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Saturday, 8 October 2016


I was at a conference a while back when the facilitator asked the group: "What do you want to be famous for?" Not a bad question, considering that the group was at the conference to ponder on what next steps would have to be taken for the business to rise to the next level of success.

The question got me to thinking how you know when you're famous and and what that actually means. Success is easier to measure than fame: you set your objectives and when you make them you conclude that you have succeeded. Whether this qualifies you to go on and judge yourself as successful is another question, but  at least you get to decide whether you're successful against clear and measurable goals.

Fame classically means you're known by lots people for some attribute or achievement. How many is "lots"? I have no idea. Famous means much the same thing, but can also mean "excellent".

So when I'm asked in a business context what I want to be famous for, it would be for some excellent achievement, skill, service or widget that sets me apart from everyone else and for which I'm well known by lots of people.

Sadly, most people in the world never become famous in the classic sense of the word, no matter how long they strum their guitars each day, or how many songs or books they write, or how many hours they work in a week. Fame is more often than not a happy coincidence of talent or skill plus the media picking up on it at the right time for the right reasons. However, it's essentially an accident, so striving for fame in the classic sense is for most people a waste of time.

But what I want to suggest is that we can all be famous in our own way. Even if its not famous to hordes of unknown people, we can be famous amongst our friends for being the one that is completely count-on-able to do what he says he will do every time, or the most caring or funny or courageous. We can be famous amongst our family members for being a fantastic father or a mindful mother. We can even be famous to ourselves for being the most dependable person we know, and so we can honour ourselves for this type of fame. To me, this is the fame is both attainable and meaningful.

The trouble with traditional fame is that it raises the bar for the famous person's behaviour in the public eye, so when we slip beneath that bar we can become even more famous for all the wrong reasons. This week the current best scrumhalf in the world, All Black rugby player Aaron Smith, a legend in New Zealand and amongst rugby fans worldwide, became even more (but unwelcomely) famous when he was seen going into a disabled persons' toilet with an adoring female fan for reasons on which it is unnecessary to speculate. Other examples include Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton, whose fame as a golfer and President respectively overnight converted their original fame to notoriety for womanising and their sexual exploits. They all earned the first type of fame from excellence, but attracted the less desirable second type because of the first.

When we hold ourselves out as one thing, but then show another side, the reputation which we thought we had evaporates instantly.

So Life's offering is to be famous for whatever noble cause you choose, but for heaven's sake don't let yourself become famous for fornication.

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