Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Power of Fame

During the recent vacation, the two men [Henry Ford & Thomas Edison] happened to talk about the harmful effects of cigarette smoking. Ford recalled Edison's remark that the damage it caused was incurable. Would Edison be kind enough to write a letter that explained the nautre of the harm and why it was irreversible? With Edison's permission, Ford planned to used the letter in his antismoking campaign among workers. In asking Edison to serve as a quotable authority on the subject, Ford reveals his understanding of how celebrity - his, Edison's, anybody's - confers, in the eyes of the not-famous, expertise on all manner of subjects. Edison could speak about the deleterious effects of smoking not because of a background in respiratory disease or epidemiology, but because he was Edison.
Randall Stross, The Wizard of Menlo Park (New York: Crown Publishers, 2007), 239.
What is it about the famous that entices so many of us regular people? Why do we follow their lives, study their habits, get offended by their downfalls, and trust their opinions? What makes them so important that we would alter ourselves based upon what we learn from them? Thomas Edison was one of the first modern-age celebrities, and because of this, he was able to give opinions and ideas that the public latched onto simply because they came from Edison. His name literally carried him for most of his life after his big inventions gave way to his poor business decisions. Despite heading nowhere - his name & fame kept him on top of the world. People did not care if he kept making poor choices, they were simply attached to the idea of Edison himself.

What if instead of being infatuated with the 'rich & famous' - we simply learned a lesson about influence and its power? What could I do with the influence I currently have in my life? What battles could I fight, what decisions could I make, and what fears could I cast aside if I simply used my influence? What if the best thing I have to offer is simply my name? I am not trying to imply that I am someone famous or worthy of status...but the idea remains that in my circle of influence, my name might be my most powerful weapon. The key then becomes using it for the betterment of those around me.