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Last Updated on February 28, 2018

The Endless Battle Between Good and Popular

The Endless Battle Between Good and Popular

Have you ever watched an awards show and wondered how the judges reached their decision? Specifically, is it really the most talented artists who receive accolades, or is it just about popularity? Some argue that it doesn’t matter how accomplished you are – if your work is not popular, it will never be perceived as “good.”

Let’s take the Grammys as an example. The Best New Artist, Song Of The Year, Record Of The Year, and Album Of The Year categories could theoretically be won by an artist of any musical genre. However, no classical work has ever won one of these awards.[1] Year after year, the Grammy judges seem to reward musicians who are popular, as opposed to those who are “good.”

Looking at the numbers, Taylor Swift’s “1989” won the 2016 Best Album award, whereas Adele’s “25” has been nominated for the 2017 prize. Both these albums have sold in their millions – “1989” sold five million copies by July 2015, and “25” sold over nine million copies in 2016. It would appear that there’s a clear split between “good” and “popular.”

How does this split come about?

At the beginning of an artist’s career, they use their creativity as a means of expressing their feelings. When they make music or create a painting, their aim is to work through difficult emotions and restore a state of contentment and calm. If the result isn’t to their liking, they work hard to make it as good as possible – perfection is the end goal for beginner artists. Popularity isn’t their first priority.

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    However, as someone learns their craft, they start to crave more attention, and to let others share in their work. Unfortunately, because art is subjective, their audience might not understand what they are trying to achieve, which can be disheartening. At this point, they have an epiphany – if they want to gain popularity and a wider audience, they need to tailor their art to the masses.

      The typical artist will then work around other people’s tastes. Their first priority is no longer excellence. Instead, their focus has shifted to increasing their personal popularity.

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        Good vs Popular

        People who focus on producing good work instead of popular end to strive for excellence. They do not care what other people think, and they know that it isn’t always a good idea to follow the crowd. In fact, the masses may not actually care what is best for them, and simply want them to churn out popular works. People who place “good” over “popular” are also free to be more creative.

        At the same time, people who do not care whether their work is popular runs the risk of ignoring constructive criticism. They can become too single-minded, and may also become depressed if only a small minority of the population enjoy their work.

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          On the other hand, people who cater for a wide audience create pieces of work that take into account multiple perspectives, because they are concerned with the opinions of other people. Popular works are more commercially successful, and these people can gain a lot of satisfaction when they achieve a wide audience.

          The downside is that people who try to appeal to the majority will lose their personal creativity. They might even develop a reputation as a predictable, “boring” person who produces a string of similar works. When you create things primarily for others, rather than yourself, it can become impersonal and bland.

            Those who strive to be popular turn into people-pleasers. When your identity is tied up with your reputation, it’s a constant battle to keep up with the latest fashions. People who try to live up to others’ expectations will run into problems, because the whims and tastes of the public will change over time. A popular person may succeed in changing themselves to suit the majority of their fans, but this could come at a cost of their personal development. They might shift over time, but perhaps not for the better.

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            However, people who strive to simply produce good work and be the best of themselves can also stall in their development. They may stubbornly refuse to listen to others, and might never evolve beyond the present state.

            Why not have both?

              When you aim to be either good or popular, you will run into trouble. The answer is to make great stuff, but also takes the perspective of others into account. You need to remain true to your vision, yet remain open to comments and criticism from outsiders. When you combine your vision with the needs of your audience, you have a winning combination.

              Let’s look at how this can work in practice. The Japanese lifestyle brand MUJI upholds the principle of minimalism. They take pride in producing high-quality products that come with few features. However, they also cater to a wide market by offering shoppers functionality. For example, they strive to create items that fit with their minimalist aesthetic, but they also take the average person’s needs into account, offering everyday items such as pens and notebooks that fit their philosophy.[2]

              Just because our culture tends to divide us into these two categories doesn’t mean that you can’t balance both in you. The trick is to get clear about what you are trying to achieve, and stick to your principles – yet at the same time remaining open to new influences.

