It was a holiday weekend, which meant that my wife and I sat around watching TV and stood around playing Nintendo Wii for most of it. We could do this on most weekend, but those of the holiday variety seem to be more conducive to such fruitless behavior.
Some of the programming we stumbled upon (but them became engrossed by) had to do with becoming a network star. Design Star, on HGTV, and Food Network Star, involve contestants who hope to get their own show and demonstrate to the rest of the world how to restore an old dresser or how to make a unique and easy quiche. The shows work like most elimination-based reality shows: each weekly episode features a contest of some sort. Based on the contestants' performance of said task, one person is sent home until only one remains and he or she is then rewarded with a show of his or her own.
As I watched each participant scramble to compete their decoration or entrée on time, as I saw some contestants get stressed to the point of tears, as I listened to these people plead their case to the judges, I couldn't help but think, "When did the ability to make something on TV become our benchmark of making it in the real world?"
When I was little, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Of course, at ten, when most of my life revolved around collecting baseball cards and playing Little League, the only thing I could conceive of doing at age thirty had to do with baseball. But no one told me that there are many careers in baseball available besides playing in the major leagues. No one shared with me that a very small percentage of people actually make it to the big leagues. And of those that do, an even smaller percentage go on to become superstars.
Maybe they shouldn't have given me this reality check at ten, though. Had I still had the same dreams at 17, when my on-field performance was clearly demonstrating that I had no big league potential, then it might have been time to lay it all out for me. But luckily, my plans and dreams had changed and no longer involved being a major league shortstop.
Some of the chefs and designers I saw on these shows are great at what they do. They come up with creative dishes and decorations. They execute their unique plan to perfection. They could probably demand top dollar to remodel your house or to cater your party. But for whatever reason, they don't want to do that. They want to remodel and cater on camera.
But many of them simply aren't cut out for it. They're terrible when those lights come on and the director counts them in. Whatever talent is evidenced by their creation is soon forgotten when they stumble over words or can't articulate what they've accomplished. And, as they're voted off one by one, they talk about how their dreams are crushed and how disappointed they are that they'll never be peers with Rachael Ray or Vern Yip.
What a shame. I understand having an ambitious goal; indeed those are nearly the only goals worth having, most of the time. But, we can 'make it' in many other ways as well. These cooks and decorators can make it and never be on TV again. They can make a killing and do what they love. A small shift in focus will have them at a place in life where many others dream to be.
There are better interior designers out there than the lot on Design Star. And there are better places to get a meal than at the hands of the finalists on Food Network Star. But when we narrow our concept of 'making it' to the bright lights and TV deals, we lose sight of what could be if we'd simply focus on being our best and chasing down the end result that best suits us.
For me, it was playing Wii baseball with my wife instead of being teammates with Alex Rodriguez.
Find and live your passion – but understand that its pinnacle may not be doing so in front of others. It may be at a place where you're happy, healthy, and lucky to be doing what you love and getting paid for it. Be your best - even if no one's watching.