Let the cymbals of popularity tinkle still. Let the butterflies of fame glitter with their wings. I shall envy neither their music nor their colors.— John Adams
Letters of John Adams Addressed to His Wife
“If I’m not famous by 30, I might as well put a bullet in my head.”
That’s an actual sentence I spoke to one of my closest friends. At the time, I was 28.
Fortunately, unlike during my darkest period in college, I wasn’t serious about suicide. Nonetheless, the sentiment was real. I felt like I somehow needed fame. In retrospect, there was a lot of self-loathing from tough childhood experiences, and I desperately hoped that love from without (i.e., from masses of other people) would somehow make up for hate from within.
As luck would have it, I got to test this hypothesis.
The 4-Hour Workweek, my first book, was published in 2007. It hit the New York Times Hardcover Business bestseller list, where it stayed for an unbroken four years and four months. It was quickly translated into approximately 40 languages, and shit went bonkers. Everything changed.
I was 29.
Soon, I was engulfed in a hailstorm of both great and terrible things, and I was utterly unprepared for any of it.
To kick off this post, let’s start with a real example from 2010. I vividly remember the day I received an email from someone we’ll call “James.” James was a frequent commenter on my blog, and we’d become friendly over time. He was a great guy and a huge help to other readers. I’d given him advice, he’d built a few successful businesses, and we’d developed a nice virtual rapport. That day in 2010, however, I actually received an email from James’ longtime assistant. It was succinct: “James learned so much from you, and he instructed me to give you this video.” I clicked on the attachment. James popped up. He was clearly agitated and clenching his jaw, making contorted faces and speaking strangely. He thanked me for all of my help over the years and explained that it had helped him through some very dark times. He finished by saying that he was sorry, but that he had to end things. That’s when he turned off the video and killed himself.
This experience profoundly fucked me up for a long period of time.
Suffice to say, I didn’t realize that this type of thing was part of the Faustian fame-seeking bargain.
THE 30,000-FOOT VIEW
Now it’s 2020. 13 years, 5 books, 1,000+ blog posts, and nearly 500M podcast downloads later, I’ve learned a few things about the promises and perils of seeking fame.
And I say “seeking fame” deliberately, because—let’s be honest—I’m not really famous. Beyoncé and Brad Pitt are truly famous. They cannot walk around in public anywhere in the world. I am a micro public figure with a monthly audience in the millions or tens of millions. There are legions of people on Instagram alone with audiences of this size. New platforms offer new speed. Some previous unknowns on TikTok, for example, have attracted millions of followers in a matter of weeks.
If you suddenly had 100,000 or 1,000,000 or 10,000,000 more followers, what might happen?
I thought I knew, and I was naive.
This post will explore a lot of things. Chief among them will be answering the question: if you win the popularity game, what might you expect?
I’ll mention some of the rewards and upsides, which can be incredible. I will also talk about some of the risks and downsides, which can be horrifying.
My hope is that this post will help people better understand the wall their ladder is leaning against… before they spend years climbing towards the top. Or, in a world of TikTok-like acceleration, before they let the genie out of the bottle without thinking it through.
If you’re interested in building a large audience to become rich and famous, some warnings and recommendations are in order. If you’re interested in building a large audience you also truly care about and with whom you are vulnerable, even more precautionary tales are in order.
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, SOME VERY REAL BENEFITS
Let’s cover some of the great stuff first.
One could easily argue that the national exposure that accompanied The 4-Hour Workweek and later books was a necessary ingredient for:
- Meeting many of my now dear friends, including Kevin Rose, Matt Mullenweg, and many others. These are people I hope will be my close brothers and sisters for life. That led to…
- Being able to invest in dozens of early-stage technology deals, the proceeds of which then allowed…
- Helping many causes and organizations that are making a real, positive dent in the world, including education (DonorsChoose, QuestBridge, etc.); scientific research aimed at treatments for chronic depression, PTSD, and other “intractable” psychiatric conditions (Johns Hopkins, UCSF, etc.); and more.
- Launching projects to aid the above (e.g., Trip of Compassion documentary)
And then there are the occasional fringe benefits, like getting tables at busy restaurants, getting free samples of products (although “free” often ends up being the most expensive), and so on.
Many of the things I’m proudest of in life would have been difficult or impossible to accomplish without a large audience. For that, I owe every one of my readers and listeners a huge debt of gratitude.
Using fame as a lever, however, can be tricky.
First off, what type of “fame” do you want? In concrete terms, what would “successful” look like and over what period of time? From 0–100%, how confident are you that you can convert exposure to income? If more than 0%, what evidence do you have to suggest that your strategy will work? Do you have a plan for becoming unfamous if you don’t like it?
During my college years, one of my dorm mate’s dads was a famous Hollywood producer. He once said to me, “You want everyone to know your name and no one to know your face.”
Taking it a step further, we could quote Bill Murray:
I always want to say to people who want to be rich and famous: ‘try being rich first.’ See if that doesn’t cover most of it. There’s not much downside to being rich, other than paying taxes and having your relatives ask you for money. But when you become famous, you end up with a 24-hour job. . . . The only good thing about fame is that I’ve gotten out of a couple of speeding tickets. I’ve gotten into a restaurant when I didn’t have a suit and tie on. That’s really about it.
But how could this be true? It seems like a farce. At the very least, it must be an exaggeration, right?
To wrap your head around what “famous” really means, there is one metaphor that might help.
THE TRIBE, THE VILLAGE, THE CITY — THIS IS IMPORTANT
Here’s an email I received in July of 2007:
[Your sport] shows that you are a hypocrite to profess helping others with your book. You are showing a grave example of the White horseman to our children. Shame on you. Shame on you… Shame. And Wickedness… It is the most evil war on earth, the one for blood spectacle for those who would entertain by whoring themselves prostituting violence to those who seek and lust to watch inhumanity. You are an evil one who has gained the world and lost your soul.
What did I do or say that caused this? Was it in response to a how-to article on clubbing baby seals?
Not quite. It was in response to my blog post highlighting the non-profit DonorsChoose.org, which I’ve advised for 10+ years. The explicit goal? To raise money for under-funded public school classrooms. In the introduction, I happened to mention that the founder and CEO of DonorsChoose was my wrestling partner in high school. That’s it.
This same “White horseman” reader proceeded to send me more than a dozen increasingly threatening emails, concluding with “I shall deliver you on judgment day.”
Was that a death threat? Was there anything I should do or could do about it? I’d never dealt with such things, and I didn’t know. But I did know one thing: it was very scary and completely out of the blue.
That week, I shared the above story with a female career blogger. She laughed and said soberly, “Welcome to the party.” She got an average of one death threat and one sex request/threat per week. At the time, our audiences were roughly the same size.
This brings me to the topic of audience size and the metaphor of the tribe, the village, and the city.
Think back to your 5th-grade class. In my case, there were 20–30 kids. Was there anyone totally off the rails in your class? For most of you, there’s a decent chance kids seemed pretty sane. It’s a small sample size.
Next, think back to your freshman year in high school. In my case, there were a few hundred kids. Was there anyone volatile or unbalanced? I can think of at least a handful who were prone to violence and made me uneasy. There were fights. Some kids brought knives to school. There was even a kid rumored to enjoy torturing animals. Keep in mind: this high school was in the same town as my elementary school. What changed? The sample size was larger.
