Would You Rather Be Good Or Famous?

There is an old parable which relates to humility and goes along the following lines. A training musician is visited by a magic genie who says he can give him a choice between two wishes. He can make him incredibly talented at playing his guitar but unsuccessful commercially, or incredibly successful without having any talent. The musician plumps for being good at the guitar – because this is something of real, important value to him. As a result, the genie tells him he has chosen wisely. He will now have talent and success – whereas had he chosen the other way he would have been given neither.

Something of this story seems to have stuck with a number of guitarists in the present day. There is a prevailing feeling that those who attain commercial riches are sell-outs, more interested in building their bank balance than in creating something which lasts and stands the test of time. For someone on the way up, who quite fancies selling some records and touring in a band, this can be a disconcerting message. It is important to them to be good, but where is the harm in being heard by a wider audience.

To many others, the deeper truth of the story is not that those who attain these riches are sell-outs. More truly, it is that those who seek a short-cut to commercial success without bothering to accrue any talent in the lead-up to such success are the shallow ones. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be heard by a wider audience but this is perhaps more likely if you learn to be good first.

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