Here’s an experience everyone has at least once in their life.
You meet someone you admire. Maybe you idolized them because of something they wrote, a speech they gave, or stories from your friends or the media. Then you get to know them.
You sit next to them on a plane, meet them at a conference, or shake their hand backstage after a concert. All of a sudden something happens, and the bubble bursts. You see them as human. Maybe they confide in you that they are going through a depression. Maybe you see them argue with their spouse. Maybe you hear about how they’re still insecure, despite their success.
In that moment something shifts, and they are just like you. They are normal, they have good days and bad days, and they struggle daily. Maybe you thought that because they had this or because they are that, their life would somehow be easier or better than yours, but it turns out it’s not. In some ways, you see how fame and success have brought things you would never want to deal with. It’s shocking, because you had that person on a pedestal, and it came crashing down.
Now you’re left with reality. You’re on the plane next to someone who has sold a hundred million albums, but to you they are just Bruce. You think to yourself, “wow, this person is just like me”, and you’re right. They are.
Don’t Tweet This
You get off the plane, and immediately your desire for validation kicks into full gear. Tweet about this! Tell everyone you sat next to a rockstar on the plane! It feels exciting and simultaneously disgusting, because you know it’s bullshit.
It’s bullshit because what you now know is that the person you met isn’t any better than the other hundred people on the plane. But you do it anyway, you pose for a picture with them and post it on Facebook, you write a blog post about it and you tell people for the rest of your life “I sat next to Springsteen on a plane”.
What would happen if every day you met someone you idolized? You would realize that these people, no matter how many Oscars they’ve won or how many books they’ve sold or how many times they’ve met the Dalai Lama (or that they are the Dalai Lama) are just like you. They eat, they poop and they have days where they want to give up.
Realizing this puts into perspective the longing we have to be like someone else. It gives us a break from the constant comparison to other people and thinking that if we just had what they had, we would be OK. We can finally rest in the knowing that being who we are, is enough.
A Shitty Book
If I were a photographer and had access to everyone that people look up to, I would create a book with pictures of gurus and leaders of the world sitting on their toilet with their pants down, taking a massive shit. It would without a doubt be the most transformational book ever written.
Oprah, the Dalai Lama, Wayne Dyer, Richard Branson, Eckhart Tolle, Pope Francis, Deepak Chopra… the whole book filled with pictures of famous people taking a shit. I wouldn’t even have them smile, I would snap the picture right as they were pushing it out, and right as they made that face. You know the face I’m talking about, because you make it every day, just like them.
The next time you look at someone and start projecting that they are better than you, more evolved, or superior in any way, remind yourself of those experiences that bring you down to earth, the ones that level the playing field. Mister Rodgers had it right, no one is more special than you.
When we think other people have something we don’t, we miss the chance to see our own uniqueness, our own beauty.
This is part 1 of a 3-part collection entitled Stickin It to the Man