Don’t Be Famous

Over the weekend I came across a video of a graduation speech given by comedian Mike Myers. The fact that I watched it at all is a tribute to the concept of social proof. I normally don’t watch graduation speeches unless they’re by someone in whom I have a great interest. While I like many of his films and his SNL work, Mr. Myers normally wouldn’t pass that test. However, it was posted by a guy whose thinking I respect and he said it was worth a few minutes.  I’m posting the video below – it is worth the almost 8 minutes and you can probably skip the first 1:30 if you’re that pressed for time – and then I have a few thoughts.


“Legendary” is being known for something that you do and “famous” is just being known.  Being known has become an end in itself, free from the prerequisite of achievement.  Celebrity used to mean being celebrated for something that you did; celebrity has become a devalued currency.

That is brilliant, and a fantastic business lesson for all of us.  We can spend great sums of money becoming famous – getting our brand and company names out there via earned, owned, and paid media. What happens once the customers interact with us, having found us through those channels, is what can make us legendary.   It means we need to pay as much attention to execution as we do to attraction.

Napoleon has been quoted as saying “Fame is fleeting. Obscurity is forever.”  He was advocating for the permanence of obscurity, because it endures, while fame is weak and lasts only a small amount of time.   I think Mr. Myers is getting at the same point.  We can’t build our businesses on making loud noises or the marketing equivalent of screaming “fire” in a theater.  Sure, that gets attention (fame) but we’re in an era when anyone has access to the noisemaking tools (witness the screed!).

We need to build something more substantial if we’re to remain in business for a long time.  We need to become legendary. I’m trying each day – you?

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