              The next time you create something, work until it’s the best you can make it, be the best self you can be. Once you are satisfied, ask others for their opinion. Listen carefully, but don’t automatically assume they are right! Keep your integrity intact, and be what makes you happy. It’s great to bring joy to other people’s lives, but your self-respect is important too.

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              More by this author

              Leon Ho

              Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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              Last Updated on September 17, 2018

              What Is Your Destiny in Life? How to Mindfully Achieve Your Purpose

              What Is Your Destiny in Life? How to Mindfully Achieve Your Purpose

              At several points in our lives, we tend to ask– if not question, what is our destiny in life and the truth about why we’re living.

              On days of frustration, it’s more of questioning why we haven’t figured it all out. On days of reflection, it’s more of what serves us. On the good days, you feel that purpose in your bones. And on the bad days, you might feel no purpose at all.

              Here’s the deal:

              How do you define purpose?

              Webster’s dictionary defines it as “something set up as an object or end to be.”

              “End to be” almost sounds too predestined – that our “purpose” is out of our control because at the end of the day we’ll truly end up at our truest destination, and life is just trying to figure out what that is along the way.

              What if our life’s purpose is to be present here on earth because your life’s mission is determining what serves us and what we’re willing to contribute?

              What is your destiny in life?

              I once asked a friend what his fear in life was. He feared hurting people, and he also fears never amounting to be of significance to anyone in his relationships – friendships, romantically, and as a colleague. It got to the point where he stayed in unfulfilled romantic relationships because breaking up would mean it would make him the antagonist in her story.

              They say we meet 80,000 people in our lifetime and that is if we live to be 78-years-old.[1] From the moment you were born to this very exact moment you are now reading this article, we are an accumulation of upbringings, experiences, moments, tragedies, and the influences of the people we have met.

              The death of someone impacts us deeply because of the connection we had shared with that person. We cheer for our home team during the World Cup because of the pride we have for our country. We attend weddings and anniversaries to celebrate love and it is the the love we have for our friends and the love for our partner.

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              Life’s purpose is more about the connection we make with others and having that chance to live 80,000 different lives. It’s a chance to deepen our self-awareness, and truly understand what resonates with our inner self.

              I then looked at my friend and asked him this:

              “Out of the 80,000 people you have met and will continue to meet, do you truly believe you won’t inspire anyone at all? Out of the 80,000 that will come in and out of your life, could you say you won’t hurt any of them or be hurt by any of them?”

              It’s literally impossible.

              Sometimes we meet people who inspire us greatly, who shift our lives and in return, we shift theirs; they are a makeup of their own 80,000 people. While other times, we meet people who have impacted us negatively; they too are a makeup of their own 80,000 people.

              The bottom line is:

              Our life’s purpose is to connect with others and by doing so, our life’s mission becomes clearer.

              The truth about our mission

              Is our mission always clear? Probably not.

              Your life’s mission is probably not the same as it was when you were 20, or even the same as it was a year ago. It could have changed from “wanting to become a nurse so I can help the elderly” to “wanting to open a 24-hour daycare center to help parents who work graveyard shifts.”

              The commonality here is the want to help people. The how and what may change, but the why is what remains.

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              As our lives continue to go through waves, it’s only natural for our values to change along with those waves.

              The question to ask here is:

              In midst of the chaos and whirlwind of events  we call life, what continues to stand still after all these years?

              Our life’s mission comes down to that constant voice that repeatedly sends signals and stirs that pot of emotions, excitement, and ambition within us. Although it may seem unclear, it’s the one thing that never changes:

              • Have you always loved the art of storytelling because it connects strangers?
              • Have you always loved making handcrafted jewelry because it drives your creativity?
              • Have you always been drawn to cooking because it keeps you in control of what you are putting in your body?

