(Actress Dakota Fanning, who appeared on the cover of American Way magazine)

What Happened to ‘Show up and Put in the Work’?

The obsession with fame is distracting a generation of kids (and adults) from reaching their full potential.

Every Tuesday night I take my daughters to dinner at a local restaurant that has my favorite burger and asian slaw (don’t judge me) and their favorite (you guessed it) chicken nuggets.

Being the silly, goofy dad that I am, I usually kick the night off with guessing games. We also take goofy pictures and single out one or the other of us to royally annoy.

A few weeks back, however, my daughters decided on a question and answer game that stumped me with the first question:

“Dad, if you could be famous, what would you be?”

It was a haunting question, though they couldn’t have known as much.

As a kid growing up in a rural town, all I cared about were books, guns and knowledge, knowing things other people didn’t. Though I wouldn’t be a good student until college, reading books was my specialty, an act that once prompted my mom to ask, in frustration, “How can someone who reads so much have such bad grades?”

Unfortunately the history and science books I read weren’t those handed out in class.

My unwavering thoughts with regard to adulthood and a career were…

  • I wanted to be an expert of some sort.
  • I wanted to be known as someone who quietly got the job done.

Now, as an adult, my goals have not changed all that much.

I don’t much care for fanfare, popularity or the hoopla that surrounds them.

They both sat there waiting on my answer.

I struggled with how to explain this to my daughters without seeming like a joykill.

Then I remembered a magazine article I’d read regarding actress Dakota Fanning recently while on a plane. It was strange seeing the former child star now all grown up.

I was really taken aback at a wise quote she’s credited with in the article (see below):

Instead of fumbling with an answer, I showed the girls the quote (which I’d taken a picture of with my phone), then explained how I’m concerned kids—including them—are so enamored with fame that they are forgetting the hard work that precedes it.

Be creators, not consumers

In an age where fame appears a Facebook Live or Snapchat away, I wonder about the willingness of kids (and adults) to show up and put in the work.

I talk ad nauseam to the two kiddos under my roof about the need to create as opposed to consume.

I must sound like a broken record to them.

“Don’t allow the people you watch on TV or hear on the radio to distract you from creating something of value. You’re enjoying what they’ve created. What are you creating?”

They get it, often expressing their creativity through essays, drawings or photography (and schoolwork).

I’ve issued the same challenge to myself, recognizing that while reading lots of books is great, I must create and share more original content, too.

To hold myself accountable, I’ve created a mental note I recite continually

“What did you create today?”

Care to answer that question on your behalf?

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