Monday, December 31, 2012

What I Wish I'd Heard At Graduation, Addendum: Every Celebrity Has the Same Personality

Sing it along with me: “You can spend all your time making money, or you can spend all your money making time.”  When we listen to the song, we all know which choice that the Eagles are endorsing, don’t we?  They’re the sort of guys who don’t believe in working all the time, and they’re looking for fans who feel the same way. Fans like you!

But it took me years to figure out that the Eagles were, in fact, spending all their time making money, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Their marketers may want us to picture them sitting around their porch, picking guitars and smoking blunts while they perform, but in fact each one of them got up early that morning, left their loved ones at home, showed up to work on time and spent the whole day in a windowless studio, performing that song over and over while perfecting every note.

Every famous person brands him or herself a different way.  Michael Douglas and Michael Buble present the image of being trim, neat, and professional, while Matthew McConaughey and Snoop Dogg create the image of not giving a damn.  But don’t buy it.  Every famous person has the same personality: Type A.  They are hard-charging, ultra-professional, ultra-ambitious, ultra-level-headed.  It can be hard to believe that Edward Herrmann and Russell Brand are basically the same guy, but believe me, they are.
Any time you’ve ever listened to a song, or watched a movie, or read a book about the need to stop working all the time and start smelling the roses, then you’re enjoying the labor of someone who stopped smelling the roses and started working all the time.  They’re not selling you that message because they themselves live that way, they’re selling it because they know that you wish you could live that way, and you’ll pay good money to be told that it’s possible.

I cannot recommend enough the Cracked article 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person about the importance of becoming a productive person, even if (and especially if) you’re progressive-minded.  It’s written in the same vein as this series, but it’s more succinct and better written.  It gets pretty rough, but I’ve found that most people who read it nevertheless find it uplifting.

Creative people have a lot more competition and a lot longer odds than non-creative people, so we have to work twice as hard and be twice as professional as they are.  There were hundreds of thousands of country-folk bands touring America in the ‘70s, but the Eagles worked their asses off to get to the top of that pile.  

Let me be clear: I’m not accusing anybody of hypocrisy.  There’s nothing immoral or unethical about praising or portraying a lifestyle that you yourself can’t follow.  It’s perfectly legitimate to encourage your audience to take it easy, but you should know that if you take your own advice, no one will ever hear that message.

1 comment:

christinembird said...

Here's how Alexander Pope put it:

Those move easiest who have learned to dance.

And then there's the classic admonition:

The road to success is a toll road.