One morning I woke up to a nagging sense of failure. I used to sleep well. A full stretch of seven hours. No nightmares. No weird dreams. Just restful sleep. Nothing unusual. But that morning, something unusual disrupted my routine rest. That morning, I woke up with this sense of incompleteness.
Something was reminding me that I had not done enough. That I should be doing more. Maybe work more. Or work smarter. Or quit my job and go on an entrepreneurial lark. Start a business. Do big and earn big. Spend more time making more money. Live the life that the brevity of my mortality deserves. Make the most of everyday, milk it for all its worth, don't settle for anything less than what a man of vision, grit and determination deserves. In short, don't shortchange myself.
The whole nagging had an earthly ring to it. A rustic charm. Like the rugged Marlboro man smoking a stick in his mouth and challenging me to come out of the shadows of mediocrity. It was no doubt tempting. The smoker made good sense, I mused. Its logic was flawless. It was telling me to live with a bigger goal and not be satisfied with small, trivial ones. It was telling me not to be a wallpaper and watch life goes by but be a monument at the center of everything that counts. In essence, it was telling me to fight for fame, money and power. To befriend them at all costs. There is in fact nothing wrong with such pursuit if it is one tempered by moderation.
Here was how the material ruse went that morning.
A little fame is merely a little shower of attention, a drizzle even. What can a little highlighting of yourself do to yourself, right? Fame is harmless billboard advertisement. Just imagine it as your personal stage where you get exclusive coverage and your every word, nudge and move become magnified, emulated and even adored. Fame makes you bigger than life, so said the disruptor of my sleep. It makes life worth living because it takes in multiple lives you can only dream about, add dimensions to them, and throw it out there for the world to see. And if you are a positive example, your positivity will be multiplied like ripples in still waters. So, fame should be embraced and not be treated with suspect.
How about money? What harm can more money bring to your life? No one has ever complained about having too much money? Have you ever seen a man winning the lottery and giving it all back whilst keeping only what is enough for his bus fare home? He would be made a laughing stock in this world! Don't be prudish, conservative or self-righteous. Money is amoral. It is neutral. You are always in control of it. You are the master. The love of money is not a lure to personal corruption. This is all vain religious indoctrination, so said my bedside rabble-rouser. In fact, if anything, the love of money is the start of true living. You just can’t not love something that opens many doors for you. Although the passion for more of it will inevitably grow even if you want to keep it at arm’s length, it is still worth the time and the risk. And here’s why.
With money, you are free to pursue your dreams, free from worries, free from shame, and free to tell your oppressor to go fly kite (you can even buy him reels of strings to fly his own kite). With money, you get more friends, and not just the bad ones. You get respect, even begrudgingly. But so what? And you get to flaunt it; but for charitable causes of course. So, money empowers, it seldom disempowers. It gives hope, not robs it. Here is where the nagger of dreams pulled me close to his lips and whispered, “My friend, for more of a good thing can only end up a better thing, not worse.”
Lastly comes power. Fame, money and power - in that order that is. No one who is famous and rich is at the same time powerless or power-deprived. It’s an anomaly. Power grants its wielder control over lives. It commands respect, subservience and compliance. I was encouraged to dedicate my life to it. To seek it along with the rest. Power can be used for good. It can rally human forces to impact the world that the powerless can only dream about. Power makes a way where there seems no way. People bow and bend over for power. With power, I can channel all resources for good, for humanity. So, power like money and fame should be made my lifetime pursuit and be pursued relentlessly.
That morning, I was put through the existential grinder. For that moment, I was forced to re-evaluate all that I had come to know and learn in my 43 years. There was no doubt an ethereal charm to these three goals in life. Fame, money and power woke me from my slumber that morning and made me an offer that was almost too good to let go.
Then, I noticed a twitch in my tempter’s countenance. It was something that hinted to a shifty agenda. His dream pitch was rehearsed to a tee except for the fine print that he had craftily omitted to bring to my attention. So, it was my turn to put him on the stand. I started the ball rolling with this question, “How will I change?”
“Eh?” The smile turned into a frown.
“Yes, how will I change? What would become of me?”
“Erm…change is expected. Why is it important?”
“I need to know what will become of me. Will I have time for my wife, my family? Will I be the same person to them?”
A pause ensued. “Well, you can’t expect to have fame, money and power and not change, right?”
“Ok, enlighten me then. In ten years from now, if I strive for all that, work hard and pay the price, apart from the material success, the real estate, the millions, will I recognize myself? Will any of my loved ones recognize me?”
“Ten years is a long time. All this would be academic should global warming or overpopulation wipe us all out (chuckles) Mmm….I can’t guarantee that you will not change to someone…different. Anyhow, change is not to be feared. If anything, inertia is your greater enemy right?”
I interjected, “Fame…how will fame change me?”
