Most of us desire to fit in, but if we’re good at what we do, we want to stand out. The quest for notoriety leads people to reach incredible heights, but is fame all it’s cracked up to be?
Pixar’s rise to greatness is a good example of how fame has its pros and cons. When they made Toy Story, they invented an entirely new way to make animated films. They knew that the film would present many challenges, but they also felt they could tell a great story.
Toy Story wound up grossing $373,554,033 worldwide, and Pixar became a household name. John Lasseter, the company’s founder, describes his experience with Pixar’s second film, A Bug’s Life:
“When we made Toy Story nobody knew who we were but now… I felt like we were making A Bug’s Life in a fishbowl.”
The notoriety put the studio under pressure to make something as good as or better than Toy Story. They had to improve their technique and avoid the sophomore slump.
The unknown studio had the freedom to do whatever it wanted, provided they could find talent and money. As a big animation studio, audiences are much more critical, and they have to answer to Disney.
Being famous has its perks. We love validation, and having people recognize our talents is an amazing feeling. Feeling like a nobody who can’t seem to turn their dreams into reality doesn’t feel great.
Obscurity isn’t all bad, though. Don’t let the quest for fame deprive you of the fruits that come from being an unknown.
Being invisible is scary
We humans are a social bunch. We learned to stick together because doing so increased our chances of survival. Exile from the group made it tough to get all the resources necessary to make it.
Beyond evolutionary reasons for sticking together, we’re sensitive to being left out. Deep down, most people just want to be wanted. When we feel invisible, it can create an existential crisis for us.
When we’re left in the shadows, we often feel sad and envious of people in the spotlight, who seems happy to live in the spotlight and have the attention of people around him.
When we feel like somebodies instead of nobodies, we don’t question our existence. Our position in society is constantly reinforced by the attention we receive from others.
Being famous is not fun
Being famous satisfies some needs, but it creates others. When you’re famous, you can’t just do whatever you want. You can’t take on certain types of projects because your audience has expectations about what you can and can’t create.
When you live “under the radar,” you are free to make mistakes. As more people recognize and look up to you, they’ll watch your every move. They usually do this out of love, but it can feel like you don’t have any privacy. Every decision you make is on display. You have to be careful about everything you do when you’re famous.
Fame also brings more responsibility. The stakes are higher when you start a new project because you have a lot to lose. As you gain fame, other people depend on you. If your new project fails miserably, you might cost yourself and your team their livelihoods.
Pixar has much more at stake now than when started. They’re responsible to shareholders, and they have an audience that expects them to deliver. Taking a big risk could cost them more money and resources than when they first got into the animation business.
The perk of obscurity
Everyone is an unknown for some of their journey. You should embrace and enjoy having the chance to rise and improve. You can make mistakes, and nobody will notice. You don’t have as many worries, your risks are smaller, and if you fail, you can bounce back quickly. Obscurity can be liberating.
Imagine you’re an unknown author who decides to publish a novel unlike anything you’ve done before. The novel tanks, but since nobody knew who you were, you were able to spend some time reflecting on what happened. You realized that you were writing what you thought people wanted instead of being true to yourself.
If you had made the same mistake as an established author, your audience would not be forgiving. They might think that you’re washed up instead of recognizing that you are experimenting. Obscurity gives you the freedom to find out who you are without having to answer to others.
Being well-known has its advantages, but the cost can be high too. It’s best to appreciate your life for exactly what it is. If you want to achieve fame, realize that the entire journey from being nobody to somebody (not just the part where you’re famous) is important.
Being somebody doesn’t mean that you need to be world-famous. You can be somebody in your hometown or city. If you’ve achieved what you want, you are somebody. Obscurity is just one part of that journey to being who you want to be and doing what you want to do.
Fame is an endless chase
We’ve all heard about people getting their 15 minutes of fame or becoming one-hit wonders. Fame is always subject to change. You may have times when your work is very popular, and there might be points when people don’t know your name. Only a few people have staying-power to be famous forever.
The public’s attention span is short. Even very famous people don’t get attention 24/7. Some of them crave their alone-time, while others seem confused and upset by it. Lady Gaga stated in the documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two:
“…And I go from everyone touching me all day and talking at me all day to total silence.”
The endless chase to be validated and recognized is exhausting and unhealthy.
Be a nobody for a while
Realize that fame is the side effect of luck, hard work, and circumstance. Take in the good and bad about living in obscurity for a while. Being an unknown gives you the chance to fail and take risks without destroying your career.
Every failure will help you improve and refine your mission. Obscurity is your playground. Go there and get creative without worrying about anything other than the things that you love. Living in obscurity and being okay with it will teach you what you need to know to handle fame one day.
We think that the lives of famous people are easy, but that is only because we see the results of the hard work that they did in obscurity. When Sylvester Stallone wrote the script for Rocky, he was so poor that he had to sell his dog to survive. Chris Pratt lived in a van before he got his big break in Hollywood.
The journey from obscurity takes time, and you learn many lessons along the way. You find out what you’re made of, and you refine your craft until it’s ready for the world to enjoy. Instead of worry about getting famous, concentrate on being the best version of yourself that you can be.
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