Flash forward to my life in July of 2007, less than three months after the publication of my first book.
In that short span of time, my monthly blog audience had exploded from a small group of friends (20–30?) to the current size of Providence, Rhode Island (180,–200,000 people). Well, let’s dig into that. What do we know of Providence? Here’s one snippet from Wikipedia, and bolding is mine:
Compared to the national average, Providence has an average rate of violent crime and a higher rate of property crime per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2010, there were 15 murders, down from 24 in 2009. In 2010, Providence fared better regarding violent crime than most of its peer cities. Springfield, Massachusetts, has approximately 20,000 fewer residents than Providence but reported 15 murders in 2009, the same number of homicides as Providence but a slightly higher rate per capita.
The point is this: you don’t need to do anything wrong to get death threats, rape threats, etc. You just need a big enough audience. Think of yourself as the leader of a tribe or the mayor of a city.
The averages will dictate that you get a certain number of crazies, con artists, extortionists, possible (or actual) murderers, and so on. In fairness, we should also include a certain number of geniuses, a certain number of good Samaritans, and so on. Sure, your subject matter and content matters, but it doesn’t matter as much as you’d like to think.
To recap: the bigger the population, the more opportunities and problems you will have. A small, self-contained town in Idaho might not have a Pulitzer Prize winner among its residents, but it probably doesn’t need a SWAT team either.
Now, here we are in 2020.
My monthly audience is larger than the size of New York City (NYC).
For fun, Google “New York City” and click on “News.” On some level, those are the dynamics—good and bad—you will need to deal with if your audience is that large.
But let’s assume you only have 100 or 1,000 followers. You should still wonder: At any given time, how many of these people might go off of their meds? And how many of the remaining folks will simply wake up on the wrong side of the bed today, feeling the need to lash out at someone? The answer will never be zero.
ON THE DARKER SIDE, SOME VERY REAL ISSUES
To quote Henry David Thoreau, “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” (Walden)
With that in mind, let’s look at some very common downsides of exposure. Nearly all of my friends who have audiences of 1M or more have personal stories for every category I’ll describe.
If you’ve ever wondered why many celebrities disappear for a period of time, sometimes years, it’s often in the hopes that the below will fade or go away. Sadly, it’s very hard to put the toothpaste back in the toothpaste tube once you have a large Google footprint.
Best to be aware in advance. Here be dragons…
One example to set the tone: Back when I lived in SF, a fan on the East Coast thought I was sending him secret, personalized messages embedded in my public Facebook posts. He believed I was asking him to move into my house and work for me. He told his co-workers, who were worried he’d go postal, so they reported him to the CEO, who reached out to me. It was a close call, and I got lucky. This particular employee had already bought plane tickets for the following week, intending to fly to SF to find me. I got the FBI involved, his family staged an intervention, and, lo and behold, he had gone off of his meds for psychiatric disorders. Another example from 2008, a year after my first book came out. That’s when the first person showed up at my door looking for me. I’d just closed on my first home, a cute little townhouse near Sunnyvale, CA. The random visits didn’t happen sooner, as I’d been renting up to that point.
Many more people followed. My little townhouse was cute, but it was totally unprotected: no gate, no nothing. Eventually, one male stalker ended up hanging out in front of my house nonstop, taking pictures and posting them on social media with comments like “Too bad Tim Ferriss isn’t home. I missed him again!” Things snowballed from there, and I had to sell the house and move. When traveling, I’ve also had to stop posting photos to social until well after the fact. Why? I’ve had people triangulate the city I’m visiting, call every hotel in the city to ask for a registered guest with my last name, and then fly to the country to find me and/or my family. I’ve since learned to use pseudonyms, but we’ll get to that later…
- Death threats.
I get regular death threats, and this is common for public figures. I would estimate I get at least one per month via some channel. Sometimes they’re related to extortion (coming later), but they’re most often from people who are mentally unstable. What are they angry about? Once again, therein lies the rub: it is rarely in response to anything that I’ve said or done. That is the scariest thing, and it’s also why the tribe-village-city metaphor is so apt. The people sending death threats are normally suffering from psychotic episodes, and there is nothing you can do to prevent them.
One example: A few years ago, I received a text message from an unknown number with “I know what you did. I’m going to make you pay.” I have no idea how they got my number, but it went on and on in nebulous terms. I engaged and took screenshots, trying to figure out who it was and what the hell was going on. Since they kept texting, I was able to gather that it was a woman (or someone claiming to be), and she said, “You humiliated me, and now it’s your turn for pain. I know you’re speaking at SXSW, and everyone is going to know and see.” Fortunately, I had enough data to get lawyers, private investigators, and law enforcement involved. It also meant that I had armed security at SXSW that year, and I was constantly on pins and needles, waiting for the other shoe to drop. So…. In the end, did I learn who it was? I did. It was a middle-aged mother living in rural Texas with her husband and two kids. I’D NEVER MET HER, NOR HAD ANY CONTACT WITH HER.
Just months before this happened, two well-known YouTubers in Austin, Texas, had a fan drive 11 hours from New Mexico to their house with a car full of guns. He intended to kill at least one of them. He broke into their home at 4am and hunted for them from room to room, .45-caliber handgun in hand. They hid in a closet and frantically called 911. From related media coverage: “They’re a popular Texas couple on YouTube, but they never thought that would put their lives in danger. That is until an Albuquerque stalker showed up at their house in the middle of the night with a gun and bad intentions.” Fortunately, the police arrived, and the intruder ended up dead, but it could’ve easily ended differently. In some cases, the intended target gets blown away before they even realize what’s happening. Ironically, it’s often the diehard fans professing love who kill them, not “haters” of any type.
Given how often I get threats, and how truly dangerous it can be, I decided to get a concealed carry permit and carry concealed firearms. I wanted to avoid this, and I wish it weren’t the case, but here we are (P.S. Thanks for the frangible round recommendation, Jocko).
I also trained my girlfriend to use a Taser, which relates to the next category…
- Harassment of family members and loved ones.
There are at least two categories of people who will want to find you: fundamentally nice people (albeit overenthusiastic), and fundamentally malevolent people. I hate to put it that way, but I’ve learned that there are people in this world who derive great pleasure from hurting or threatening others.
If either group can’t easily get to you—whether to find you or harm you—they will often go after your family and loved ones.
If they’re an attacker, they will go for what they perceive to be your weakest link. This is precisely why I never mention the names of my closest friends or girlfriends, unless they are public figures already.
Of all the issues in this post, this one upsets me the most. In some respects, I invited this upon myself with my decisions, but none of my loved ones asked for it. Even to write about this aspect makes me furious, so I’ll keep this bullet short.
- Dating woes.
As you might imagine, dating can be a quagmire of liabilities and bear traps. It could be someone hoping to write a clickbait article about their date with you (obviously without disclosing such), or it could be much worse. If you’re a female, this is where things can once again become physically dangerous. If you’re a male, this is where things can become legally dangerous. There are many predators for both sides, and it can make you lose your faith in humanity.
- Extortion attempts.
