Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On Success and Compromise

I want to preface this blog rant by saying that while it mentions Jared Leto, and is the direct result of a conversation about him, this blog entry is not about him. This is not a fangirl ramble or anything of the sort. It just relates to a particular conversation that has been bouncing around in my brain for the last week or so.

En route to the concert last week, Eddie and I found ourselves sitting across from another bus passenger who was rather opinionated about...well...everything. He struck up a conversation with us, particularly about the symbols on the sides of Eddie's head and on my shirt. This is how he learned we were headed to the 30 Seconds to Mars concert. The guy thought for a moment, then said he knew the name, but couldn't place it. A lot of people haven't heard of them, but quite a few seem to make the connection if I tell them it's Jared Leto's band, so that's what I said (hoping quick answer would = quick end to the conversation...didn't work.).

This spawned an angry rant from our fellow bus rider. Apparently he comes from a family of struggling musicians, and deeply resents "assholes like" Jared who manage to have even moderately successful careers in both music and film. When I pointed out that music was Jared's career of choice, not a secondary thing he did by using his acting career to get his foot in the door (in fact his acting career hindered his music career at first, and he's adamantly refused to use that fame to promote the band), the other passenger said that didn't matter.

And this was when he made the statement that truly spawned this rant: "I can't stand people who do both. Pick one. Either acting, or music, but having dual careers like that is just bullshit. Once he started doing well as an actor, he should have dropped the music."

Say whut?

Against my better judgment, I tried to get him to explain exactly why this was a bad thing. Why should someone - anyone - limit their own success? Ultimately it came down to, as near as I could tell, simple bitterness that he and his various family members have been unsuccessful in the music industry, and someone else had the audacity to succeed in two cutthroat industries. I mean, how dare someone succeed twice when someone else can't make it once?

As I've replayed this conversation in my head, I realize it's not the first time I've heard such sentiments. It's almost like the successful should apologize for - or compromise - their success because others haven't made it as far.

That boggles my mind. Seriously. There are people in this world who can do more than one thing and do it well. Should Nora Roberts be kept from writing as J.D. Robb? After all, why should she be able to be a NYT #1 Bestseller under two names (in two genres) when the rest of us are still struggling to get one name and one genre into the big leagues? How dare she? Sure, it's still writing, but anyone who's been involved in this business knows how difficult it is to get somewhere in one genre, let alone two.

Personally, I look at Nora Roberts and think "That's where I want to be someday." She inspires me, and the fact that she's made it to the top in two different genres makes me that much more hellbent on making it to the top at all. I don't want to pull her off her pedestal, I want to join her on it.

Success should be celebrated, not scorned. Those who make it - no matter how many times - should be seen as an inspiration to those who want to get there, too. Whether we're talking music, acting, writing, business, sports, or any other place where someone can excel, this has always bothered me. Why should success be downplayed or hindered to accommodate or appease the unsuccessful? There's room at the top for those willing to work their way up to it. For those who have and those who will, I hope you never apologize for making it, and I hope you never rein your abilities in for the benefit of those who haven't reached the top.

Does that mean we should all idolize those who've made it? Absolutely not. There are highly successful authors who make my teeth grind because I don't understand how they've gotten where they have with the writing they produce. I get irritated when I'm told to emulate them, and I can't stand what's on the pages of their books. But, unless they've risen to the top via nefarious routes (plagiarism, for example), I don't resent their success. There are people who can't stand Jared Leto as an actor, musician, or both. There are those who wouldn't be caught dead with a Nora Roberts or J.D. Robb book in their possession. Individual tastes are what they aggravation stems from those who begrudge success simply because they themselves haven't reached the same level of success.

In terms of people like Roberts and Leto, the way I see it, the fact that one person is able to succeed twice does not mean I am incapable of succeeding once.

And as long as a conversation about him sparked this whole train of thought, I'll quote Senor Leto from his interview in the March 2010 issue of Alternative Press: "I don't apologize for making some films. Are you fucking kidding me? The fact that I get to make some fuckin' movies in my life? [...] You're gonna hold that against me? Guess what. Fuck you."

Yeah. What he said.


  1. That underlying entitled sentiment which drives that man's argument, the "I deserve to succeed just because" idea makes my teeth grind. WTF. Success is earned, not given, and if you really do "deserve" success, then no one will be able to hold you back from it, no matter how many times they succeed.

    I have to applaud your restraint in dealing with the self-entitled prick, Lori. >_<

  2. "I deserve to succeed just because" <--- YES. THAT. God, that pisses me off. No one is entitled to success, and no one deserves that which they don't earn.

  3. Success is earned, not given, and if you really do "deserve" success, then no one will be able to hold you back from it, no matter how many times they succeed.

    ^^^I am going to print that out and pin it somewhere I'll see it every day.

    I love that, Bookewyrme, and it's something I'll try to hold on to.