he experienced at TED – something I cannot attest to, never having attended.

    Btw, this video from last year’s TED is well worth watching…

  2. Zoli,

    Matt and I have been corresponding via email…he didn’t mean to come off like a eager teen, but I think that the words are pretty clear:

    “Everyone around me was either like me or better, smarter, more intellectual, more well rounded, taller, thinner, better looking, better teeth, the works. This conference so far has been the same, and I mean that in a good way.”

    Fame has a way of licking one’s ego to a fine sheen (not my coinage–I read that once in a description of David Duchovny), much like Photoshop and the fashion industry can create an illusory appearance that no normal person can match.

    But I believe that I can and should stand tall and think for myself, regardless of how important the person I’m conversing with.

  3. Interesting take. I do think if someone has something to say about things other than what they are known for, I can remain open minded to it.

  4. Anonymous

    That was one of the first things my dad taught me, no matter how famous, how powerful or how beautiful someone is, they still have to go and have a shit.
    To this day this still works for me!

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