I could write an entire blog post about this topic. One simple example: In 2019, my team and I received a threat. In essence: “Pay me X now, or I will DDOS your site.” Since a DDOS is a technological attack on a website, and I’m confident in the strength of the Automattic hosting infrastructure, we decided not to respond. The extortionist didn’t like our silence and replied with a bomb threat. This was shortly after the Austin serial bombings, which had killed two people, so I escalated to forensic analysis, investigators, law enforcement, etc. I’ve been very good at tracking down extortionists, I don’t negotiate with terrorists, and I’m more than happy to have public battles if I’m in the right, but… it’s all a huge energy suck. The most common form of extortion is some variety of “Unless you give me X, I’m going to say Y about you.” Fortunately, I’ve spent years deliberately talking about controversial topics and disclosing uncomfortable personal stories. In part, this has been to avoid the temptation to create a squeaky-clean public persona. It also robs would-be extortionists of a lot of common ammo.
If you don’t have your own ammo, this category can be catastrophic. In other words, if you have more fame than resources, you paint yourself into a vulnerable corner. If you have fewer options and fewer allies, you’ll be attractive to predators.
- Desperation messages and pleas for help.
This is a sad category, much like the the suicide video story in the introduction to this piece. It’s one thing to get an “I committed suicide and I’m letting you know” note, which is absolutely awful. It’s quite another to get a message with something like: “You’re my last hope. I have no one else to ask. If you can’t help me with X, Y, and Z in the next 48 hours, I’m going to kill myself.” I have received dozens of these. In the beginning, I tried to help everyone and became horribly enmeshed. This never failed to end in misery and countless sleepless nights. Now, the senders of such notes are referred to suicide hotlines (e.g., 1 (800) 273-8255 in the US; a list of international hotlines [alternative link]) and a post I wrote entitled “Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide.” I owe many thanks to Violet Blue for her moral and tactical support with many of these situations. Thank you, Violet. This is very rough terrain. The more you operate in the world of how-to advice, and the more vulnerable you are with your audience, the more of these you will receive.
If you appear semi-famous online, guess what? Even if you’re not rich, it can be assumed that you have enough money to make a nice ransom. There are places where kidnapping is an established industry, and professionals do this on a regular basis. The US is generally safe, but if you’re flying overseas, you should be aware of a few things.
For example, if you use a car service, give them a fake name (and nothing cute like “James Bond,” which will blow it) that they’ll use on the sign or iPad to find you at luggage claim. Here’s why: it’s common practice for organized crime to have an arrangement to buy flight manifests from airport employees. This means that the potential kidnappers, much like a Michelin three-star restaurant, will Google every name associated with every seat to figure out exactly who is who. If you appear to make an attractive target, they will then go to the airport an hour before you land, find the driver with your name on a sign, and pay or threaten them to leave. They then replace your driver with their own driver, who now holds the sign and waits for you. B’bye! This can take other forms too. Once in Central Asia, I had a driver show up at my hotel to take me to the airport, but… he used my real name, and I’d given the car service a fake name. To buy time, I asked him to wait while I made a few phone calls. About 10 minutes later, the real driver showed up to take me to the airport, using the designated pseudonym. The first fraudulent driver took off, and to this day, I have no idea how he knew where I was staying or when I was leaving. But it bears repeating: there are professionals who do this, and they will be very good at what they do.
- Impersonation, identity theft, etc.
The more visible you are, the more people will attempt to impersonate you or your employees. This could be to hack a website, access a bank account, get a SSN, or otherwise. Companies or fly-by-night entrepreneurs will also use your name and face to sell everything from web services and e-books to shady info products and penis pills (sadly, all real examples). This is something that my lawyers deal with on a weekly basis. It’s non-stop. For both reputational and liability reasons, it’s important to track and guard against much of this.
- Attack and clickbait media.
There are a lot of amazing writers and media professionals with rock-solid ethics. Many of my dear friends are journalists in this camp. On the flip side, there are increasingly large numbers of bad actors due to perverse incentives created by the click-baity, fast-is-the-new-good digital playing field.
Remember the tribe-village-city metaphor? Multiply your target audience size by two. Now recall the percentage of that audience that might be angry or off of their meds. Next, double that percentage to include those who will do gray-area things to advance their careers. Last, give all of those people a job—or contributor status—at a media outlet.
What a fucking mess.
If you don’t like shitty Twitter comments, or if nasty Facebook remarks get under your skin, just wait until you get your first hatchet job profile piece. It won’t be the last, so brush up on your Stoic philosophy.
This is particularly demoralizing when a piece is full of misquotes, even after you’ve corrected fact-checkers via phone (oops!). Pro tip: use email for fact-checking, my friends.
Speaking of friends…
- “Friends” with ulterior motives.
Once you have a decent sized audience or “platform,” the majority of people who want to grab coffee, ask mutual friends for an intro, or—especially—offer you unsolicited favors will have ulterior motives. It took me a long time to accept this, and I paid a hefty tax for being Pollyannaish.
To be clear: I don’t mind pitches, as long as they come upfront. What I can’t stand is fakery to get in someone’s good graces over months, followed with a surprise of “Oh, I’ve been meaning to tell you about my new book coming out in a few weeks” and similar shenanigans. This has happened to me more times than I can count, and it feels dirty and gross.
This is one of the main reasons for my ongoing blanket policies, like a commitment to not reading any new books published in 2020. It’s also one of the reasons that the majority of my closest friends are not in the public eye.
Be wary of anyone who just “wants to get to know you.” 99 times out of 100, that will be untrue.
- Invasions of privacy.
For all of the reasons in this post (and many more), if you’re doing anything public, you should never have anything mailed to where you live. If you violate that even once, it’s likely that your name and associated address will end up in company or government databases. Those mailing lists are then rented and traded as revenue streams, and it all ultimately ends up searchable. Remember the story of the Austin YouTubers hunted in their own home? Don’t be them.
For safety, unless you want to take huge risks, use a UPS Store or other off-site mailing address for everything. This is a must-have, not a nice-to-have.
It’s been a wild ride.
Lest it appear otherwise, this is not intended to be a woe-is-me post. I’ve been very fortunate, and I love my life.
That said, all of the above have created heightened levels of anxiety that I didn’t anticipate. I’m lucky to have the support of my family and friends, my girlfriend, and my guardian and fluffball, Molly. I simply couldn’t handle it otherwise.
Would I have listened to all these warnings in advance? Would it have changed my behavior? I don’t know. Perhaps not. Unless you’ve lived it, it might seem like someone is being gifted a Bugatti and complaining about gas mileage.
The entire experience reminds me of the parable of the blind men and the elephant. This is a parable that has been told across different cultures since at least the 1st millennium BCE:
It is a story of a group of blind men, who have never come across an elephant before and who learn and conceptualize what the elephant is like by touching it. Each blind man feels a different part of the elephant’s body, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then describe the elephant based on their limited experience, and their descriptions of the elephant are different from each other. In some versions, they come to suspect that the other person is dishonest, and they come to blows. The moral of the parable is that humans have a tendency to claim absolute truth based on their limited, subjective experience as they ignore other people’s limited, subjective experiences which may be equally true.
Before 2007, I was the blind men.
Here and there, I’d feel the ears (A celebrity in a cover story! Wow! Must be nice!), the tail (Fancy cars in a photo shoot!), or the tusk (Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous!).
Only now do I have some idea of what it’s like to be the elephant itself. No matter what part you grab beforehand, you can’t fully appreciate the scope of experience until you’re in it.
If I’ve learned anything, it is this: fame will not fix your problems.
