Today is July 4 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you strive to be worth of recognition?” 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. By leveraging your mind, body, and spirit, you can maintain the pace of work over an extended period of time to translate one dream after another into reality.
If, however, 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. When juxtaposed to the story of Elizabeth Holmes, today’s reflection help can us further our understanding the difference between King’s striving for recognition, and her incessant at all costs need for it.
Holmes 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. Her company failed to manufacture any device that would revolutionize blood testing as she proclaimed it would. Unlike King who wrote prolifically and strove for recognition by producing one work after another, Holmes solely focused on getting recognized by the powerful elite.
For example, much of her credibility was attributed in part to Holmes's personal connections and ability to recruit the support of influential people, including Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Jim Mattis, and Betsy DeVos, all of whom had served or would go on to serve as U.S. presidential cabinet officials. 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. The decline of Theranos began in 2015, when a series of journalistic and regulatory investigations revealed doubts about the company's technology claims and whether Holmes had misled investors and the government.
In 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Theranos and Holmes with deceiving investors by "massive fraud" through false or exaggerated claims about the accuracy of the company's blood-testing technology; Holmes settled the charges by paying a $500,000 fine, returning 18.9 million shares to the company, relinquishing her voting control of Theranos, and accepting a ten-year ban from serving as an officer or director of a public company. She would eventually serve an 11-year prison term for defrauding investors.
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.”
How often are you worked about not being recognized enough?
Why do you think you need to be recognized so much?
Do you realize that the time you are putting into being recognized is taking away from the energy you need to produce that which will help you get others to notice you?
How often do you remind yourself that you can ‘fake it until you make it’ but the pre-requisite for doing so is to constantly work on what you are trying to accomplish?