It’s not about impressing others
When I first heard Steve Forbes was going to be at our work party, I was giddy. Who knows what other billionaires I’d meet? Maybe I’d be on the cover of Time!
After I met him, I felt validated. I’d just chatted with Steve Forbes! Things were looking up!
But a few months after the party, I realized the truth of it all:
It didn’t matter if I met with Steve Forbes.
It didn’t matter I talked with him for a few minutes.
It didn’t matter I made him laugh at a joke.
He wouldn’t remember me. My life wouldn’t be any different. As long as I kept telling people “I’ve met Steve Forbes!” I’d only be reinforcing the sad (and a little gross) fact that I valued other people’s perceptions of me over what I really thought about myself.
Because what I really thought about myself was that I didn’t care if I met Steve Forbes. It didn’t help me get any closer to my goals. It didn’t give me anything, any fuel.
When you prioritize other people’s perceptions of you over what you really think about yourself, you’ll only end up stressed, frustrated, and empty.
When You Run From the Limelight, Others Start to Chase You. Your Humility is Refreshing and Wholesome.
There’s a whole episode of Atlanta based on Zazie Beetz’s character (Van) trying to get a photo with the rapper Drake. Doing so would boost her Instagram perception (and therefore, self-esteem).
Her friends and she sneak their way into Drake’s party, only to realize everyone’s photo with Drake is actually a photo with a cardboard cutout of Drake. All the partygoers know Drake isn’t there…but all their Instagram followers don’t! That’s the point — impress their followers. Even if it’s totally fake.
Once you prioritize other people’s perceptions of your life over your own perception, you’re lost. You fall into the losing game of king-of-the-hill, trying to claw your way into the spotlight at any means necessary.
But at the end of the day, you only have yourself and the work you put in. When you’re falling asleep at night, when you’re alone in the car, when you don’t have phone service…
…Do you like spending time with yourself?
Or are you always looking for a distraction, something to take you out of your own head?
In his book, No One Wants to Read Your Sh*t, New York Times Best-selling author Stephen Pressfield wrote:
“None of us wants to hear your self-centered, ego-driven, unrefined demands for attention. Why should we? It’s boring. There’s nothing in it for us.”
In the same way artists and creatives can only connect with their audience through giving value, you can only truly connect with others when it stops being about you.
When you do the opposite everyone else is doing — running from attention, hiding from the limelight — people will start chasing you. In a world where everyone is clawing to remain relevant and interesting, the few that calmly shun the attention and focus on their work are the ones that get the most attention.
Just Because You Stole Steven Spielberg’s Address Book Doesn’t Mean You Can Make a Summer Blockbuster
Seth Godin said he used to ask, “If you stole Steven Spielberg’s address book, would it help you get a movie made?”
His point was that even if you had the phone numbers of famous people, calling them wouldn’t do anything for you. There was no trust or connection.
A lot of people are focused on trying to find that one phone number, make that one call, meet that one person, hoping it’ll turn everything around. The truth is, it won’t.
I’ve met a few famous people in my life, and I’ll tell you one thing: meeting them changed nothing for me.
I chatted with Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was governor of California, visiting my hometown during the wildfires. At Comic-Con, I told Ken Jeong I was a fan. I made Steve Forbes laugh at a cocktail party.
My life wasn’t affected at all.
It’s not about meeting famous people, hoping they’ll change your life. They won’t.
It’s about becoming a person who can be useful to others, to have the skills and background that can really help someone.
It Only Matters If You Can Be Useful and Help Someone
A middle-aged man was dining alone at his favorite restaurant. Suddenly, he starts choking; he falls out of his chair, struggling to breathe.
Other patrons flock over, panicked and yelling. The waiter frantically scans the room. “Can anyone here help this man?!” he shouts.
A young man walks up. “Well, I think I can help,” he says meekly.
“Thank God,” the waiter breathes, relieved. “OK, what should we do? CPR? The Heimlich Maneuver? What??”
The young man looks uncomfortable. “Well…I’m pretty good at Excel, and I know my way around Microsoft Word.”
The crowd murmurs, confused. The waiter blinks.
“What?” the waiter responds in disbelief. “No, what should we do to help this man? He’s suffocating, he can’t breathe!”
The young man fidgets nervously. “Well…I’m a fast learner and I always work hard. I have a college degree in communications and a minor in marketing.”
“Wh-what? Who cares?” the waiter replies angrily. “Can you help this man or not??”
The young man is frustrated now. “Look,” he says, flustered. “I’m a good guy, I’m nice, I can show up on time, and I can follow directions. What more do you want from me?”
Just then, the ambulance arrives. The paramedics rush in and immediately treat the poor choking man. He thanks the paramedics for saving his life.
The young man pays for his meal and goes home, annoyed and frustrated.
The world is brutally efficient. If you can solve problems, you get rewarded. If you can’t, you don’t.
One of the hardest truths I learned after college was realizing that companies didn’t care about me; they didn’t really care where I went to school, what my degree was, my GPA, my extracurricular activities.
They just cared if I could solve their problems.
Can you solve the problem? Can you solve it faster or better or cheaper than someone else?
Meeting Steve Forbes at the cocktail party was fun. It’s a cute little story.
But in the end, meeting him didn’t change my life at all. What has changed my life is learning how to be useful to the world, building skills, and relationships that actually help me achieve my ideal life.
It’s not about impressing others, it’s about becoming someone you’re proud to be.