Instead, fame is likely to magnify all of your insecurities and exaggerate all of your fears. It’s like picking up a fire extinguisher for your pain that ends up being a canister of gasoline.
If you think you have problems that fame will fix, I implore you to work on the inside first. At the very least, work on both in equal measure. I’ve found books like Awareness and Radical Acceptance to be helpful.
If you don’t, you will end up with sand slipping through your fingers, leaving you with the same feelings of emptiness. Only now, along with disappointment, you will have the new challenges described in this post.
I also highly recommend reading Kevin Kelly’s essay entitled “1,000 True Fans.” Is it possible that being “famous” to the right 1,000 people could get you to your goals faster—and be healthier—than seeking the adoration and validation of millions? I tend to think so.
But then again…
Does that mean no one should pursue the path of Great Fame or tempt the sirens of the Great Public? I can’t say that. My intention is simply to shine light upon some of the hazards that such a journey entails.
Perhaps—just perhaps—you should give stardom a shot.
After all, as Jim Carrey has said:
“I think everybody should get rich and famous, and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
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299 Replies to “11 Reasons Not to Become Famous (or “A Few Lessons Learned Since 2007”)”
Fascinating read. Scary. thanks for writing this, for sharing and for finding your path through it all to continue to provide the content you do…remarkable.
Valuable lessons to learn, ponder, and apply to a point even if you’re not famous.
Hey Tim, I really appreciate your honesty in this post (and so many others)!
You have been a real inspiration to me, ever since I read 4HWW back in 2007…
This stuff is what we mere mortals never think about, so it’s refreshing to have it laid out like this…
So in conclusion… I’ve decided that I’ll keep trying to get rich, and leave the fame for others…
Peace to you Tim! You’re a great man doing a service for your ‘City’ of followers!
More thanks to add to the pile 🙂 I saw the tweet about this and hoped that you would expound upon it in a full blog post. Thanks for –as usual– not disappointing.
Do you see a path toward the “influence” (ie: donations/investments) and “social currency” (ie: credibility/clout necessary to forge relationships w/ other top performers) aspects of the fame without the harrowing aspects that you described here? I am creating a product/service that I hope has the potential to change the world and humanity for the better, but I harbor pretty extreme reservations about opening that Pandora’s Box and sacrificing my anonymity for the rest of forever, should I experience any sort of runaway success with it.
No expectation of an answer; I don’t want to be in the “”Friends” with ulterior motives” or the “Desperation messages and pleas for help” categories, but if you have any specific thoughts on achieving the clout without becoming a household name, it might be really beneficial for someone potentially on the brink of that transition.
Regardless, I’m sad to hear that your success has introduced this extremely negative energy to your life (and I think you have nothing to apologize for in sharing what some will view as “woe is me”), but I selfishly hope you continue to crack on despite the challenges 😉 We need more voices like yours, seeking truth for its own merits, rather than shaping truth to serve their agenda, and doing so from an open-minded and civilly-engaged platform. It would be a shame to lose you if you decided to “disappear for a period of time” or retire outright (though totally understandable and obviously entirely your prerogative).
Keep up the good work and know that there is a vast “silent majority” out there _for_ whom you are a great force of good and _from_ whom you will probably never hear a peep. I’ve been listening and reading for years and you’ve inspired me to live what I very much believe is a better, more-enlightened life, time and time again, yet this is the first time I’ve made a peep. I’m confident that there are millions more like me, and I hope that you can burn that as a fuel in the fight against this dark aspect of fame.
From the bottom of my heart: thank you.
So powerful. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for this, Tim. There’s a great scene in the recent film “Yesterday” where it shows an alternate reality in which John Lennon is still alive because he never became famous. It’s a touching scene and it underscores the potential hazards mentioned in your post.
This world has sure gone crazy. Thanks for the heads up – although I doubt that I will ever be famous, now I really don’t want to be.
💕 I’m new to Tim Ferris’ work and so far LOVE this blog and Tim’s podcast! Really love the last podcast episode “New Year’s Resolutions, 2010-2019 lessons Learned”. I actually kinda wish he’d do more “lessons learned” type episodes. It just really helped me see things from a new perspective
I was wondering if anyone knew if “4 hour chef” will ever be available as an audio book? If so, then when?
Thanks for sharing these words of wisdom.
Amazing article, Tim ! Thanks for sharing !
Thanks for such a candid glimpse. The affronts to personal freedom that you describe are something I’ve vaguely been aware of but always downplayed in my mind. This post scared me into a genuine feeling of being content with my life as is. I know fear wasn’t exactly your intent, but thanks for making it visceral. Appreciate ya!
Im so glad I checked my email today and saw this article! This is a profound collection of experiences, data from testing the hypothesis. Does fame create wholeness? The more I look the more I see that external conditions are reflections of internal conditions. Manipulating the external seems like it would affect the internal state… but it does not. We look out and ignore whats happening inside. Thank you for sharing your life experiences with us all. More data. Valuable results. It reminds us that the answer isn’t outside, it’s always been inside. But, everyone has to walk their internal path independently and intentionally. Seems so much easier to seek the external.
Tim, thank you so much for this excellent blog post, it was extremely insightful and well written. I think your article will surprise and maybe even shock a lot of people, because the average person never gives any thought to the downsides of fame.
We met briefly at Yanik Silver’s Underground Seminar in DC (2004) and at the time I was impressed at your attitude and determination. It’s wonderful to see the success of your books and podcast, congratulations!
In this post you did a great job of highlighting aspects of fame that hardly anyone ever talks about. When the media touches on this topic, there’s typically no tolerance for any celebrity mentioning the negative consequences of fame. Instead, the attitude by journalists tends to be: “after all, look at all the benefits they get.” It’s a narrow-minded viewpoint that belies their true lack of understanding of the issue. Just because someone becomes famous doesn’t justify the substantial issues they have to face. As you said, you’re not complaining, but at the same time these are real and serious issues that can’t be avoided.
Over the years, I’ve managed a number of celebrities and witnessed first-hand how challenging it can be. One day it’s avfalse or even slanderous report by the media, the next day it’s a serious stalker issue where the FBI needs to be called in, and EVERY day it’s people with their hands out, either asking for a donation to their charity or a donation for themselves because they’ve fallen on hard times. Time doesn’t allow a personalized response to each person, and to make matters worse, typically the requester believes they’re the only one writing in with that type of request. It’s a hard tightrope to tread, fraught with challenges. I always tried to be kind yet firm in my responses. As an aside, in my experience, most celebrities give a lot of support charities (both in time and money) – far more than the average person does.
In recent years, the word “fame” seems to have been super-ceded by “influencer” but the dangers and pitfalls have dramatically increased because of social media. I agree with the others who suggested a TED talk on the theme of the hidden dangers of being an influencer.
Lastly, I wanted to mention how pleasantly surprised I was to see the overwhelmingly positive nature of the comments here. It seems like some platforms inherently attract negativity or worse, especially when the commenters can hide behind anonymity. It’s really encouraging to see the collective wisdom and insights from your audience 😉
Part of the situation is that journalists do a lot to violate the privacy of famous people.
Thanks Tim. I’m guilty, I’ve googled where you live just to see. I do it to many I read about, just to humanize them.
I’ve had some success in life and have at times enjoyed the ego stroke of being recognized for it. But I appreciate that it’s in such limited capacity.
