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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.

              Reference

              More by this author

              Leon Ho

              Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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              Last Updated on July 17, 2019

              How to Make Changes in Life To Be The Best Version of You

              How to Make Changes in Life To Be The Best Version of You

              Let’s start with the problem:

              You get back from work. You’re tired. It was a long day. You know there’s things you could do, to get out of the rut you’re in.

              But, let’s be honest. You really would rather relax, sit down and chill for a bit. Grab a snack. Watch your favourite show.

              By the time you’ve done that, the day’s over. There’s just not enough time. To make this worse – you don’t have the energy or willpower to make changes in your life today.

              So where do you go from there?

              What you need are some easy to apply actions that are proven to work.

              This article is going to give you 4 steps on how to make changes in life so you can follow today and get closer to success – even when you are feeling tired and lazy.

              These steps have proven to work for me, and many of the coaching clients I work with privately.

              1. Squash Inconsistency by Giving up Motivation

              Now most people, when they want to make changes to their lives, focus on making lengthy to-do lists and plans. They think over and over again about what is going wrong, what is going well and what they want, etc.

              All in a bid to push themselves to getting more motivated.

              Guess what? This isn’t going to work.

              Willpower and motivation are feelings. Feelings are vague and unreliable.

              Instead, what you should do is focus on putting your flawed unpredictable self in the best possible environments.

              If you do one thing first from this list, it’s THIS:

              Find and go to the best possible environment for the area of your life you want to change.

              For example:

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              • If you want to get fit, make your first goal to show up at the gym three times a week.
              • If you want to find a new relationship, show up to a meet up in your city for single people.
              • If you want to be productive and make your business idea work, don’t work at home, go to a co working space nearby.

              The reason people fail to become the best version of themselves is because they underestimate the power of environments to influence behavior.

              Accept that you are flawed, prone to distractions and your motivation and willpower will fail you.

              The best hack at your disposal? Show up to “change inducing” environments and get out of your comfort zone (physically)!

              OK. Next step.

              2. Recruit an Elite Team to Help You (For Free)

              Open up any social media platform you’re active on that contains some positive connections you have.

              Send this message to one person you already know and trust ton help you make changes to your life:

              “Hey [first name]. Can I be really frank and honest with you? I’m having one of those – ‘OMG I NEED TO MAKE CHANGES TO MY LIFE!’ moments.

              And I was browsing the internet, looking for tips and this article I came across suggested accountability. So here I am, messaging you to be part of my accountability system.

              My ask is simple.

              Can we sit together once a week at [x place] but do absolutely no socializing? I’ll buy the [coffee/food] and it will be a space to force me to do [x thing]. You literally have to do nothing other than eat the free coffee/food I pay for lol. But it will keep my accountability high, which is what I need.

              What you reckon? Can you help? Thanks!”

              Now obviously, change the language to suit you but you get the idea.

              Not only are you going to environments that will help you make changes, but by bringing a friend (or two), you make it even likelier that you will succeed. It doesn’t even have to be in person, it could be a video call.

              People fail to make changes to their lives because they try to do it all themselves.

              It doesn’t really work in long term, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

              You can recruit and “enlist” people to help you. By doing this, you’re taking care of the up and down motivation you have.

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              Not only are people happy to help, when they see this type of behavior, they’re also inspired and motivated to change their lives. Pretty soon, you end up creating change in not just your life, but other people’s too.

              So when the next dip in willpower comes?

              You have a friend sitting right next to you, watching your every move, making sure you get things done anyway.

              3. Build Good Habits Effortlessly

              Changing your life means changing your day to day habits.

              Habits are automated behaviors you do everyday, like how a clock works, without thinking or motivating yourself to do them.

              Some habits help you to change, others can stop you. One of the best ways to replace your ‘bad’ habits with good ones is to treat them like old clothes. What happens when your t-shirt gets old, faded and out of fashion? You replace it with something new and improved.

              Do the same thing with your habits – upgrade and replace them with something better. Start small, then slowly graduate to higher levels of difficulty.

