How often do you strive to be worthy of recognition?

Today is July 4 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you strive to be worthy of recognition?” Those who fail to navigate the chaos often spend so much time worrying about success they forget they need to do something to be worthy of recognition. Social media certainly makes it easy to be recognized. Moreover, an extremely small number of influencers have indeed made money from such recognition. But is being recognized going to help you navigate the chaos or help you practice the art of living well? Are you striving for attention and skipping the daily work that needs to be done?

As Andrea F. Polard said in Psychology Today “Most incessant attention-seekers suffer from nagging insecurity and must get their “fix” of attention to feel the resemblance of inner peace. While he or she might look vibrant, there is a great deal of suffering in ‘wanting more.’ True happiness is the absence of wanting more and an openness to the world as it unfolds.”

President Abraham Lincoln noted "Don't worry when you are not recognized but strive to be worthy of recognition." Striving to be worthy of recognition is all that work you are doing each day. If you are working so hard at being recognized and skip doing the work you need to accomplish to translate your dreams into reality, then how can you expect to accomplish something for which you will deserve recognition? Those that navigate the chaos do not worry about being recognized for they are often too busy striving to produce something worthy of recognition. Author Stephen King is one such example.

Early in his career Stephen King was striving to be worthy of recognition and in doing so published one of his most memorable stories in 1982, a novella entitled Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: Hope Springs Eternal. It is loosely based on the Leo Tolstoy short story God Sees the Truth But Waits. Tolstoy’s story, about a man sent to prison for a murder he did not commit, takes the form of a parable of forgiveness.

King’s novella was one of four published in the book Different Seasons. At the ending of the book King wrote an afterward dated January 4, 1982. In it, he explains why he had not previously submitted the novellas (each written at a different time) for publication. Early in his career, his agents and editors expressed concern that he would be "written off" as someone who only wrote horror.

However, his horror novels turned out to be quite popular and made him much in demand as a novelist. Conversely, the novellas, which did not deal (primarily) with the supernatural, were extremely difficult to publish as there was not a mass market for "straight" fiction stories in the 25,000- to 35,000-word format.

Thus, King and his editor conceived the idea of publishing the novellas together as "something different", hence the title of the book. It was adapted for the screen 12 years later in 1994 as The Shawshank Redemption, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1994, including Best Picture. By publishing his novellas into one book, King was striving to be worthy of recognition and in so doing, became recognized for more than a writer of horror stories.

Someone like Elizabeth Holmes, however, was so obsessed with being recognized she dropped out of Stanford University at 19 to start blood-testing startup Theranos and grew the company to a valuation of $9 billion. Clad in a black turtleneck, Holmes was heralded as the next Steve Jobs, rooms full of people would hang on to her every vapid word. In a classic Silicon Valley, “fake it until you make it” style, Holmes, as it turned out, was pulling a three-card monte scam on investors, doctors, and the public.

It was a classic case of the emperor’s new tech startup clothes—in which hundreds of millions of dollars were thrown at Holmes and her company Theranos. And no one initially wanted to call its bluff. But it all came crashing down when the shortcomings and inaccuracies of the company's technology were exposed, and Theranos and Holmes were charged with "massive fraud."

As Ephrat Livni wrote on those who strive for recognition without putting in any work, also known as con artists, “as tales of their incompetence proliferate, the advice to feign greatness, ‘fake it until you make it,’ just doesn’t seem sustainable. Grifters in business, the arts, literature, real estate, and wellness are being exposed at alarming rates; they’re paying fines and facing prison time or already in custody, which really takes the shine off imitation awesome.”

As you navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well be careful of striving for recognition. Perhaps it is better than you strive to be worthy of recognition for making a contribution, achieving an accomplishment, or completing some task. Only then would you truly be worthy of recognition.

Are you striving to be worthy of recognition or solely focused on being recognized?