The Bobby Rock Newsletter #93 (1-17-23) - Fame, Fortune, or Freedom?
The Bobby Rock Newsletter #93 (1-17-23) - Fame, Fortune, or Freedom?
Hey Gang -
Greetings from LA. Thanks for joining me for another round here.
Needless to say, with my first youngster on the way (any day now!), my publishing times for this newsletter could get a little rickety over the next several weeks (hence our later-than-usual send-out of this edition). But hang in there. My intention is to keep this bitch rollin’, even with some potential variations to pub times and format.
Note: In an effort to keep this edition from going too far off the rails length-wise, the Jeff Beck tribute I eluded to on social last week will have to wait until next newsletter. Apologies...
And now, let’s jump into it!
In This Issue:
- A study of Fame, Fortune, and Freedom, and how, with enough focus and grit, you can have one, maybe two, but probably not all three! Pick your poison wisely.
- All About You - A Compelling Contemplation: Here we examine how your own personal hierarchy of “The Big Three" could be (and probably already is) a driving force in your life. The question is, do you have them in your proper order?
- Into as of Late: A look at the new Elvis movie, in all of its tragic and tantalizing glory…
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Here’s a quick birthday shout-out to my brother and martial arts teacher, Sifu Matt Emery, whose b-day lands just after MLK’s. Always dug this pic (from his b-day in 2018). And, of course, happy belated to Dr. King! Posted on social yesterday:
Fame, Fortune, or Freedom?
Within these three coveted objectives, there is a lot we can learn about ourselves and why we do what we do. So let’s talk about “The Big Three" in broad strokes at first, and then I’ll offer a reflection that just might provide some burning clarity about how we are living our lives.
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One of the more resonant contemplations I’ve heard about Fame, Fortune, and Freedom comes from entrepreneur, author, and founder of CD Baby, Derek Sivers. The context? He was addressing a roomful of aspiring musicians at some large conference, imploring them to consider which of these three objectives was most important to them in their music biz pursuits. His message, as I heard it, was (paraphrasing), You can likely achieve any single one of these objectives you want, but you must actively choose one, since you can’t have all three.
That’s quite a contemplation, but there is also great pragmatism is this idea of knowing which one is most important to you. Why? Because, in general, the achievement of each of these objectives requires vastly different actions. And as an ambitious musician with only 24 hours per day to pursue the dream, it’s helpful to be laser-focused about what you get up and do every day.
When I heard Sivers riffing on this, I immediately saw the universal Truth of the matter as it might apply to anyone, even if you’re not in the entertainment business. (More on that in a moment.) But how could it be that the Big Three are so different in their individual attainments? Doesn’t, for example, fame and fortune go hand-in-hand? That would be an emphatic no, although this is one of the more common misconceptions about fame, particularly where the music business is concerned. I can’t tell you how many successfully bands or solo artists I’ve seen through the years who had at least one huge record under their belt (fame), but who were still scraping by, waiting for the windfall to hit (fortune).
Even in the movie biz, the fame/fortune disconnect exists, big time. When Hilary Swank did Boys Don’t Cry as a low-budget indie film, she was only paid $3000. So when she went in to get some simple cold meds from the doctor, she was told her health insurance wouldn’t cover the $250 med bill. When she called her SAG-AFTRA health insurance peeps to see what the hell was going on, they told her she hadn’t earned the annual minimum that year to qualify for coverage. The maddening irony? As she stood at the podium accepting her Best Actress Academy Award that year, she didn’t even have any health insurance! This is fame, minus fortune, in action.
And if that fame-seeking young musician or actor should hit a windfall of fortune early, the odds of them hanging on to it are slim. After all, fame does not ensure the skills to properly manage a fortune: in fact, quite the opposite. If fame is your main thing, you will likely confuse your fame for fortune, buy a bunch of stupid shit (in part, to perpetuate the expression of fame), and throw cash around like it was Monopoly money. I’ve witnessed this kind of thing quite a bit through the years and, well… yes, I’ve even experienced it first-hand! And this is often a familiar happening with other entertainers, athletes, and public figures who confuse this issue.
Want to see real fortune in entertainment? Look behind the scenes for those record company and TV/movie studio folks you've never heard of. They don’t prioritize personal fame beyond, perhaps, recognition in the industry—which is helpful in their pursuit of more fortune. Instead, they are happy to wake up in a big-ass house, with the crashing waves of Malibu as a backdrop to breakfast, while they strategize and manage their assets: famous entertainers who often don’t earn what they earn.
This is not to say, of course, that fortune-savvy entertainers don’t exist. They do. But this is usually because they have consciously prioritized fortune over fame, and it is evident in their thought processes: how they handle their business, which projects they choose to pursue, and how they might prioritize their days in balancing business matters with artistic ones. It often looks very different than those entertainers who prioritize fame or freedom which, of course, was Sivers’ original point.
I think it’s clear that Fortune is at
the top of the list for this guy!
the top of the list for this guy!
Speaking of freedom... here again, we have more misconceptions. “If I have enough money (fortune), I can essentially buy my freedom, right?” In theory, perhaps. But again, it’s tricky. Building and maintaining your fortune will often require great restraint, delayed gratification, and a host of other left-brain attributes in daily lifestyle choices, many of which feel restrictive or laborious to the freedom-minded. Instead, many freedom-seekers will simplify their financial lives and minimize their "fame-game” activities so they can more easily move about their creative universe with minimal encumbrances. And for as much as they might, at times, covet money—mainly so they don’t have to stress about having enough—and desire more exposure (fame) so they might build a more robust audience to consume their art, they will ultimately default to a lifestyle philosophy that’s uniquely designed to suit their idiosyncratic creative pursuits and protocols.