I do wonder if you dropped out. Meaning… drop all your business in the public eye, podcasts, speaking, books… be done. Just work on the real you. Would you be satisfied in life? You’ve made enough $.
My guess is, in a few years, you’d fade away and most all of this would go away. Just a thought. I think you can go back. Tom Cruise can not. Tim Ferris can.
This piece really hits the target. Thanks for being raw and sharing these things. I wish that more famous people (or people seeking fame) would dare to do the same and just be real. Let’s hope that this is the start of a trend. Thanks again.
You don’t want a Wikipedia page either. You have zero control over what goes into it. In fact, negative control, because anybody with a citation can add anything they want. Apparently I’m a racist. Who knew, right?
This is a very well articulated work. I guess what really strikes me is the quote of putting a bullet in your head if you’re not rich by 30. I’m by no means motivated by fame, but I do value freedom greatly (more so than most) and I also do attribute the lack of it to my self-worth.
Though I’m not sure if these types of self-torturing thought are necessarily bad though: I’ve had many instances that it’s these types of thought that keep me going, that keep pushing the needle for a better future…
Solomon would agree:
“So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.
And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labor: and this was my portion of all my labor.
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:9-11)
Thank you Tim for this incredible posting. It is one for the ages.
Deep insightful and genuinely helpful. A real service to those who might take it to heart before they pursue fame or even during. Sadly like other examples my feeling is : those who need it most seem to be oblivious. Still Tim to me you are one of the too few making the world a better place. Thank you.
I’ve been “with you” for years. I’m a nobody middle-aged female who has grown personally so much, been inspired & entertained by your podcasts & appreciate your taking care of yourself in all ways possible & teaching us as well. I one had a secret admirer when I was in my 20s…
I just skipped to the bad parts… this pretty much killed my delusions of fame. New goal is to get the fortune without the fame.
I liked it. Thanks for sharing!
I was on the show Shark Tank (season 5, Balloon Distractions) and all kinds of nasty bloggers went after me… and that is really micro-fame… I can’t imagine having a huge audience. I sold the company, now no one recognizes me anywhere.
Good shit man!!!
Thank you for this, Tim. My blog is practically dead, with only 500 visitors per month and no new posts in 2019. Yet, someone looked up my address in the county records and showed up at my door. I’ve had other strange occurrences, but this was the first in-person contact. I can see how it would be difficult to get “un-famous”. I’ve hired a counselor/business consultant to help me figure out my path forward. I heed your warning with gratitude.
Cool post. While you said you are not reading any books, in addition to “Radical Acceptance”, I would also recommend “You are the one you’ve been waiting for” by Richard Schwartz.
Such a breath of fresh air reading a post like this. Real. Raw. Human.
I enjoyed your article. It was very enlightening. Thank you for having the courage to share with the rest of us.
Thanks Tim. It’s interesting to read from the other (your) side. I do like how you share personal and potentially embarrassing stories and can see how it robs the ammo. Cheers.
PS: I promise never to look you up …. 😉
Hi Tim, I’m wondering if you’re a RUSH fan. Neil Peart ( R.I.P.2020) wrote a song about this topic, it’s called “Limelight”. If you’re not familiar, I strongly recommend it! Thanks for your good works/words dude!
You just made me paranoid and I’m not even famous! lol. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Tim. I find the honesty and openness of your writing incredibly inspiring. This article is particularly impactful for me, as I have just started writing a blog at the beginning of this year. While I don’t have any desire for fame, I do have a desire for the message to be widely distributed and discussed. Having said that, it would be great to get your views on how to work toward impact while protecting yourself against the perils of fame.
Thanks for this eye-opening article, Tim. Kind of sounds like a disclaimer at the start of all your podcast interviews, because they normally leave me being inspired and wanting to be rich and famous lol. I can only imagine what it would be like for the mega famous.
I wouldn’t say anything at all about having your girlfriend trained to use a taser. And as for reveling you have a concealed weapons permit . Seriously??
“People with an overriding desire to be widely known to strangers are different from those who primarily covet wealth and influence. Their fame-seeking behavior appears rooted in a desire for social acceptance, a longing for the existential reassurance promised by wide renown.” (Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/22/health/psychology/22fame.html)
Like Blondie said “I’ll keep the money, you can have the fame”! Tim it’s a generous life that you share, I’m truely sorry you’ve had to deal with such things.
I’m beginning to think that seeking fame, fortune, excess is a flaw in the human condition that leads to complications, which are in fact, a reflection of our own sick psyche. In a metaphysical sense, all those people who popped up in Tim’s life are fragments of his own psyche that he’s rejected and pushed to “the other”.
I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a middle ground, where an artist or content creator be supported by a “classroom size” of people, no more than 36, let’s say, who are in a deep, meaningful, supportive and respectful relationship with themselves and the artist/writer/content creator. Seth Godin talks about this in the “famous to the family” scenario.
How much money do we need to get through life, and make some small difference in others’ lives? I don’t think it’s more than a few million, so what if I just strive for a humble $3million? And 36 people, $83,000,000 per person for the lifetime of the relationship, say 40 years?
What would be a scenario where this is possible? Ghostwriting or assisting in writing books/memoirs, providing therapy?
Does anyone have thoughts?
This is terrifying. Thank you for posting – super insightful. I will be printing this article for future reference.
My brother has worked in Hollywood for a number of years as an editor, director, writer, etc. While he is successful and has remained consistently busy with options to turn down opportunities, he has never become famous. I have always been happy that he is able to do what he set out to do and now I am even happier that he never became too famous. 😄
I realise that it is most likely unintentional but your article is deeply fear mongering, as in reading it is somewhat paralysing. I know that this is not what you want for your readers as you are all about enabling them and helping them succeed. Yet I feel like you haven’t done that here, and I would love for you to follow this article up with practical strategies to help people entering the public sphere to protect themselves. Without the inclusion of such strategies this articles loses much of it’s potential to benefit its readers and is reduced to a ‘cautionary tale’ of the “don’t talk to strangers” variety, which really isn’t of any benefit. We all know that if you’re in the lime light there’s a higher chance of being targeted. Unpacking this idea in such detail however provides no long term benefit to anyone. It would be much more useful to receive some practical strategies, especially preventative ones, that could benefit others. Thanks so much Tim.
First and foremost, thank you for everything you and your team has created and shared over the last 13 years. Being one of your 1000 (or 10 million) true fans, my gratitude for you goes to the stars and back.
Coincidentally, crossing paths with you shortly after this blog post I was left uncertain how to express my gratitude.
Like you, I like problems combined with solutions. Would you be open to writing a post about respectful ways that people can approach you when they see you in public?
I am grateful that you are famous, your content has truly enriched my life.
Hey Tim, that’s a really cool post. I myself have known a glimpse of stardom, when me and my band participated on a TV show for bands, in the biggest tv channel of Brazil.
It also made me crazy when I started receiving hatred, based on nothing and of course, accusations of being a satan lover, since my band is an electronic rock band.
The band is over, so is the instant fame.
I actually find it funny to obsess with a famous person, I’ve always have.
I bought Tools of titans a couple of years ago, when I was looking for some inspiration and guidance. Love the book, bought The 4 hour body and ever since, I’ve been on the diet. I of course thank you for writing all the theories and am very happy with the results, but I only follow you for inspiration of what to eat on my binge-days.
