Do We Look Up To Others … And Down On Ourselves?
Transcript: There have been a lot of interesting and very talented people up there. It’s the stage in the bandshell at the park central to the city in which I live. This is where a lot of the major festivals and events are held.
It’s gated off right now. I guess they don’t want me up there doing air guitar at the moment. It looks like they’re getting set up for something else. But I’ve been here more times than I can remember to see people I admire perform.
Two things come to mind when I think about each and every one of those experiences and the people that I come here to watch. One is that I see them on stage, but I don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. And the other is, when I’m watching and admiring them, I’m usually looking up.
When I was a kid, I used to have posters of my favorite athletes up on the wall. I would cut out pictures from magazines and stick them up in my bedroom with little pieces of scotch tape. I had jerseys of favorite sports teams, with my favorite athletes’ names on the back.
I don’t wear anybody else’s name on my back anymore. Only mine.
When I got a little bit older, I became more passionate about music. And I was really enthusiastic about the handful of artists who were creating music that really resonated with me. And so I would do the same thing; I would look for articles that had been written about them or interviews that had been done with them in guitar magazines and music periodicals, and I’d cut those out, and I’d put them alongside concert ticket stubs and photo albums, so that I could keep them and hold onto them. I was passionate about it. I was reminding myself how much I enjoyed their work and was inspired by it, and wanted to maybe take pieces of it and integrate it into what I was doing, I think.
I think that’s what I was doing because, see, here’s something that I was aware of even then, that’s carrying on to now: I never had any desire to meet any of those people. For instance, I’ve never really understood, say, collecting autographs or just going and meeting somebody backstage really quick for just sort of a quick, “Hey, how ya doing?” pause for a picture and then onto the next person in the assembly line, when there’s been no real quality interaction.
Never mind the fact that just because you maybe play guitar really well and sing a song or you wrote a song that I love, or you can hit a baseball really far, or you scored the winning goal for the hockey team that I like. That doesn’t necessarily mean I want to be your best buddy.
There are some people that I’d love to have the opportunity to sit down with, to have a discussion about their art and their accomplishments, their process, their thoughts. That, to me, would be really interesting. But just to have them scribble out their name and then take that with me? I don’t see anything wrong with it, but it’s never held any appeal to me.
As I got older, I started to understand something that I didn’t get back when I was wearing jerseys with somebody else’s name on my back, or hanging my civic pride on a sports team. And that is that no matter what somebody is doing, no matter what level of attention they might have around the world, the amount of money that they have achieved, the level of talent in their field … they’re just people. Just a person. And we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. We don’t know necessarily what the process is.
It’s like that old image of the bottom of the iceberg, the part that’s under the waterline that we don’t see. A lot of us don’t take that into account. We just admire the accomplishment.
The other thing is we don’t necessarily know what’s really going on with those people. The accomplishment and the art is not necessarily the same as the contentment, or lack of it, that’s going on constantly behind the scenes.
On the other hand, there are probably all kinds of people around the world that do their work and live their lives in relative anonymity, who are completely content inside their own skin, really happy with the way life is, love what they do, and have really rich relationships and good health.
I’m betting that there are a lot of people from the first group that I described that we’re looking up to, that might immediately trade places with the people in the second group I just described.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t be looking up to and admiring other people. I just think it’s worth taking a moment to consider that while we’re doing that, and looking up to somebody else, that we’re not looking down upon ourselves.
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