How to not be famous

How to not be famous

My daughter thinks I’m famous. She’s wrong, but I understand how it could be confusing for her when my work includes public speaking and random people I’ve never met before stop me at McDonald’s to ask “are you the guy from that TED talk?” The fact that I got on a plane yesterday so I could spend today at the Governor’s house is not helping either*.

At 9-years old, my daughter believes that being famous – being known and adored by everyone – is basically the pinnacle of success. The truth is that it’s far better for professionals like you and I to be what Seth Godin refers to as “famous to the family“.

To be famous to the family is to be well-known and valued by a specific group of people. Kanye West is famous, my friend Lauren is famous to the family. In the community she serves she is a prominent, trusted figure who is well-known for her exceptional work.

Seth offers a few questions to help us understand what it means to be famous to the family:
“If I ask someone in your community to name the person who is known for X, will they name you? If I ask about which store or freelancer is the best place, hands down, to get Y, will they name you? If we played 20 questions, could I guess you?”

What are you known for? Do the right people know the unique value you are able to contribute? Are you willing to spend less time and energy pursuing recognition from the wrong people so that you have more time and energy to build trust and demonstrate your very best work with the right people? Are you okay with being completely irrelevant to some so you can be completely relevant to others?

My daughter is convinced, for now, that fame is the point, but you and I aren’t 9 anymore and we need to remember that creating opportunities to do our very best work is the point.

Fame is nothing more than a tool.


*I enjoy the great privilege of serving on the committee that helps Alaska’s First Lady Donna Walker select a handful of incredibly deserving volunteers for the First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year Awards. Hanging out in the Governor’s house is cool, but not as cool as getting to meet the amazing unsung heroes from around my great state who are taking personal responsibility to make things better in their communities.

One Comment on “How to not be famous”

  1. I love this post:
    My kids used to find it amusing when everyone stopped me at Fred Meyers, than, as time passed, they’d roll their eyes. It’s hard to be known in a small town but it’s also a blessing. It’s hard because my customers count on me and I cannot let them down. It’s awesome because even on the worst day, I can make a customers day better.

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