On August 19, 2012, Top Gun moviemaker Tony Scott fell to his death from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles in an apparent suicide. He left behind a wife, 12-year-old twin sons, a notable career, and millions of dollars.
How does a man with all the trappings of success choose to end his life so tragically?
I think the answer resides, at least in part, in our perspective on life: Sometimes we are so focused on the ‘end product’ of success that we discount the ‘process’ of growth!
Ironically, we can resent the very thing that makes success possible.
You see, for many, life has become a process of ‘image management.’ This has long been true here in Los Angeles, and especially in show business. I’m sure Mr. Scott felt the pressure all of his professional life, and I’m sure that pressure contributed to his unfortunate choice.
The advent of Facebook and other Web 2.0 social media technologies has resulted in a proliferation of this pressure! It’s now so pervasive, we tend to embrace the façades it fosters without even thinking.
But then the comparisons start.
Let’s be honest…
How many times have you ‘untagged’ a picture of yourself on Facebook?
What types of pictures of yourself do you tend to post?
… Attractive ones!
Pictures of yourself in posh settings, or smiling just right. Pictures of your ‘good’ side, or wearing new clothes. If you’ve recently embraced an LGN (i.e., ‘Look Good Naked’) diet, pictures of yourself in a swimsuit – or worse, flexing in front of a mirror!
It’s actually pretty hilarious, and I think we’re all guilty!
But there’s a more insidious side, as well.
When we look around and feel as though our ‘Facebook façade’ isn’t up to par with those around us, we become disheartened or worse! In fact, according to Dr. Arch Hart, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, the digital world is adding tremendous stress to our daily lives and causing an epidemic of anxiety, depression, and relational problems.
As studies progress and the evidence continues to mount, psychologists across the world are starting to sound the alarm. New pathologies are emerging, and unforeseen relational problems are proliferating. In fact, the next version of the DSM will recognize a Facebook-associated depression! It’s the first time in history we’ll have a pathological diagnosis for human-machine relational problems.
And there’s so little context!
The biggest problem with our ‘Facebook façades’ is the lack of any meaningful back-story. We all post pictures that make us look ‘rico suave,’ but there’s no minutia – no ugly, real, or broken…
We aren’t privy to life in the trenches, and we don’t have a front row seat to adversity. All we see are vacation pictures! Thus, our ‘Facebook façades’ prevent us from being real people, presenting the fullness of ourselves and our stories, and being challenged and supported to change.
As a result, there’s no growth.
Our collective ‘Facebook façades’ hamper our potential!
We already have a tendency to focus on the end product to the exclusion of the process! People always overemphasize events and under emphasize process.
For example, think about the pomp and circumstance surrounding your high school or college graduation. You celebrated success via a ceremony, but you actually succeeded day in and day out over the course of four or more years.
You weren’t a success the day you got your diploma.
You were a success the day you applied, every night you stayed up late studying, and every morning you rose early to head to class. Your success materialized as you embraced the process!
It was there the whole time – one day, someone just decided to acknowledge it.
It’s critical that we recognize this!
Growth results from the process.
In business school, you learn about Total Quality Management. As one consultant said, “In quality control, we are not concerned about the product. We are concerned about the process. If the process is right, the product is guaranteed.”
The same holds true for life.
I once heard a basketball coach insist that “you play like you practice.”
What happens if all we practice is ‘image management?’
What will result if a substantial amount of our spare time is spent ensuring our ‘Facebook façades’ compare well with others?
We will forsake ‘quality control’ in our own lives. We will habitually focus on the product instead of the process, and therefore the process will never be right. Sadly, by failing to apply the principle, we will fail to reach our personal potential.
Let’s decide not to let this happen!
Instead, let’s get excited about the process, respond to adversity positively, and help others do the same. Let’s be more authentic, and allow in more unflattering detail. Let’s let other people know that we see them in the trenches, and cheer them on toward success!
“All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”
– First stanza of Bilbo Baggins’ song about Aragorn,
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring.
If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe via email or RSS in the upper right-hand corner.
Leave a Comment: How can we combat living lives of ‘image management’ and commit ourselves to the process of growth?