Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Marissa Bracke.
You don’t get to decide whether you’re a guru*.
First, we have to establish two things: one, you control your own reactions, and two, you cannot control others’ reactions.
If you’re with me on that, continue on. If you’re not, go ahead and stop reading, because the rest won’t jive if you believe you can control someone else’s reactions. (But here’s a hint: you can’t.)
You cannot control whether or not you’re seen as a celeb. Your audience decides whether you’re a celebrity. You don’t get a say in the matter. As such, whether you feel like a celebrity or an everyday guy doesn’t matter when it comes to whether you are, in the eyes of your audience, The Big Kahuna.
The biggest Big Kahuna mistake I see people make is struggling against being perceived and treated as a Big Kahuna, which is outside of their control, rather than simply focusing on what they can do with their sphere of influence as a Big Kahuna (which is within their control).
* You can replace the word “guru” with Leader or Big Kahuna or Head Honcho or Big Cheese or Celebrity. The word itself is not the point–what matters is acknowledging that people perceive you as being on an upper rung of some metaphorical ladder.
What you cannot control
Johnny Truant recently wrote a post about how he and other leaders / internet celebs / choose your title are just normal, everyday folks. His point, which I mention later, was not to argue over his Big Kahuna status. But some points he brought up–like not wanting people to fawn over how honored they are when he follows them on Twitter–reminded me of conversations I’ve seen, heard and been a part of with other newly-minted Big Kahunas who struggle with their audience’s perception.
But by the time you reach a point where people are fawning over how honored they are that you’re following them on Twitter–by the time you’re struggling with having that as an issue in your life–the jig is up. You’re a guru. You can’t demand or request it away. You cannot control others’ reactions, and somebody feeling aflutter at being followed on Twitter by a person they perceive to be a Big Somebody falls into the category of “others’ reactions.”
On a larger scale, once you’ve got an audience of individuals who each have some degree of “celebrity-reaction” to you, for that audience, you’re a celebrity. That’s their perception and reaction. And that’s completely outside of your control.
What you can control: Your perception of you.
That people begin viewing and treating you with some level of notoriety or celeb status does not mean you have to start wearing Gucci sunglasses in the clubs at night, snotting off at people who want to talk to you, or requesting your caviar be brought to you in bed by a fawning manservant. You don’t have to change who you are to match your audience’s perceptions.
You get to control whether you buy into your own celebrity perception.
If you feel like the same everyday guy or gal you were before people got excited about your Twitter followbacks–then act like that. It won’t necessarily change the way people react to you, but then again, that’s outside your control. But it will affect the way people respond to you as they get to know you. If people continue interacting with you and realize that you’re just a normal dude who puts his pants on one leg at a time, then the people closest to you will probably treat you accordingly.
But your fans? They may still “OMG” over getting an email from you. Let them. That’s outside your control.
What makes the difference is whether you start to buy into that celebrity perception. When you start to believe you “deserve” special treatment, or you start choosing your friends based on who’s “big” and who’s not, or you catch yourself viewing the world in a “people like me” versus “people like them” mentality, you may want to have a come-to-Jesus with a close friend who’s not afraid to remind you just how ordinary you really are.
But your fans? Won’t do that. How you perceive you is solely within your own jurisdiction. Maintaining a level head about who you really are is vital–remembering that you put your pants on one leg at a time keeps you from becoming a naked emperor, marching arrogantly and nudely through the streets. But being the mediator of your own perception? That’s not the role your fans play… that’s a role you have to play for yourself (and one your critics can help with, if you need your ego checked).
Denying you’re a Big Kahuna only reinforces your Big Kahuna-ness.
If in fact you want to be treated more as an everyman (or everywoman), the worst possible tactic you can use is denial.
Here’s why: people who aren’t celebrities don’t have to deny that they’re a celebrity. When was the last time the cashier at your grocery store told you, “I’m just like you”? When was the last time the customer service rep at your electric company’s call center told you, “I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like you”? I’m guessing that’s not a conversation you’ve had with them. There’s no need. You don’t perceive them that way.
