It’s no secret. I’m not a very popular person, and that seems on the surface to be a bit of a paradox. How does someone make a living for three decades as a professional musician without being popular?
But I believe there is a huge difference between being popular and being highly regarded. Somewhere along the line, in American culture, we lost sight of that difference.
Proverbs 22:1 says that “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” This along with several other verses in the Bible suggest that a good reputation is one of the most valuable things anyone could ever poses, more valuable than “great riches.”
But is someone who has a good name also automatically popular?
I don’t believe so. In fact, I believe that one of the things that makes someone highly regarded is when he or she has the courage to make unpopular decisions.
What’s the Difference?
How do you know the difference between being popular and being highly regarded?
I think the best way to see the difference is to ask yourself, which would you rather have at your party and which would you have perform your heart surgery? If your life was hanging by a thread, would you want the most popular doctor to do your surgery, our would you prefer the one who everyone regards as the best in the field?
Popular people are the ones we enjoy being around because they say the right things, and act the right way. They make everyone around them feel good and help them have a good time. Popular people are wonderful at parties. They will cheer you up when you are feeling blue. They tend to be very charismatic and bubbly and you just feel good when they are around.
In contrast, I think most highly regarded people don’t care much about stuff like that. Those who are regarded as the best of the best at what they do tend to not really care if people like them or not (in a social sense that is). They stand in confidence knowing that they have that other value, you know, the one that is greater than riches.
Popularity tends to be shallow and the people who are popular tend to disappoint in the long run. They are less reliable. They are not so good at what they do, and when push comes to shove, they are not the ones you would hire when you need the best.
But a highly regarded person, even though he may be cold, cocky and being around him may make you feel uncomfortable, you wouldn’t want anyone else to do that work for you if that work really matters.
In My Music Career
I feel that I have always been more on the highly regarded side of the music industry, not on the popular side. That is by design. I have never cared much for popularity. In fact, for most of my life I have considered it an insult for someone to say that I am popular. I have always desired to be that person people go to when they need someone who will make the unpopular decisions.
This difference in my approach to the music industry permeates my entire attitude. I tell people all the time that I see myself as a servant. I have never desired popularity. I have never wanted more people to “like me.” What I desire instead is for people to know they can count on me when they need me.
That’ s why I dress the way I dress. That’s why I practice the way I practice. That’s why I write the way I write. Every aspect of my career is derived from my desire to serve.
Not Your Typical Music Business Model
I know that this makes me something of an odd duck in the music industry. Musicians tend to be glory seekers (and yes I know this is an over-generalization). They love the spotlight. They love the attention. And the music industry is built around the hero worship that fuels the musicians’ narcissism.
But I am proof that being popular is not the only way to make a living in music. My business model is a service oriented model. It puts YOU above me, not the other way around. I do not desire your praises. I would much rather compliment others than to be complimented myself. I don’t need applause to feel like I am appreciated. I don’t need public adoration. I am satisfied knowing that I provided the service or products you needed and that my work made a difference in your life.