Me as a poster child for the Freedom option?
All About You:
Discovering Your Hierarchy
Thus far, I’ve been speaking about The Big Three in their most grandiose terms: how they might look in their most extreme, most glamorous, most fantasy-like. But I say, most anyone can evaluate their lives through this triple-layered lens with a bit of modification:
“Fame” could entail some degree of favorable recognition, exposure, admiration, or even infamy within your personal ecosystem of work, school, community, and/or inner-circle of family and friends. (And these days, this could also extend into online platforms—such as YouTube, podcasting, or the blogosphere—as well as various social media communities.)
“Fortune” is ultimately about true, reliable, financial solvency as you personally define it. Example: bills and expenses, however modest or not, are comfortably covered; debt is either non-existent or easily managed; and future security (a cozy retirement, etc.) is a foregone conclusion. There are no worries in this department.
“Freedom” is rooted in the idea of living life on your own terms, seldom having to do things you dread, and often experiencing little delineation between your work and your leisure, since both are fulfilling and enjoyable to you. Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean that you fuck off all day and live without constraints, obligations, or “adult” relationships. But it does mean that you are intentional about the constraints, obligations, and relationships that you agree to engage in your life.
And so, with all of this mind—and considering where you are in your life, in the here and now—I would ask you to give a little rumination to this two-part contemplation:
1) How would you personally rank The Big Three in your own life, in order of priority and importance?
Is Fortune most important? Or is it Freedom? Or Fame? (There are no wrong answers here!) And remember, whatever you choose for #3 will not likely have much prominence, especially if you tend to lean into the first two.
2) Is your life currently a fair reflection of this declared order?
This is a hard question: really consider where the bulk of your time, energy, and attention goes every day relative to what you say is your #1. Are you prioritizing those goals and activities accordingly? Or is your #2 receiving the majority of your effort, even though you feel like it’s not as important? Or how about #3? Is it really at the bottom or, in reality, does it currently hold greater prominence in your motivations, even if you wish it didn't?
I would suggest breaking out that journal and giving this some attention. You might be surprised at what you unearth here!
All About Others: Being Mindful of Other’s Personal Hierarchy
Here’s a final piece to this puzzle that I’ve found invaluable. When advising or negotiating with others, consider what their #1 likely is, even gently inquiring, when necessary. This will give you priceless insight into what’s most important to them and, therefore, how you might best advise them, or even structure a win/win arrangement in a negotiation.
So often, we approach these kinds of conversations through the filter of our own experience, which is always biased by our personal #1. So if a friend or colleague is seeking my advice about a career opportunity, and I know their #1 is Fortune, I need to back-burner my own Freedom inclinations and evaluate their opportunity through the filter of financial growth and stability. This way, if the numbers line up and it seems like a good “business” move, I might illuminate those factors as a plus (even as I might personally cringe at the notion of what their new job entails). Or, if I’m talking to a younger musician who thrives on exposure (fame), and their opportunity promises lots of live shows in front of lots of people, but pays poorly and seems restrictive creatively, I have to realize that, while I would probably pass on such an opportunity at this point in my life, it would appear to check the most important boxes for them.
Final Note: Consider the most important business and personal relationships in your life. Do you know what these folk’s #1s and #2s are? Find out! And then consider 1) how you might be able to enrich aspects of their life that enhance their favored objectives, and 2) whether your interactions with them are adequately empathetic to their hierarchy.
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And speaking of Fame, Fortune and Freedom, let’s talk for a moment about... Elvis!
Into as of Late: Elvis
I finally got around to seeing this movie last week, sad to say, the night before Lisa Marie’s passing. It was a surreal timing thing that added to the melancholy aftermath of the movie which, as a fair-minded representation of Elvis’s life, could only end tragically. But the film managed to be uplifting and emotional in large part, taking a visceral romp through those raw, untamed elements of early Elvis—that were dangerously ahead of their time—and on to his various reinventions. He was quite a force of nature, as we all know, and this film captured his rare magnetism in all of its vivid colors…. even as his mojo was constantly wrangled-in and homogenized by the film’s ironic villain: Elvis’s semi-genius, short-sighted carnie of a manager, Colonel Tom Parker (played exquisitely by Tom Hanks). And, oh yes, actor Austin Butler delivered a commendable performance in his portrayal of the King.
Most striking to me, though, was the visionary and artful manner in how scenes were shot and edited: so refreshingly engaging and unique, but always an enhancement to the film's fluid and dynamic narrative. Wow! This film was quite the cinematic revelation, and full props to director Baz Luhrmann for capturing the magic. I was also happy to hear (but not surprised) that Priscilla and Lisa Marie were proud supporters of the film. I’m thrilled that they finally got a portrayal of their beloved that met their expectations.
As for our overriding Fame, Fortune, or Freedom theme today (another coincidence in timing), there’s no question that Elvis’s life was a study in the futility of absolute balance between these three objectives. The Colonel was all about Fortune, Elvis enjoyed his cash but loved his Fame… at least in terms of it being a vehicle for him to “freely” play the music that he most enjoyed, the way he wanted to play it. As a result of this Fortune/Fame battle, Elvis could never really know Freedom, on any level, often living in a fast-paced, fish-bowl world with little apparent peace or solitude. This, of course, invites lots of “numbing"… and numbing will eventually take out the best of them.
A cautionary tale? No doubt… so long as we can evaluate our own balancing act with an accurate sense of proportion to the King’s. I wouldn’t wish his journey on anyone… but I think we are all grateful that he chose to take it, with the grandeur and grace that he did.
Thanks again, everybody. Connect next week!
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