Is it fame or notoriety? Revisited

To paraphrase the Broadway and movie title – something funny happened on the way to 2016. Of course to know something happened, you had to be around well before 2016. If you go back 40, 50 or 60s years then you will remember that goals back then were different from what they seem to be for so many younger people today. Back then, one strove to be respected, to be successful. To achieve those, one prepared. Whether it was learning a trade or going to college, it meant preparing yourself so that when others thought about you, it was with respect – both for what you did and for who you were. And that respect, in time, would lead to success in your vocation and in your personal life.

While I don’t mean to generalize and sound like some old geezer, many of our youth today strive to be famous. While Andy Warhol’s precise quote may be in question, the gist of it still applies to many people today. One version of the quote is, “in the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes”. The highly successful web site, YouTube, gives validity to that quote. Millions use today’s vide technology to record themselves in hopes of gaining that 15 minutes of fame. Countless more try to find the path to fame on reality shows. The strategy today is to attain fame which, it is hoped, will lead to success.

The problem for most everyone on that path is that they fail to understand the difference between fame and notoriety. Being famous generally is thought of as being honored for achievement. Notorious, on the other hand, is typically used to describe someone who is widely and unfavorably known. Albert Einstein is famous; Al Capone is notorious. Fame is not bestowed on someone for merely existing, nor for some trivial or inane act. Neither does the latter earn anyone respect. In fact, oftentimes the results are quite the opposite. To demean one’s self, to set one’s self up for public ridicule, to expose one’s self for a mere 15 minutes of notoriety does not gain the respect of others, nor, ultimately, from yourself.

I think Andy would have been more accurate if he had said, “by 2016, everyone will be looking to get their 15 minutes in the spotlight”. For invariably that is what it is at most – an ephemeral event. Fifteen minutes in the public glare. And other than it being an amusing or embarrassing memory, it will amount to no more. There are no shortcuts to success.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.