I’m enjoying Tribe of mentors now and by no means I think of you as my friend, hahaha!
So let’s keep it that way, you keep on writing the good stuff, and I’ll keep reading.
Have a great week!
I’m so glad I opened the email that led me to this blog. Thanks for sharing your story, Tim. It was truly an eye opener.
Thank you, Tim–very eye-opening! I am now reconsidering the web site/podcast I was planning on starting, i.e., thinking of using a pseudonym etc.
But how the heck would anyone middle-aged or older go “off the grid” as far as a mailing address? I use a P.O. Box for my business, but for everything?! The hassle of setting that up must be enormous….true? I would appreciate a blog post on how to do that one!
Wow. Really. This is a very insightful story. Thank you for writing this.
You do mention some non-US areas, but I wonder how much of this is an American phenomenon? As an American living in Australia for many years, I’ve found the Aussies aren’t caught up in celebrity like us “Yanks.” Maybe just smaller sample size (only 26 million Aussies)?
You’ve done such a huge service for everyone – famous, not famous and everyone in between – with this post. Thank you.
Thanks for the enlightening post. My eyes feel a little wider now.
“Getting free samples of products (although “free” often ends up being the most expensive)” Could you give an example plz, I’m very intrigued
Wow, thank you so much for this. In the back of my mind I always had a Pollyanne view of being famous and this post terrifies me. I think somewhere deep down I feel that fame is being successful at the highest level. If that is true, after reading this, I don’t want that success. I imagine most people don’t know any of what you wrote prior to becoming famous. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You do incredible work. Thank you for it all and for being you. I wish you much peace.
Thank you, Tim, for a great post. You sparked an tangential idea for a future TF blog/post re Tim’s deliberate “talking about controversial topics & disclosing uncomfortable personal stories… to avoid the temptation to create a squeaky-clean public persona.”
We need a public discourse imo about PUBLIC IMAGE of politicians/persons in power. Anyone with any measure of self-reflection and psychological insight understands that as humans — all of us, without even considering the aspect of malevolence — we have foibles & make mistakes, great and small. We need to allow for HUMAN FALLIBILITY so as a society (and in the media) we can differentiate between, for example, the actions of Al Franken VS the malfeasance/criminal behaviour of Harvey Weinstein. Due Process. Proportionality of punishment. Internet-fuelled outrage. Sexual abuse is only one subject exampled here. As a professional woman over 50, I’ve had my fair share-from childhood sexual abuse to workplace misconduct-so I feel I can speak w/some authority in this arena.
Looking forward to Tim’s expansion on the topic of the dark side of pseudo “squeaky-clean public persona.”
I remember going to a fundraiser you were at in Austin. I had no idea you would be there, so it was cool to see you because I’m a fan. Yay! But I watched you non-stop surrounded by people trying to get your attention one after another the whole night, and I honestly didn’t want to add to the noise. It looked kind of exhausting. So I think I smiled at you accross the room while I was waiting for the bathroom and left you to it.
thanks for sharing the insights.
once again showing that there is no free lunch.
Love this post. Happy to see you getting back to the blog. I only came across 4HWW a few years ago and after reading it I was disappointed that most of your best posts were 5 years old or more. You are a good writer, and as much as I love the podcast, I enjoy your writing even more.
ugh I definitely don’t want fame now. Lucky you have a good circle of friends and family. I feel isolated just reading this post. I do appreciate you keeping it real. I appreciate all I have learnt from your books and podcasts, despite the cost outlined in this post.
Shit this post is depressing…
I hope the good will somehow offset the crazy.
What an insight.
Thank was a fantastic post. Sod fame for a game of toffees! Thank you for the podcasts. They’re spot on. Every. Single. Time.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Tim. I’ve learnt from you for a decade and wondered “what would I do if I ever got to meet Tim Ferriss?” Apart from thanking you and sharing my story there is not much more I would do. At least I can thank you for all that you’ve done virtually. You’ve always been a source of wisdom and I’ve grown up with you and continue to keep growing. Thank you!
Dear Mr Ferriss,
This is VERY helpful. As I have a show on a YT channel that is starting to pick up some steam I really needed to read this.
I thank you for your effort to shine the light of truth upon many aspects of life.
Thank you so much for honestly sharing your story. I am just on the very start of getting famous and already had my first experience with stalkers and people entering my space unasked for. I am really happy you shared much more than just the stalking side of it, so i know what i potentially can get into and how to prepare for it. THANKS!
I have a tiny audience of 10000 people more or less, and I get some of the negative sides already… I can’t imagine what ten times or a hundred times that size would mean, not sure I want to find out. Thanks for the article. Really interesting.
Two ways to avoid becoming famous faster than you can digest: 1. Be humbler than before, extremely difficult for strong willed to do and 2. Know whom to make enemies of, as they will destroy your fame and save you.
This article I couldn’t stop reading it until I finished it. When you thrive in life to find who you really are, there’s always fame hiding just in front of your face. You try to ignore it but current social media and society norms won’t help you.
You been a big back bone for me for the last 5 year+ and still are. Even you are familiar to my Wife and my little one. These type of articles are needed to spread the positive part of living. It’s not just being famous, to do something good & great for the world but there are still those guys with MH issues to destroy you in every way and you still succeed with your aim of sharing the knowledge. All who read this article will have the wisdom to share this in their daily life to be more aware of their self to live in happiness and excitement.
I rarely comment, but I wanted to emphasize something that an earlier commenter (Frank Booth) said about this post being fear-inducing. That’s an important point that I have been wrestling with since I read this post. And I think considering that point could lead to important follow-up from Tim and others.
Tim’s post is open and honest. It addresses a truly important topic, and I’m surprised more famous people don’t discuss it.
But, like Frank wrote, this post is also a powerful fear-inducer. It may be the most powerful “don’t go after your biggest goals” piece of writing I have read in a long time.
I’m sure that was not Tim’s point, but here’s why I say it: Tim’s great gift is inspiring people in concrete ways to go after meaningful goals. For many of those people, achieving these goals would lead to attracting attention as a necessary(?) by-product. Indeed, how many world-changers are there who don’t gather attention?
Tim’s post seems to say that attracting attention has a lot of fear-inducing possibilities–which means that, for many, he is saying that going after their goals has a lot of fear-inducing possibilities.
It’s a fine point to say being famous is not a good goal in itself. I assume that was the prime motivation for Tim to write this. But the take-away undercurrent of the post cuts deeper than that.
If the goal is wide-spread impact, which I’m sure it is for many of Tim’s fans, then some level of fame seems to follow.
So, what do we from here?
Do we not try to help people in a wide-spread way? That can’t be right.
Are there ways of having massive impact while not attracting attention to yourself? If there are, it would be very meaningful for Tim and others to provide guidance. Could Tim have done it that way?
Are there things that can be done to lessen the risks to famous people? Maybe, if a bunch of brilliant, famous, powerful people came together on this issue, there could be new solutions.
And the big one:
Is it still worth it to go after helping large numbers of people? I have to believe the answer is yes.
Since reading Tim’s post, I’ve wondered about others who have become famous as a result of helping large numbers of people. I’ve wondered about what these famous individuals go through. My guess (and hope) is that they would still choose their path, even with the problems that have followed. My guess (and hope) is that Tim would also choose the same path, viewing the millions of people he has helped.