The minute you start denying you’re a Big Kahuna, you implicitly admit to the world that you are, in fact, a Big Kahuna. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have to spend time denying it.
When you say, “I’m not special! I’m just like you!”–even if you mean it with every ounce of sincerity in your body–you only reinforce the notion that you are special.
First, by explaining that being treated like a Somebody is a factor in your life, you separate yourself from the non-Somebodies for whom that is very much not a factor. Ipso facto, you just reinforced the notion that you are a Somebody, and that you are special.
Second, for the segment of your audience that sees you as Celebrity or as Guru, your denial of your celebrity-ness only makes you more worthy of celebrity-ness. Think of the way Hollywood celebs are lauded for just being “a regular guy/gal.” That they’re a celeb who doesn’t act like a celeb just makes them more fan-worthy. Even if you’re not a Hollywood A-lister, that same principle holds true: the more you insist that you’re not a Big Kahuna, the more “OMG, he’s so fabulous that he doesn’t even think he’s fabulous!” your fans are likely to be.
What you can control, part 2: Stop Denying & Start Leveraging
Once you’re a Leader or a Guru or a Celeb or a Big Kahuna, you’ve got a platform. You’ve got persuasion power. You’ve got opportunity to make the big changes you’ve always wanted to make. You can get your message heard by people in a way and to a degree that is unavailable to someone who is a non-celeb.
Make the changes in the world you’ve always wanted to make now you’ve got a rapt and devoted audience who’s willing to help you. Deliver the message you’ve always wanted to deliver–now you’ve got an audience of people eager to hear what you’ve got to say.
But don’t spend your time and energy on lamenting, denying or explaining away your Big Kahuna status. It doesn’t change it (and in fact may only reinforce it). Worse, it takes time and energy away from whatever Great Stuff you could otherwise be doing with that platform you’ve built.
Put your time and your energy where you want to make a difference, and let those who perceive you as the Big Kahuna follow your lead.
Focus on what you can control. You can’t control others’ perceptions that have given you some celebrity status. But what you can control is what you do with the status you’ve got.
Bridging the gap: Getting your fans to realize that they can do it too
The point of Johnny’s post was that the “fans” are like him, and can achieve success like he’s achieved success. That there isn’t some “magic” around him that others don’t have that makes his success unattainable for someone else.
It’s a valid point. But it doesn’t matter.
There will be people in the crowd who understand that–even if they view Johnny as a celebrity. And those people will use the tools at their disposal to follow Johnny’s lead and carve out their own success. Johnny offers products and services and blog posts helping point those people in the right direction, which is awesome. Those people don’t need explanations or insistence. They already get it.
But there will also be people in the crowd who don’t understand that–or just don’t believe that. They think there’s a magic pill involved in hitting it big, and they often believe that magic pill is either out of reach or perpetually contained in the one information product they haven’t yet purchased. For them, no amount of explaining or insisting will make them understand or believe it. That’s okay. That part of the crowd comes with the celebrity status.
So how do you make your audience see that you’re just like them, and they can do what you’ve done?
You carry on being the everyday dude that you are, and you refrain from buying into your own celebrity-ness. You live the explanation. You offer direction and guidance and assistance for those who are willing to believe that they too can do what you’ve done. You keep a close circle of people who help you keep your feet on the ground and your compass set to the goals you want to achieve, so that you’re supported in being the everyday dude you are.
You keep your time and energy focused on the differences you want to make, and stop hoping to control what’s outside of your control.
Those who will follow your lead will follow your lead. Those who will be mired by their own perceptions of you will be mired. But if you focus on the mired, those who would follow your lead don’t have you to follow. Guess which one has the bigger impact. (Hint: it’s not the mired.)
So “you be who you be.” You do what you do.
You remember that each day before you step onto that platform of influence you’ve built that you put your pants on one leg at a time.
And you let go of all the rest.
Photo Credit: werkunz1