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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

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

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              Leon Ho

              Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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              Last Updated on January 21, 2021

              10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

              10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

              “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi

              “Willpower is essential to the accomplishment of anything worthwhile.” – Brian Tracy

              “Just do it.” – Nike

              The most important and satisfying things in life usually aren’t the easiest ones.

              The good news: In today’s hyper-connected world, we have access to all the information we could want to help us achieve our future goals. We know what foods will make us healthier (would kale or quinoa be as popular without the internet and Dr. Oz? I think not). We can also estimate for ourselves the benefits of starting retirement savings early – and the implications for the lifestyles of our future selves (that boat at 65 means fewer vacations in your 20’s).

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              We almost always know what we should do thanks to endless knowledge at our fingertips. But actually doing it is an entirely different kind of challenge. Most of us can relate to that feeling of inertia at the start of a big project, or the struggle to consistently make good, long-term choices for our health, or saving for the future. This mental tug-of-war we experience has evolutionary roots. While knowing this might bring comfort, it doesn’t help solve the problem at hand:

              How can we flex our willpower to become better, faster, smarter, and stronger?

              The bad news: you can’t Google your way out of this one.

              Or can you? A fascinating body of research (much of which you can turn up online through popular press and academic articles) sheds light on how to hack your willpower for better, easier results in all areas of your life. The Willpower Instinct, a great book by Stanford prof Kelly McGonigal, provides a deep dive into these and more topics for anyone keenly interested.

              Here’s the short version: we can make the most of our willpower through two types of hacks. First, there are ways to turbo boost your willpower. Second, there are ways to hack the system so you make the best use of whatever (sometimes infinitely modest) willpower you have.

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              The following 10 tips draw on both of these toolkits.

              1. Slow the heck down.

              Most regrettable decisions (the splurge at the mall, the procrastination on the project, the snacks in the break room) happen when one part of our brain effectively hijacks the other. We go into automatic pilot (and unfortunately the pilot in question has a penchant for shoes, Facebook and cookies!). Researchers suggest that we can override this system by charging up the other. That is, slow down and focus on the moment at hand. Think about your breathing. Bring yourself back to this moment in time, feel the compulsion but don’t act on it yet. Try telling yourself, “If this feeling is still just as uncomfortable in 10 minutes, I’ll act on it.” Take a little time to be mindful – then make your decision.

              2. Dream of ‘done.’

              Imagine yourself handing in the big project, soaking up the appreciation from your colleagues or boss. Or crossing the finish line for the half-marathon you’ve always wanted to run. The rush, the aliveness, the wind on your face, the medal …

              That’s a lot more fun and motivating to think about than how much work it is to get out of bed for your long, Sunday morning run!

              Re-orient your brain by summoning more motivating feelings than just “not running this morning is more enjoyable than running this morning.” If your goals are meaningful, this will help.

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              3. Make your toughest choices first.

              Scientists have found that willpower is like a full bathtub that’s drained throughout the day. So, why not start your toughest challenges when you have a full reserve? Get that project started or fit that workout in before you even check your email or have breakfast. Bonus: the high you’ll get from crossing off your hardest ‘to-do’ will help you sail through the rest of your day.

              4. Progress = commitment, not a license to backslide.

              A lot of times people will ‘cheat’ right after taking positive steps towards their goals. (A common version of this trap is, “I worked out three days in a row, so I deserve this cookie.”) Most of us can relate to this thinking – but it’s totally irrational! We’ll often trick ourselves into setbacks because we think we deserve them, even if we don’t really want them and deep down we know they’ll work against us in the long-run.

              How can you counteract this effect? Research finds that if you use your positive streak to recommit (“If I worked out three days this week, I must be really committed to my health and fitness goal!”) rather than an excuse for wiggle room, we don’t take the same cheat options. Cool, right?

              5. Meditate.

              Meditation is an expressway to better willpower. Bringing your attention to your breathing for 15 minutes, or even five, flexes your willpower muscles by applying discipline to your thinking. It does this by working two mental ‘muscle groups’: first, the set of muscles that notice when your attention is drifting, and second, the set of muscles that bring you back to your task at hand. Over time, even small amounts of meditation will help you build the discipline to easily do what was once hard – like pushing through a long stretch at work.

              6. Set mini-goals.

              Which seems more doable: committing to three 20 minute runs this week or a half-marathon? Mini-goals are brilliant because they’re easier to achieve and boost your commitment to continuing. When we size them up, we see them as achievable rather than daunting. Each time you succeed at one, it boosts your sense of efficacy and personal integrity: not only are you capable of doing what you set out to do, but you followed through on it. Nice.

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              The beauty of mini-goals is that over time, mini-goals – and the momentum you’ve built by doing them – can quickly turn into super-goals. So that half marathon might be more likely to happen, and sooner and more easily than you think!

              7. Eat.

              Low blood sugar decreases your ability to make tough decisions. If you’re running on empty physically, you’ll also be running on empty mentally. (Yes, this one’s somewhat ironic if your goal involves changing food patterns – but even so, letting your blood sugar drop too far will only sabotage you over time.)

              8. Sleep.

              Research shows people who don’t get enough sleep have a tough time exercising their willpower. Sleep is critical for a healthy brain – along with just about everything else. So to optimize your willpower muscle, make sure you’re catching your zzz’s.

              9. Nix the self-sabotage.

              Making yourself feel bad hurts, rather than helps, your willpower efforts. Researchers have found that compassion is a far better strategy than tough love – telling yourself “It’s OK, everyone has setbacks sometimes,” will help you bounce back more quickly than negative self-talk.

              10. Take the first hard step.

              As a new behavior becomes a habit, it is more natural. You have to use less and less willpower to ‘make it so.’ When you’re starting a new pattern that feels hard, remind yourself that the first steps are truly the hardest. It will probably never feel harder than it does in those first few choices. In the case of repeated behaviors, like exercise or saving money, it takes weeks for new habits to take hold. By that point, the habit will be so ingrained, you’d have to try hard not to do it.

              Featured photo credit: Kym Ellis via unsplash.com

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