Thank you, Tim. You really hit the high points here! As for whether it will influence anyone to let go of their efforts to find fame or not, time will tell. But, I can say your words have confirmed (for me) why my songwriting husband only seeks the royalties, not the fame. I wrote my books and blog articles to share what I have learned that has helped me, with no thought of gain. While I enjoy some attention, such as singing with a band, speaking at events, officiating marriages, and as an emcee of health festivals, mega fame has never been my goal. I love my holistic health tribe! I simply focus my awareness and attention on managing my own Energy. Much love and peace! I am eager to read more on the topics of Alzheimer’s prevention and consciousness from you. Do you follow Noetic Science (IONS) by chance? Thank YOU!
Freakin’ awesome, Tim. Thank you.
Thank you for such a thought provoking post.
I’ve often wondered about fame and how I’d react to people knowing me wherever I go and long ago realized that is the opposite of what I want. This article perfectly illustrates why. I look at what you and Brene Brown and those who put themselves out there as a way to help others as a form of martyrdom. To give so much to your audience requires that something is taken away from you; in this case many of the freedoms the non-famous take for granted.
But what makes for a meaningful life? One definition of success in that category is the number of lives one touches, improves, inspires. When one person can move forward thousands or millions of others to become better humans, that is a higher calling and, in my book, a smart trade of some personal freedoms. Which is a good reminder that fame for fame’s sake is for fools but fame as a result of improving the lives of millions requires bravery and may just be worth it.
For every crazy out there taking away from your fame, remember that there are thousands of us improving our own mental health, quality of relationships at work and at home and living a better life as a result of your efforts. We are passing down what we learn through our speech and actions to our children which is breaking cycles and creating new cycles affecting our future generations. We truly appreciate what you do. Keep it up and stay diligent.
Thank you for your awkward honesty as always Mr F!
This comes at a time where I really needed to read that .
Hope you get to see my Positive Pet Project work I do for education and animal shelters worldwide.
Thanks for extremely interesting post. I can fully understand when you say that some of those experiences “made you lose your hope in humanity”. However, as it is true that there is a percentage of psychologically imbalanced people in all populations, it must be true that such percentage can be at least equaled, if not outnumbered, by the percentage representing extraordinarily good and outstanding people. Since you have already seen the “hard” side of life, I wish you to experience the other side of the equation in the future, and be able to write a post where you say that your fame helped you to connect with such extraordinary people.
Tim you should just start wearing KISS makeup everywhere you go. If you look like Gene Simmons in makeup at the airport or restaurant just sign autographs as him and let him take the heat. Fuck’em.
Tim, thanks for writing such a personal piece. At first when I saw the headline, I wondered how in the heck you could complain about being famous when you’ve been so succesful. But then you laid it all out, and it it made perfect sense. I had no idea of the perils and pitfalls that famous people must deal with, and some of your own examples are downright scary and chilling. I also liked the elephant analogy with blind blind men. It was eye-opening and quite revealing. Excellent job!
Who are you?
Even those of us who quietly endeavor to simply be our best, become top performers in obscure fields of endeavor without fanfare, can become targets of weak minded, envious, and mentally unhinged individuals. Those who cannot direct their energy constructively, those who cannot create positive results of their own, often congregate together and strive to destroy those who do.
Once of the most powerful things you have ever written. So true and so tragic (why I would not want fame). In spite of it all, Tim from the millions of honest true fans. Thank you. Thank you for enduring the absolute crap in order to teach so many of us. Thank you for thinking we are worth it. Keep going brother and keep growing and acting in wisdom. Sending prayers of peace and protection to you.
First time reader here. Thanks for this article. While the scale of the problem for celebs is news to me, the scope is all too familiar. For a physician, working in an age when the Yelp review, star rating, and patient satisfaction scores are weaponized by patients and employers, and when you are forbidden by law from replying in any meaningful way to internet “stalkers” and “attackers”, it was refreshing to see someone detail the extent of this type of problem. Add to this that the percentage of disturbed people one contacts on a daily basis is even higher in the medical field. I hope your readers remember this article when they read online reviews.
Thank you very much for sharing this Tim. I feel deep compassion for you and everyone who experiences these unnecessary, challenging, traumatic experiences.
I’m deeply, deeply grateful for you and everything you have shared with us. You have directly, massively, positively impacted my life. You have introduced me to so many things which have and continue to hugely assist me in evolving my life and the way I exist in this world; micro-dosing, Iboga, Wim Hof, Tony Robbins, Josh Waitzkin & The Art Of Learning, multi-day fasting, extended travel, living abroad, cold exposure, Stealing Fire and Burning Man, just to name a few! Not to mention the books and continuous exposure to positive, top-performer mindsets and outside the box thinking you have shared with us.
Without your support and assistance in my life I would not be writing this from a small town in India in the midst of a months long period of service here, after having experienced the longest, most positive, most evolved holidays with my parents of my life, with massively powerful, dialed in morning, mid-day and evening routines, the most centered, aligned, non-attached, mentally, physically and spiritually healthy of my life, the most inspired and excited about life, free of alcohol and sex addiction and just all around really freaking loving and grateful for life. Trust me, I’m living a very different life from four years ago when I was wrapping up my time as a Marine Corps helicopter pilot, and your assistance has been one of the keys to this evolution.
It has been an honor and an excellent learning opportunity to have been able to experience your own growth and evolution from the Four Hour Work Week (I have to admit, back then your attitude got under my skin….looking back I realize it’s because I saw so much of myself in you), the other books and the beginning of the podcast to now.
Thank you so much for your generosity, perseverance, humility and love Tim, all while going through your own human struggles, challenges, failures and self-doubts.
Brother, though we’ve never met, when you experience challenges you can be assured that my love, energy and support is with you.
Thanks for showing the realities of fame Tim. Love the podcast 😉
As strange as it may seem this article has brought a smile to my face. The perpetual drive for instant gratification, money, and fame that seems to be rife in society today rarely receives any bad press. This article is a great antithesis to those who may blindly pursue being famous as a solution to their perceived problems and the quote from Walden is an apt choice given that it details the opposite lifestyle choice. Having worked for the emergency services for a number of years I have seen the impact of the behavior of people who have chosen not to take their medication on people around them so I have a brief understanding of how it has impacted you and like many posters, I agree that this should be a TED talk.
Just this week I have received this a meme from a colleague of an emergency worker who is made up to look like Joker out of Batman in a police uniform. The title : Me getting dressed to go to work when there’s an 8 year old YouTuber that made $26 million last year!
It is abundantly clear that most people would be of the mindset “Imagine what I could buy!” when in reality the question should be “What is the cost…?”
Thanks for showing everyone the real implications and keep up the good work.
Wow! Thanks for drawing the curtain on fame. Just wanted to let you know I’m very grateful for the content you put out and the impact you’re making on this world from a fan that won’t extort/threaten/kidnap/hurt/slander you. Only wish you happiness and continued success.
Hey Tim, I’m really grateful to you that you discuss these things openly because its something that people need to know. I want to you to know that you make a massive difference to people’s lives in what you do. Also, because I always consider where someone is at when they write something so raw.. I wonder if the things that you talk about will get better with the passage of time and as you get older as well. I don’t think Prince Charles gets the same level of fervour that he used to. So know the best is yet to come :).
