Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Exhibitionist versus Producer

I am an exhibitionist.

No, not the one you're thinking of. I'm the guy that does the wild and crazy things: that dresses up in the kilt or kamishimo and comes to work, who randomly sings out loud or occasionally just goes crazy in the middle of a work hallway.

I've been like this for many many years. Only now am I starting to question why I am like this.

Why the question? Because I'm finding there's a disconnect in my life between the exhibitionist and the producer.

A fairly brilliant fellow (that'd be me) came up with the comment "Being known for flair alone doesn't last; being known for accomplishment does." I came to that thought after looking at myself - again, measuring the exhibitionist against the producer.

Here's the unhappy reality for me: I am an exhibitionist because I am not the best producer.

Growing up I did very well indeed in school. I loved reading, loved studying. However, those things that as school goes tend to get attention - sports, drama, music - I was not nearly as good in. Some of it was due to physical (I was not the most co-ordinated kid), some of it was due to commitment (my procrastination has gotten better), but some of it was due to the fact that I had high achievers as friends. The problem with high achievers is that someone ends up playing the second violin position, that of the ever loyal support personnel, the second trumpet to the first, the butler to the lead. In the light of the sun, the moon becomes a pale reflection.

It's okay for a while. It grinds on you year after year when you are second or third in everything in a world where first is rewarded.

The response? Exhibitionism - attention getting - becomes more and more important. Why? Because it's a way to recapture that attention not based on achievement or ability alone but on actions, which are easy to do and instantly gratifying.

However, I think the difficulty comes when the actions overcome the achievement: when the flair is the first thing displayed and the actions come later, or when the flair is much more pronounced than the actions.

The world of entertainment has an analogy: eccentricities in stars are excused/tolerated when they are at the top of the game. When they have lost their prime position, these habits or display suddenly appear silly or vulgar. What it demonstrates is that there was no "there" there.

And that's where I find myself: in fear that my behavior passes the point of cute or unusual or entertaining and is just a liability, highlighting my failures rather than accentuating my successes.

But then, my inner self yells at me, we are left with the accomplishment. And let's talk accomplishment, it says: It's a long process of mostly mind numbingly boring work which will be noticed by no-one. The reality is you're not the most talented or brightest, so you will be back to the role of second violin. Hours of long study and work to get where others get effortlessly in something that doesn't matter anyway. And unfortunately, second violin is not a well compensated or well recognized role in society. To bank on accomplishment is to lose the gratification of being noticed often and wildly; it is to settle into the gray twilight of doing that which needs to be done well without any guarantee that anyone will notice.

But what is the other option, O inner self? To continue to self immolate, to become a caricature of one's self, to be the equivalent of the village idiot: always good for a laugh, never expected to actually accomplish anything?

If I want to be remembered, is it as the guy with swashbuckling flair that actually contributed nothing or as the guy who got things done, even if no-one noticed until after he was gone?

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