We’ve all heard the old adage, “Here today, gone tomorrow.” It summarizes the idea of how fleeting popularity is in our society today. Take a look around. Football stars, movie stars, political figures, coaches, and CEOs of major companies all have one thing in common: they were popular, and then they fell from grace.
Norv Turner got the ax in San Diego because his team wasn’t winning. Tim Tebow got the boot over Peyton Manning in Denver, and, yes, Michael Jordon really got cut from his High School basketball team. Why? Because according to the world’s standards, they didn’t perform well enough. Folks like Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods learned the hard way that popularity can quickly go to your head and lead you to do some pretty messed up stuff. These were superstars, and they all fell from grace — hard. Movie stars aren’t even immune from being dethroned. Their popularity can fold like a deck of cards, if not forever, at least for a time: Tom Cruise, Brittany Spears, and Ben Affleck all took hits for their performances — or lack there of.
The bottom line is this: being popular is great, but it comes with a price. If you’re not producing, you’re done. That’s not a pleasant thought, but a necessary one to consider. While popularity has its perks, it also has its pitfalls. You don’t have to have the notoriety of a superstar to struggle with wanting to stay on top; you can be jealous of your best friend, a sibling, your boss, or just about anyone.
The truth is, being popular isn’t always the coolest thing to be. In fact, there are a great many more attributes that far outweigh being popular. So if you’re tired of being on the performance treadmill and trying to win popularity through the world’s standards, here are a few things to consider:
Doesn’t last forever
Unless you’re Oprah, or if Elvis is still in the building, popularity can be fleeting. Instead of focusing on being popular, focus on how you want to be remembered in life. Strive to build a legacy that will last and that can be passed on to generations after you. Ask yourself how you want the people who really mattered to you in life to remember you, and plan your life accordingly. You may not be the most popular person in the world, but you’ll be the most popular person in your world.
Keeps you on the performance treadmill
It takes a lot of effort and stamina to develop popularity and sustain it. That means you’re only as good as your last performance. Whether you’re a car salesman or a top NFL football player, if you aren’t making it happen every week, you’re done. Even if you’re a people-pleaser, you’re still putting yourself on the performance treadmill. You always have to do a good audience analysis, find out what people want you to say or do, and do it so they’ll like you. You can’t be free to express how you really feel because you’re afraid others may reject you. So you keep running, never realizing who you really are apart from your performance.
Puts your focus on self
If you’re always worried about what people think, you can never rest. You will always have to say the right things, perform perfectly, look perfectly, and act perfectly. In other words, you have to always be focused on YOU! Even for a narcissist, that can get old. Thinking about yourself too much hinders you from developing empathy toward others. When we’re “other-focused” and think about paying things forward, we’ll not only feel better about ourselves, we’ll generally get what we want.
I’m not saying being popular isn’t nice. I was popular in High School, but looking back, I can see how it created some false beliefs in my life that hindered me from walking in real peace and rest.
If you’re tired of performing to be successful, take a risk and jump off the treadmill for a while. You might like how it feels, and, who knows, you might never want to jump on again!
Back at you: How has the drive to be popular stolen your joy? Any suggestions for jumping off the treadmill?