The Difference Between Fame and Greatness


Question: If everyone is great, doesn’t that mean that none of us are? and that we are in fact just lifting the bar on mediocrity?

Someone asked me that the other day and I thought it was a darn good question. When I scroll through my Facebook feed, I see vines, net-celebrities, famous cats, youtube sensations, false advertising and quotes like these. “Destined for greatness”, “So famous” and quotes tantamount to “there is greatness in everyone.” Everyone seems to be reaching for fame and fame for fames sake at that.

Maybe its true or maybe I’ve just had a long day and not enough coffee (possible). But I wanted to point out that if we aspire to ‘greatness’ we need to have a reason that is far beyond ourselves. If we aspire to riches, it should not be riches themselves that drive us. If we aspire to fame, it should not be fame itself that drives us. If it is, that reward will be bittersweet. Ever listened to “Rise and Fall” by Craig David? It paints a vivid picture of someone who reached the heights and found nothing there. It moves me when I hear it. Perhaps the public meltdowns of the Britneys and Lindsays of the world show us that fame doesn’t heal hurt and insecurity. It compounds it.

Then there is”Billionaire” by Travie McCoy. He sang about being a billionaire so he could buy stuff and be on the cover of Forbes Magazine. But why? What would he have done with that power? What wrong would he have righted? Money for money’s sake just makes one greedy. Is greed ever satisfied by another dollar, or another property, or another car, or more power? I doubt it. I haven’t seen it when I look at the world. But imagine someone who wanted to get rich so they could make a difference in the world – find a cure for something, provide a home for the homeless, end hunger, etc. etc. If we aspire to riches, surely there are better motivations than riches for riches sake.

Imagine that! People who were motivated so they could make a difference! I’m not criticizing rich people. Good on them! I hope that one day I am well-off, but I already know the causes I would finance and champion when/if that day comes. I fear for people who work so hard to get rich just for riches sake, though. Money itself doesn’t fill any void, other than the one in your bank account. Motivation matters. Even the desire to provide for your children a better childhood than the one you had is noble. Just make sure that your values are what drive you, not simple greed.

It seems we live in a generation where fame is something we seek for some form of validation. “You are worth something to the world because you are famous.” Look inside yourself friend. There needs to be a better way of finding that validation. If it is fame alone that drives you, then that emptiness will chase you to top. The world is in great need of people who make a difference where they are, who are not driven by any sense of insecurity or greed.

I’m going to give you an example of someone who isn’t famous by any stretch of the imagination, but who has made an incredible difference in people’s lives: my Mum. Did she go to college? Yes, but only for one semester. Did she have an executive job? No. She stayed home to raise five kids, to unofficially adopt a sixth, and to be a pseudo-mum to countless others. She is a pastors wife who won’t net a huge superannuation payout when she retires, because she spent her best years homeschooling five kids. She never dreamt of fame or success through any other lens than this: Raising kids, giving them a secure and loving home environment, and being the best mum possible was greatness to her. Now that 60% of her kiddos have grown up and left home, she is still giving. She is caring for her father, rounding up a whole lot of elderly citizens and taking them out for coffee, she is ‘Nanny’ to two beautiful grandsons. She lends a helping hand and sound advice to many many people. She is still giving. And she is one of the happiest people I know.

Guess what: loving and giving is great. If we think of the heights of fame and recognition whenever we read the phrase “destined for greatness” we have missed the point completely. We won’t all be famous. We won’t all be rich. But we can all make differences in the lives of many other people.

I’m sick of hearing “I want to be famous when I grow up.” I want to know what you’d do with wealth and fame. It is this – what you’d do with it – that decides whether you’d be great, or just famous.

2 thoughts on “The Difference Between Fame and Greatness

Add yours

  1. It all depends on your definition of greatness or success doesn’t it?My definition of success is based in how I or anyone else behaves in the world. Have to say that definition is more easily arrived at the older I have become (newly a senior citizen:)). When younger, perhaps for many it is harder to see that? And we are living in a material, I want it now age…

    1. Being a senior cit isn’t what it used to be! Free coffee refills at McDonalds and cheaper insurance, but my mother at 55 looks a whole lot younger than my grandmother did at 55. You’re still young I say! As for your ‘Material, I want it now age” comment, I wholeheartedly agree. I also think that identity is something that doesn’t always develop properly if we are looking for it in the wrong places (i.e. I am valuable if I am famous or popular).

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