One of my favorite quotes is of the Beatles on BBC, the interviewer asks the Beatles what they miss about life now that they are famous and all four pipe up, “riding the bus”. When I heard this I understood the treasure of anonymity. Thank you for this great post. Jody
Well said, I’ll take the money, leave the fame, but am needing of neither, as with or without, my true north of happiness remains the same, sitting in a bugatti or a junker with no such name.
Thanks for sharing. This is the most in-depth thing I’ve been able to find about what it’s like to be famous. It’s a topic that interests me A LOT and I can barely find anything about it. On YouTube, there are only a handful of 3-minute-or-so videos featuring celebrities talking about it. Usually, anything on the subject is by non-famous people speculating. Maybe celebrities are afraid to go too deep into the negatives of fame because they’re scared of fans reacting badly or thinking they’re ungrateful. Maybe saying out loud that they feel scared of or overwhelmed by fans feels risky when those are the people whose support they need.
I’d love to see you do some kind of series about fame, whether it’s another book compiled of interviews or a video/podcast series. You have access to all the people and you’ve started a conversation. You could explore fame on all levels and see how it differs between niches. How is it different if you’re an A-lister or a C-lister? A YouTuber or a movie star? You could talk to psychologists about why we want fame, the effects of it, and why people become “stans”. You could talk to people who’ve purposely dropped out of the spotlight. There are a ton of avenues to explore and I think it’s particularly relevant in this social-media age where everyone has the potential to become famous.
Feel free to contact me about brainstorming ideas. This is a topic I’ve wanted to know about for ages!
Thank you for sharing, friend. This is the most comprehensive summary I’ve seen. Perhaps it goes without saying, but I hope you also feel the warmth of the 99% that takes what you share positively, and the 10% that use what you share to truly make their world and the world around them a better place.
Tim, this blog post struck a major chord with me. I am an entrepreneur who is really struggling with taking my business to a wider audience through online classes and social media. I don’t ever want to be famous, but I do want to make a living. I get discouraged about this new world where there is so much flow of good information and then there is the seedy side. My own experience with Instagram and seeing how many guys just start following you and sending you strange messages for no reason (no, it’s not for a sexual reason, I am in my 50s and very well clothed) and watching Facebook political nonsense where I see friends become enemies, not to mention the strangers who loudly form opinions on random comments made by strangers. Your story is my fear in words. With that said, I am glad you have done so well as I have been a fan of yours since your first podcast. You have provided such a great service to so many. Only you can ever decide if it has been worth it. But there is a large population (the size of NYC) that wants you to keep going.
Quoting Jim Carey?
The guy who had an affair with a make up artist, who then sadly took her own life after he dumped her.
Mate, we love you, stop the struggle, move to Japan where you’ll be a nobody on the train like all of us.
I saw Simon Le Bob from Duran Duran at Tully’s in Ebisu, no one knew no one cared, he was eating a sandwich, like everyone else, in peace.
Thanks for writing this, Tim! I have a simple life as a school teacher in Honolulu, HI, and this article made me appreciate what I have. Also, thank you so much for supporting Donors Choose! They’ve funded five projects for my classroom and I am so grateful. Aloha.
Thanks, Tim. Always a pleasure to read your work and follow your journey, while doing the my work and following mine. Cheers! R.
Phew,I’m not sure I was breathing while reading this. Now scale this to Prince Harry, who is trying to get his wife and son out of the spotlight that he was born into, that killed his mother.
Thanks for the post Tim. It was very honest and insightfully written. Appreciate you giving an articulate experience from the elephant’s perspective.
I cannot thank you enough for this post. I have spent the majority of my life (I’m now 48) believing that some version of fame was my destiny, and that anything less was a failure on my part to live up to my fullest potential. “If others don’t know my greatest, then what’s the point?” was a thought that always guided me. You put it in the clearest of terms that fame is not, will never be, the answer. Period. This past week I suffered what I referred to as “my ego getting punched in the face” when an art lesson I submitted for grading was returned with a big, fat zero with the encouragement to keep practicing. Until then, I sure, absolutely, positively sure, that my destiny was to be well-known for my art (albeit in a tribe/city-level sense). Then I read this, and also see your new podcast with Brene Brown and the subject matter of that podcast. I do believe in serendipity, so I feel the universe (once again – the universe has infinite levels of patience with with me with course-correction) is guiding me in the direction I’m actually supposed to be going in versus what my ego thinks is best.
I could go on, but I’ll save you from my “mid-life crisis of sorts”. I’ve been a fan of yours for years (although I rarely, if ever comment), so I am grateful that you have walked the path you have so that many can benefit from the wisdom. I’m sorry for the potholes on your road, but grateful you have made your way around them. Thank you again for your words of wisdom (and your humor – I love it).
Wishing you nothing but peace, happiness, and serenity –
Tim, I recommend you read “man’s search for meaning” by Viktor Frankl, and “The Will to Meaning” by the same author. Your book and public speaking helped me a lot to kick things off after a long duration of fall (after a rise), but I didn’t know the “whys” of what I wanted, except that I want to be recognized and be the best at what I do, put it simply to be the most coveted lawyer in the world. But as Viktor said, you can’t pursuit happiness, it ensues. I say the same for being famous, it ensues it is not a pursuit. Pursuit of fame brings fame by causing it (for example by guidance in your books). But fame which ensues is by creating a reason for it. It is more than a “high” and it doesn’t have a dead end. I read certain sections of your book now and then, to find ways to be better at doing what I want for a reason, and that reason is neither fame nor money, these are the “side effects” of it.
Fascinating. Beyond scary but fascinating. This morning I’m going to do a careful review of my 60 Instagram followers. How did I let this thing get so out of control? Ha. I’ve never really been too impressed by fame or the lives that famous folks have. I understood the dangers and pitfalls that came with fame. Or, at least I thought I did. The way you lay this out as actually a numbers thing and not a personal, or content thing, should cause everyone who is accepting “friend” requests from folks you don’t know on social media pause.
It’s not fair. And, it should be not be true. But you clearly lay out that it’s a numbers thing. Add numbers to your followers and you take on these risks regardless of who you are or what you think you represent. Wow. Ouch.
Brilliant, I would always prefer wealth to fame, it must be very wearing.
success is not in money or being famous, but in forming your own character in knowing how to fail and accept to fail, but never stop giving up, because 6 factors lead to success …. humility, perseverance, training, discipline, quality and positive attitude … I have read many books of successful people since I was a child and they helped me change my first character from failed and shy ….. this can be help [Moderator: link removed.]
“It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.”
Thank you for putting yourself out there, teaching us as you move forward. I love your writing style, funny, honest and always able to keep my attention. You are a hero in my eyes, and move in the world in a manner that garners the utmost respect. Thank you for brining the attention to the wolves, mental health and so many other things and people. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt, the Man in the Arena. Delivered at the Sorbonne (Paris) on April 23rd, 1910.
Thank you for sharing these lessons. Such a shame that your ‘con’ list was so long. Wishing you nothing but the best…
Sorry you’ve had to endure all of this madness, Tim. I always wondered if you and others in your position deal with internet crazy. Suspicions confirmed!
It also reinforces my happiness for having chosen a more hermetic life. I mean, I did make a YouTube video once and it had two views. One of them was me. Maybe a rapping Shih Tzu was a little ahead of my time.