On staying smaller

You see this everywhere on social media:

(I do, anyway.)

How to get 8 million followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, your blog. How to create an $8 million company (in a weekend). How to become fabulously successful.

The likes of Tony Robbins, Tim Ferris, et al . . . and a whole slew of other, “lesser” folks . . . tell us everywhere on social media how we can become super, super, super successful and popular (and of course, the rich that goes along with all of that).

All of which has the underlying message that WE SHOULD want that.

Because, who wouldn’t?



Well, for one, me.

Yours truly.

Which, frankly, has come as a surprise to me.

Because I actually like a lot of what folks like Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss sell: Enthusiasm. Empowerment. Independence. Entrepreneurialism.

But you know what?

I am tired of the part of the sale that’s built on the assumption that “bigger” and “more” are better. That you are . . . at bottom, in their message . . . some kinda loser if you are not in the chase (and successful at) for gaining more and more followers, fame, effect, riches, etc.

I think it’s missing the boat. Has jumped the shark.

And, of course, I’ll explain below why.


Calder at the Whitney in New York.

First . . .

Is it, actually, really really really really important? In other words, does one have to–in order to be a valuable, successful human–make some big contribution that lots and lots of people are going to buy, follow you for, etc?


Let’s take a second to unpack that . . . .

All the humans alive now, and all that ever have been . . . did they do that?


Most of us have been almost completely anonymous to all but a very small circle of other humans.

Does that make us failures? Losers?

Under that “bigness” model of success, I guess it does. But guess what? I refuse to believe in a model whose unexamined, unarticulated underpinnings are that most of humanity, from the beginning of time, has been composed of overall failures.


Second . . . .

Let’s consider who’s famous and paid-attention-to (and, financially-richer than we are).

For instance, someone who just became POTUS. And Kim Kardashian.

As for lesser-known-but-still-“successful” humans, I turn out somehow to happen to know three or four people who were “nobody” when I first met or worked with them who have become super successful by the world’s Bigness standards.

Know what?

They’re assholes.

Maybe they were already a little bit when they were nobodies. But now that they are famous? Oh my God. They are insufferable.

This does not mean that fame and being rich are necessarily bad or corrupting things. Nor that everyone over whom Fortune waves her magic wand will necessarily become assholes.

However, it does in fact illustrate that Big does not necessarily equal other things I truly value. Like kindness. Flexibility. Accessibility. Humility. Continued experimentation in creativity. In fact, I value these a helluva  lot more than any capacity to get your contribution/personality/gifts admired en masse.

Which brings up my third point . . . .

Given the . . . uh. . . relative . . . ummm . . . bravery and cognitive and imaginative  limitations? . . . of lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of people in this culture who’ve elected such a person as President and made others like Kim K. famous and followed and rich . . . does being accepted/adored/adulated by a large percentage of people REALLY appeal to you?

And, fourth . . . .

. . . . and something that’s occurred to me more and more recently . . .

Doesn’t becoming Big put you in some kind of creative box/bind?

If you make millions of dollars and have millions of followers based on a certain kind of thing that you do . . . shouldn’t you worry that doing something different is going to disappoint or throw those people?

Hell yes you should.

Because when you become Big based on something a whole lot of people love you for . . . when you have “branded” yourself/your product that way, when you have “told that story” (because every f*cking thing about today’s marketing zeitgeist is about “telling a good story”) . . . odds are those same people are not going to recognize or follow or love you when you change that product and story. Nuh-uh. Human nature being what it is, most of those people are going to feel confused, lost and abandoned. At least disappointed. Unless you are some kind of superhuman (Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson and Madonna come to mind), they are not going to appreciate or follow you in your quest to keep trying and becoming something different.

Which means you are going to need to keep on creating another version of the same thing for a very long time. If you want to stay Big.

And I guess I really don’t.

Because I am not superhuman. And the older I get, the more freedom  . . . of time, schedule, whim, project, muse, creativity, wanderlust . . . has become far more important to me than What People Think About Me.

And you know what else?

THAT . . . your commitment to your freedom to follow those things . . . is something much more attainable and within your control (and satisfaction, joy and contentment) than whether you will ever have the luck and timing and other intangibles that it also takes to become Big. (Which is something Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin and Tony Robbins will never tell you or acknowledge. They sell it to you as if anyone and everyone can become famous. Which is horseshit. The nature of Fame and Big is that they are rare and also involve intangibles and are uncontrollable and unpredictable, no matter how hard you work and what you try.)

So, here’s to freedom of movement. To experimentation. To listening more to what matters to you than to trying to guess what’s going to appeal to masses you might not really like very much, anyway. To being happy and comfortable with Small as an efficient, creative, joyful, downright powerful way of being . . . instead of feeling like you are a failure if you are not Big or on a quest to become so.

Here’s to whatever way you want to play.

And Small is just fine.