I used to have a subtle negative bias against people who are well known or seeking to be. Maybe it’s because I felt we were so different? Or maybe I thought that notoriety wasn’t a noble goal? Maybe I thought abundant wealth changes people in an undesirable goal?
Bias’ are bad because we lump people together in ways that are unfair. Maybe I heard about people cheating their way to the top, and allowed myself to assume negative intent for too many people?
Here are two examples of people who are changing my view about the notorious and even politicians.
First, the politicians. Juneau’s local government, the Assembly, is comprised of nine individuals and our Mayor. I recently had the opportunity to attend a luncheon where a couple young people who are running for the Assembly spoke. They are both younger than me, and one is on the assembly currently and both will have a seat, though the election will determine how long it will be for. They were very well spoken, bright, and engaged.
In our small town, people do not serve on our local Assembly government to be rich & famous. Doing so is service to our community. Outside of their day jobs, social lives, and families, they spend their time educating themselves to make decisions they think will make our community a better place. While I’m sitting on my butt watching Netflix, or riding my bike, or enjoying a nice dinner with my husband, or even sleeping, these folks are doing their best to ensure our city runs efficiently. They engage with the community, do research, and attend meetings with their ‘free time’. With the games and greed we hear about afflicting some politicians, it’s important to remember that for many it is a very noble pursuit. Thankfully there are people up for the challenge.
Second, the rich and famous. Tim Ferriss is an author and has a podcast. I love his work and cannot get enough of it these days, but I realized recently that my bias was still playing a role in the background. I was assuming bad intent in some ways, at the same time that I was devouring his conversations and books.
He is very wealthy now, but didn’t start out that way. He could make oodles of money in a number of easy ways if he chose to. Instead, he continues to make money in very difficult ways that provide a tremendous benefit for those of us who are affected by the work he does. He still writes books and puts them out in the world. (For the time spent vs the money made, I doubt this is very lucrative in a relative sense. Furthermore, as I get further along writing my first book, I feel confident in saying that writing a book is a labor of love. It is hard ass work! I’m sure his book deals are lucrative now, but I doubt it was for his first, The Four Hour Workweek).
He is also very active in philanthropy. He recently used his fame to support the reintroduction of wolves into Colorado, pledging to donate $100,000 if his supporters came up with the same amount within one week. And he has spent years using his notoriety, money, and time, to support research of psychedelics for treatment of a variety of things, including treatment-resistant depression.
And here is a little story of how I personally benefited from his notoriety. He raises money through sponsorships on his podcast. Recently, he stopped sponsorships and tried a patron system instead, asking individuals to support him financially if we wished to do so. The podcast remained free for anyone who wanted to listen. I signed up for a small monthly amount. After just two months, he decided the experiment was a bust and he would return back to advertising (interestingly, among other things, lots of people said they wanted the advertising because they trust his recommendations). When he went back, he returned the money that anyone donated to him over those months. This alone was totally unnecessary. We all chose to back him and the content we love. But then…he also gave everyone gift cards to Amazon in the amount we had donated to him; thereby refunding us double the amount we had donated. I don’t think that was a business decision. It certainly wasn’t necessary. I think he just decided to have some fun with the money he has, to thank us for supporting him in his experiment, and possibly to extend the extra money to support recommendations made by sponsorships and gadgets recommended on the podcast.
So sure, there are stories about people who cheat their way to money and fame. But there are also people out there doing really, really good work. When enough people notice that good work, which could take years and years of persistence on their part, they are rewarded with a voice that people listen to. Some choose to use that voice to amplify their message to change the culture for the better. I find myself rewarded when I allow myself to listen to the voices that resonate with me, and to not let my bias get in the way.