              How to achieve your destiny

              Think of your life mission as an anchor. Now it’s time to look into how to harness that anchor and conquer your destiny.

              1. Decide – Your mind is the captain

              Imagine your mind as the captain of the ship and the anchor is your life’s mission. Your ship is currently sitting at a standstill point in life with four possible directions: north, east, west, and south. As easy as it is to set sail, it’s harder when the destination may seem unclear.

              The first step is always deciding.

              Sometimes we stay at this standstill moment because we’re afraid of sailing towards the wrong direction.

              Maybe we’ve done it one too many times in the past, and that the fear has since stayed. So, we end up being content with sitting comfortably in our ship because there are no waves, no currents, just calmness that surrounds us. But there is no adventure, and after a while the calm waves seem almost lonesome.

              You will never fail because look at your ship at this exact moment — It’s out on the waters, it’s the result of all the small and large decisions you’ve been making throughout life. You have sailed your ship out to sea before, and you can do it again. Don’t over think it and be accountable for youself to decide.

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              Regardless of the direction you do decide to take, you will still continue to meet a handful of people to add into your 80,000; with that, a chance to gain additional experiences, knowledge, inspirations, and lessons to redefine our life’s mission. The thing is, you have to sail somewhere.

              The moment you sail and live your life’s purpose by meeting people on this journey, you will meet people who will challenge your life’s mission. Regardless of whatever tangible action you decide to take, you must learn to trust our anchor.

              As long as you have your anchor, it will hold you and remind you of what truly moves you. It’s that one constant thing to guide you when you are at your next standstill.

              2. Do – Your body is the ship

              As your mind continues to steer, your body is the ship that sails; it gets you to the destination your mind is trying to go. To actively achieve your life’s mission, you must do the following step.

              The second step is to do and keep doing.

              Whatever it may be, just do. If it’s a book you’ve been wanting to write for years, it’s time to write. If it’s a 5k run you’ve been putting aside because work is too hectic, it’s time to train. If it’s to finally start that business, but finances are always tight, it’s time to try.

              Complacency isn’t a fun place – neither is an uncrossed list of things you’ve been wanting to do that probably all ties in with your mission.

              Once you start, everything will fall into place. Trust the anchor to guide you and give you that nudge when something isn’t working anymore. As we continue to interact with others and grow physically and mindfully, our ideas and projects – sometimes careers and ideal relationships can change with them.

              Listen to that anchor, because that anchor is always connected to your life’s mission.

              3. Reflect – Looking beyond the horizon

              Now it’s time to take charge of your destiny. There’s power to making a decision but there’s greater power in putting those decisions into action. Afterwards, it’s time to reflect.

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              Your mind is the captain – calling all the shots, making the choices and deciding which waves to ride over and which waves to steer clear from. It’s also the one thing that propels you forward, and on some days, it can be your best companion, while on other days, your worst enemy.

              Your body is the ship – it puts all those decisions into action. It takes you to those job interviews, it types out the words onto a keyboard and into a working manuscript, it also gets your heart pumping during workouts. Your body is the action taker.

              Your anchor is your spirit – your anchor is your current reminder. It will often ask you if things continue to resonate with you. It’s your gut, it’s your instinct, and it’s the one thing that stays true to you. Listening to it will give you a clearer understanding of your mission, but only if you live your life’s purpose.

              Meet people, ask them questions, and see what stirs the anchor within you. The answer will always lie there, and the anchor is what leads you to your destiny.

              Final thoughts

              As humans, our one life has been a string of moments created, enjoyed, and experienced with others and that alone makes the world turn.

              Our purpose is to be present on this earth, but our mission is to tap into our calling and learn how to give back. It’s listening to that anchor that has stayed with us our whole lives.

              By mindfully becoming aware and actively doing the things that call to us, we begin to steer our ship towards passionate projects, people, and places that stay true to our inner compass.

              Featured photo credit: S A R A H ✗ S H A R P via unsplash.com

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