“The only true currency you have in this bankrupt world is what you tell someone when you’re uncool.”
The line is from “Almost Famous” — one of my favorite movies, for many reasons.
One is for the rock and roll story itself, and the warmth and honesty in the way Cameron Crowe told the story. The band was fictional, but the characters were very real.
The other reason it resonates with me is because I’ve felt like William Miller before — finding myself totally outside my element in what seemed like another world. And when you try to anchor yourself to the outside world, you can get lost. Your perspective starts to shift. How do we know which parts of what we are seeing are real?
And for that matter, is getting lost really a bad thing?
I’m not going to go through Plato’s Cave with you, but yeah… you know.
Back to the movie — there’s a reason I’m bringing this up. There’s a scene that never made it to the theatrical release, which is really a shame, but it’s in the script.
Penny and William arrive at the Riot House on Sunset, and Penny says:
“The Continental Hyatt House. Also known as The Riot House. Every band stays here, all the ones that matter. The Who. Zeppelin. Alice. Bowie. English bands. American bands. We all know each other. Twenty-four hour room service. Like us, they were outsiders. They were so outside, they’re inside, and insiders never even knew it, because they’re outsiders and they are inside a place outsiders will never be. And why are we even talking about it? If you’re really an insider, you’re never gonna say it. You know what I mean?”
Think about that for a second. I just love that.
People on the inside are so far on the outside.
The most extraordinary people I’ve met have brought this to life for me. The seriously coolest people, the visionaries, the rock stars — the people you’d look at and say “That’s a cool fucking guy”…
If you get to know them, they’re in a different sort of world. And the ones you look up to — well, their world looks a lot different than you might imagine.
You think they’re secure because they’ve made millions of dollars, or because everybody sings their songs, or because they head a massive company?
Well, they don’t worry about the things you and I might worry about, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have anxiety at all. You might not expect it, but the people you think would be the least likely to feel awkward and out of place — are the ones who really do feel like they’re on the outside.
The creators… We might look at them as visionaries, but inside they’re battling doubt every step of the way.
* Is anyone going to like this?
* Is this any good?
* Have I completely missed the mark?
Can anybody possibly understand what they’re going through?
Anyway — I consider this the “coolness paradox”, and if you can wrap your head around it, it really shifts your thinking.
The paradox is: the closer someone is to the center of the zeitgeist, the more isolated and alone they feel.
In other words, the leaders so looked up to by others have more in common with the social outcast than they do with the crowd that follows them.
And therein lies something very important that most people miss.
If you so love these people, if you want to not only understand them in a deeply intimate way, be the person who can provide for them what they really need, which may not be what you’d imagine.
Sometimes, what a person desires most could be completely lost on everyone else.
And that concludes this week’s newsletter. Until next time, keep stepping!