              Let me give you a clear example of what I mean:

              A few years ago (before it became mainstream), I was trying to start my own habit of meditating every single day to help boost my productivity and mindfulness. I’d done a mind blowing course called Vipassana. It involved 10 days of deeply powerful meditation combined with noble silence in a remote part of the UK.

              Now it was easy to do when I was there (#1 – environment!) with all those other meditators (#2 – people helping me). All I could do was meditate. There were ZERO distractions. I had NO CHOICE.

              When I got home however, after a few days of sticking with it, I quickly caved.

              Those extra 30 minutes of sleep were just so much easier than waking up everyday at 4am for a long one hour meditation.

              So what did I do to build this really important habit?

              Like with most things, I wanted to make changes to my life. I wanted to become my best self.

              I knew how important it was. I just couldn’t follow through consistently and kept failing over and over.

              Then, it hit me.

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              I needed to start small. I made a tiny change, that made all the difference.

              I made a tiny change, that I could stick to – without fail – that has me meditating daily every single day now.

              What was it?

              Instead of trying to do something BIG inconsistently (1 hour of 4am morning meditation) and failing again and again. I decided to do something small consistently.

              Building any good habit really just comes down to repetition. The way the brain is built works in favour of this.

              My new habit became:

              When I wake up, I will fold my bedding neatly. Then I will sit cross legged for 30 seconds with my eyes closed.

              Eventually, once I did this consistently for a few months. I increased difficulty.

              When I wake up, I will fold my bedding neatly. Then I will meditate for 10 minutes.

              Why does this work?

              What’s important here is that the behavior you want (meditating) is tied to another consistent habit (folding your bedding).

              I attached my new habit to one that already is consistent.

              Making it more likely to happen.

              Secondly, I aimed for consistency, not perfection. This is where a lot of people fail. They have an idea of the change they want, but things become all or nothing.

              When you do this, you fail to realize the power of consistency. The brain you have loves patterns. In this case, I trained my brain to repeat a set pattern every morning when I fold my bed.

              There was no motivation or willpower required.

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              This training has gone so far now that if I miss a day of meditating, I really feel uncomfortable. I’m just as conditioned to meditate as most people are to checking their phones in the morning.

              If you want to learn more about quitting bad habits, Lifehack’s CEO also has a guide on it: How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months

              4. Create More Time by Quitting Social Media

              You know the best thing I’ve ever done for my productivity and it took me 30 seconds to do?

              I deleted all social media apps from my phone and blocked them on my laptop.

              Then, to reinforce it, I told all my friends and followers on Facebook (my most used platform) I wasn’t using it for a while.

              Now, there’s nothing wrong with my social media. Social media is a tool. Tools are neutral. It’s how we use them that is “productive” or “distracting”.

              We each have to judge how healthy our usage is, especially when weighed against unlocking our best self. That said, for most people reading this, including me, I think limiting our usage is a very favorable advantage.

              One of the best ways to make changes in our lives is not to add new tools or tricks. But simply remove things that distract us.

              Social media is something I use heavily for my businesses. Technically I’m a “social media influencer” and “YouTuber”. I need to be posting constantly, right?

              Our situations are unique, so I came up with a unique solution for this. After deleting and blocking these apps from my devices, I installed a social media management software that still allows me to post my updates.

              The big difference, however, is I cannot spend any time scrolling and being distracted.

              Final Thoughts

              Change is not always about more. Sometimes it’s about doing less and getting rid of what distracts or blocks you.

              Trying to do things by yourself is a good way to fail. Share your goals and pitfalls with people, no one helps until you ask.

              Start with small changes consistently instead of big changes failed at consistently. The momentum will give you results over time.

              So what to do next to make changes in your life?

              1. Write down where you are going to GO to create the changes you want.
              2. Message 3 to 4 people on social media and ask them to help you using the message template I gave you.
              3. Choose one small habit to get started with immediately and upgrade it over time.
              4. Delete all, or at least most social media apps on your devices, and notify people you are leaving to make it stick.

              More About Making Changes in Life

              Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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