Never meet your idols
Because you will inevitably be disappointed
(Man, it has been three weeks since I dropped a Fashi. My bad, my bad. Life. February has been...short. As in short tempered. And then I have been fighting to get my platform set up, as I mentioned I moved from Substack to Ghost, and then Ghost went all freaky on me. We're almost there, still getting a look and feel that is The Chidi—this is what they call "the messy middle". I'll be touching on that soon...the messy middle).
So. I am big fan of The Crown. I don't necessarily give a crap about the Royal Family, not even the millenial renegades who are both abandoning and threatening to blow up the Queen's domain these days. But I dig The Crown, the Netflix show. Such impeccable production and performances. The storytelling is just...muah.
The episode called Moondust kicked my ass. If you haven't seen The Crown, then I won't spoil this episode for you. So many things I could have pulled from it: how even the most privileged still can be lonely and crewless, the incredible moonshots that man has undertaken, mid-life crises, and more. However, it was when Prince Phillip—who was so besotten by the men who walked on the moon that he saw them as gods—eventually met the American astronauts and realized they were mere commoners who were more awed by his huge palace than he was with their moonwalk. That's when in his deep disappointment he uttered the line, "Never meet your idols, because you will be inevitably disappointed".
Phillip, I hear you, brother.
When I was a young teenager I developed a pragmatism about people, specifically when my best friend helped me get past my debilitating paralysis around girls. I would practically freeze whenever the cute and pretty girls in my neighborhood or my classroom would come around, and so Emeka pulled me aside one day.
"Chidi, listen...you're messing up our game, this guy. Ah-ah! You need to stop acting like Frankenstein around these girls, man. What's wrong with you?"
I told him girls were like aliens. They were so...celestial. They could do no wrong. They were angels.
He jabbed his index finger at my chest. "Sharrrap, my friend. Which kin angel? Are you a woman wrapper?" He sucked his teeth, looked at me intently. "Listen, I have a secret for you. You know I know everything about girls."
He did. He had six elder sisters, and then all twenty something of his cousins were girls.
"Just think of them as if they are like boys. Because they are. With the same yeye stuff and craziness. In fact, they are crazier."
And that was it. Once he took the shine off the girls, it was like night and day. I was free. And I became best friends with the girls. No more paralysis o.
That attitude essentially carried into my people collisions in my future. With my bosses. With the popular folks in school. With the superstars at work. With the senior execs and killer entrepreneurs that I have met and interacted with. The celebrities. I have been around many influential people. As in names that you read in the magazines or the movie/album credits. And Emeka's advice is still what keeps me even keeled when I am in the office of one of the richest men in Africa and he is staring me and Zain down like he does vanquishing his competitors. As an intern at DJ Eddie F's Untouchable Records, I got yelled at by Diddy because I was there to be yelled at. No skin off my back, being Diddy is stressful I said to myself. Queen Latifah took me on a bagel run on 47th St in NYC a week later, and she loves her cream cheese stacked on that bagel just like me. Who knew? It is clear as daylight...these folks are human. Flesh and blood. When you go into the bathroom after they drop a bomb or two, you still need instant air purification. I observed a mega star news anchor at CNN put his pants on one leg at a time at the Turner gymnasium.
Get out of here, Chidi!
No. I won't. I shan't.
Pedestals are tough. You put someone on a pedestal and then when they fall from it, you are in shock. Disturbed. Unmoored. And that is BS. Because you shouldn't hold anyone in such a revered state that they can do no wrong. And then when they inevitably do, you contort your mind and the facts so the pedestal you installed stays intact. No one is infallible, no matter how accomplished or powerful, and knowing that is such a balm to any anxiety you may feel when in the presence of such folks.
And. This mindset has dimmed any tendency to believe my own mythology or let my feet anywhere near a pedestal. I don't mind getting my props when it is deserved, but I do have a mantra I repeat to myself when praise starts to get to my head.
"Remember, Chidi...vain people never hear anything but praise."
I'll close with this story. True story. When I was an intern at Sony Music Studios during my junior year at NYU (I eventually came back to Sony Music years later after b-school), we had a special guest at the studios named Robert Cattman who was recording at the studios and also using the Sony Music soundstage, the one where MTV Unplugged used to be recorded live. I was asked to move a cart of super sensitive and expensive mics to the soundstage for rehearsals. As I turned a corner from Studio E to the hallway leading to the soundstage, Robert Cattman stepped out of Studio E. I was startled for a second and stopped in my tracks. He grinned at me.
"Oh, snap. Yo...what's up, Michael?" He looked a lot paler without the makeup. Skinnier in real life. But mightier and more ethereal.
He gave me a peace sign. I gave it right back. He quietly went in to the bathroom. I felt epic. Like a moonwalking smooth criminal. And then I kept rolling to the soundstage. I had work to do. And I may also have to get an air purifier for that bathroom.