“Fame will make you famous of course. You will be known by a lot of people. Your Facebook will be flooded with “Likes”. Everything you say will be gospel gold. People will even throw themselves at you…mostly the crazy ones anyway.”
“So, how does that change me?”
“Well, strap up my boy. Fame demands your time. You cannot expect to be famous and not work hard at being known. There are people waiting in line to take your place. So, you have got to be ahead of those younger, smarter and more desperate fame vultures. It’s tough enough trying to re-invent yourself constantly. Most of your time will be owned by people…people who want you to be famous.”
“You mean people who want to earn off my fame?”
“Erm…maybe. I mean, the world needs to eat right? And something more on the side of course.”
“So, my children? My marriage?”
“I can’t predict the future man. A lot depends on you. You have to decide for yourself how far you want to go with it.”
“But, the impression I get from you is that being famous is a full time job, 24-7, 365. It’s like speeding down a slope without brakes.”
“You make it sound like it’s the fast and furious. It’s less dramatic than that. There will of course be trade offs but that’s the price of fame.”
“Well, to be frank, not many before you succeeded in keeping their marriage after they hit the big time. The temptation can be quite overwhelming…even for people of the collar.”
“I see. You’re saying that I might succeed in being famous but fail in my marriage? An expected casualty of success I suppose?”
“Erm…it really depends on you bro…your appetite. It’s a question of self-control or self-awareness or something like that. Hey, look at the bright side. You may get a divorce, that’s sad. And remarry, that’s good. And get a better wife producing better children, that’s better than better right?” (squirming)
Incredulously, “How does that help me?”
Another pause ensued. “It’s all about choices man. You make your bed, you sleep on it. That’s the consequences of choices. But no big deal my friend. You’ll adapt in time. It will become second nature. You will forget the past and look forward to a brand new future. A brand new you. You’ll see. You may like the new you better than the you that is now.”
I paused. “Ok, how about money? Or power? What would become of me?”
“To be honest…when you are famous, rich and powerful, you will be public property. Your time, your devotion, your self will all belong to those who pay for it. That’s the raw deal. So, expect a few rough years before you even make it big. After that, you may have some freedom, some personal control and discretion over contracts. But I can’t guarantee that your family or wife will all go along with the ride. Hell, I can’t even guarantee that you will stay faithful to the end bro. (leaning over) You do know that there are many potential ladies out there who are younger, prettier and even smarter than your wife right? And you do know that there are mansions out there whose storeroom alone is bigger than that little kennel of yours that you now call a home right? Then, there is the freedom and respect of being your own boss…and the adoration you will receive from…”
“Ok, I get it. Fame, money and power are all that. I guess only a fool would reject them for the banality of his current existence right?”
“Well, everybody deserves a bite of Eden’s apple right? It can be a little intimidating at first but you will soon get use to the indulgence and opulence, trust me.”
“Yes, yes, so how? Are you ready to make that definitive change for the better? Are you ready to throw yourself out there and make a really big splash!”
“Well, it would definitely be a change alright. But whether it is for the better, no one knows for sure.”
“But…you are in control right? You are the master of your fate.”
“Maybe…or maybe not. In a world where temptation is overwhelming, every man is vulnerable. Fame, money and power change people. It is hard to say how I will end up.”
Nervously, “…so ready for the life you’re destined for?”
Pensive. “You have given me a basket of fruits for thought. You have put a sample in my mouth. I have tasted it and for a while, savored it. It all made perfect sense. But the risk is still there. It’s just not that simple or straightforward. The math may not even add up. Erm….I don’t think I am ready for it now or will ever be.”
Worried. “So, you are letting this big fish off the hook and trading it for the lameness of sardines?”
“I’ll take my chances with my current momentum.”
“What momentum? At a snail pace?”
“At a pace I can live with. I actually have everything I need or want right here, right now.”
“But a little money or fame won’t harm right? A little upgrading. A little upper classy-ness I mean.”
“Sure, it won’t. It won’t stop there either. More will have much and much will definitely want more. I may find myself and lose myself all at the same time. I guess it is better the “me” that I know now than the “me” that I don’t know or dread to know later.”
Fuming. “You are witless, a coward, hopeless. I think success is wasted on you. I bring you the keys to the kingdom and you choose the lonely path to a shack!”
“I am sorry you see it that way. The way I see it is this…you are giving me the keys to a gilded cage, a prison of unimaginable fortune, but it is still a paradise in a prison. What good is all that when I cannot free myself from it? What’s more, to risk changing for the worse. So I rather choose the freedom that comes with a clear conscience, a simple devotion and a future unburdened by a “me” that my family won’t even recognize. In other words, I’ll take my chances with the “me” I am familiar with now. Thanks but no thanks.”
With that, I snuggled back to my bed before the first break of dawn as my sleep disruptor made his disquieting exit. Cheerz.