The other day, I was asked by Fox News to appear as a guest on the Cavuto show to take what would be an unpopular position. That is, to support the right of Wall Street executives – those who had nothing to do with the market meltdown – to earn a bonus in 08.
As you might expect, my appearance was greeted soon after with hostile emails accusing me of being stupid, myopic, cavalier and, well, just a rather despicable human being. I understood that people, frustrated and damaged by the economy, and angry at those they view as the culprits responsible for its malaise, would be indignant about the position I was taking. But I was happy I made the appearance, stated my case and played some role in an ongoing national debate.
Friends and associates have asked me why I would possibly want to go on national television and take such an unpopular position. There is one major reason:
I don’t care about being popular.
And this is so liberating.
When we study history, when we look around at the world we live in now, we see that so much of what people do, including all of ourselves from time to time, is designed to win favor with others. But this same study of history and of the here and now illustrates so clearly that those who accomplish things of significance are highly unpopular in many circles.
And they don’t care.
Jesus was so unpopular with so many that he was murdered.
Martin Luther King was so unpopular among what looked like ordinary people that I heard a group of men laughing about his assasination the night he was gunned down.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates may well be the most successful CEOs of a generation and yet they are vilified in many circles.
All of the above were dramatically different and I do not mean to compare them in any way to each other. My point is that they cared not about popularity. They were liberated from the shallow pursuit and thus free to take stands and mount initiatives that changed the world.
In business, politics and personal life, there is a call to engage in the popularity contest that swirls about us. To be well-liked by others. To be easy going. To be the one who never ruffles feathers. To be the person who carries the torch for popular crusades and avoids controversies like the plague.
Let’s say you do this. What do you gain? Well, it is more appropriate to look at what you lose. In the quest for popularity, you seek to please others, losing yourself in the shuffle. You are so focused on making sure that the moves you make are likely to be applauded, that you actually live your life for others.
I know dozens of people who are close to me who want me to live my life differently. Or to make different decisions than those I make on a day-by-day basis. And then there are millions of others out there I don’t even know who would be happy if I changed my social or political views. Or take different stands on Fox News or any other media I appear on.
And perhaps they are right. And I don’t mean to be cavalier, but I don’t care. Somehow, somewhere, some way, I stopped caring about being popular. I have cared as long as I can remember, about living a full and true life. And that is what drives me. And I can only hope that some day it leads to me taking a stand on something that is so powerful and unique (and likely unpopular) that it has a lasting impact on the world.
Until then, if the then ever comes or not, I will relish in the Liberation Of The Unpopular.