Ready for some real talk? Okay, here goes. I ran across an old Colbert Report clip and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. TL;DR – this reminded me of some important personal work embodied in the title of this blog post. Let’s say it for the people in the back: “It’s okay to not be Stephen Colbert.”
Don’t get tripped up on the title, no one is saying you have to be the host of the late night TV show. But when we contemplate publication of our books, we can’t help but wonder where everything is going to go. Will we be famous, get on late night TV like other famous authors?
These aren’t idle thoughts. Authors like Rowling, George R.R. Martin, and Steven King have become successful in their own right as public figures. Selling books makes you famous, and being famous sells books.
So yeah, part of you feels motivated to try to emulate that level of excitement and engagement. There’s a voice in your head that says “you can’t go that big, so you’d better go home.”
As the imagination reels, we need some way to remain grounded. Yes, we find the cool, and we follow that spark of madness inside of us like Peter Pan following Tinkerbell, desperate to see where it leads.
It’s very tempting, of course, to chase attention and book promotion as hard as Colbert chases being great on TV. When we see the results of joyful imagination, it’s easy to think that we should be doing what they do. We want what they have, right?
That’s the trap. See it for what it is.
While we want to be successful, we don’t want to do anything that damages ourselves or the things we care about. Bad things happen when you seek attention over awareness, hype over harmony – just ask Richard “Balloon Boy” Heene.
In many ways I sympathize with Heene. He saw people making millions on Reality TV and said “why not me?” His logic made sense on some levels but twelve years of legal trouble later, he’s still a mess. These days, Heene is a social outcast, a victim of his own narcissism.
So since none of us know exactly how things are going to work out for ourselves, I came up with this simple idea for me and I’m sharing it with you. It’s Okay to Not be Stephen Colbert.
It’s okay to be me, do things that I’m comfortable with. It’s also okay to say no to opportunities that sound good on the surface but threaten my health or other things I care about. That way, when success comes, it won’t require me to be someone I’m not, or hurt people I care about. Please consider this your permission slip to take care of you, too.
Colbert is one of those rare creatures who does everything so effortlessly that you can’t help feeling like maybe you could be that guy, too. Love him, hate him; you can’t deny that the guy has talent and energy, class and style. That’s why he’s tearing it up on CBS right now. But his success could be our failure, if we’re not careful. So I’m going to say this again: It’s okay to like Stephen Colbert, and it’s okay to not be Stephen Colbert.