Fame doesn't come overnight Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Mar. 19, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

Here's one of the interesting side effects of being a photographer working in public spaces: Strangers pitch you reality shows.

They say the same thing every time, whether they're mentioning a show about a D-list celebrity, a wacky family, or a musician trying to land his first record deal.

"This show is guaranteed to be picked up by a major network," they always say, waving their hands above their heads or side to side to underscore how exciting they think their offer is. They consistently inform me how the show is going to make a lot of money and bring the people involved a lot of fame.

Sometimes they carry around glossy presentation folders in their backpacks; sometimes, they'll show me cast photographs on their phone. They're all absolutely convinced that fame and fortune will be theirs because of their one reality show idea. (Of course, they always need a cameraperson to tape and edit their show. For free.)

These guys never truly understand the Promethean undertaking of running a television show, and their big talk falls apart pretty quickly once I start asking them about the little details.

They don't get that shooting a reality show is more than a full-time job, not a volunteer opportunity. They never have funding. They expect you to work to "expand your portfolio." Sometimes, if they're feeling generous, they'll offer you a "cut of the profits," which are, of course, nonexistent.

When I decline, they ask me again: "Don't you want to be famous? This could be your big break!"

These reality show guys, whether they realize it or not, are naive: They have fallen for the modern tale of overnight success and the lure of fame that comes as easy as posting on Instagram. They hear the seductive sound of a cheering crowd and the lure of their name in lights, not the truth. They don't understand that doing something good -- the right way -- takes time.

To this day, not one of those reality shows has been produced. In their haste to become American Idols, they've forgotten that there is no shortcut to greatness.

They could learn a lesson from a person who knows what it takes to be truly great: Tess Terpos, a performer preparing for an ice-skating show in Columbia, Md.

Tess wasn't always able to jump, spin, and twirl on the ice as well as she does automatically now. Instead, she knows her skill comes from years of lessons and practices. It comes from doing cardio and ballet class. It comes from being able to juggle homework and a social life with her commitments at the ice rink.

Mostly, Tess says, to be a good ice skater, she knows she has to be out on the ice practicing every single day.

That kind of consistent practice is the key to being truly great -- and, eventually, to recognition. We don't always see it on the entertainment shows, but artists like Taylor Swift and One Direction are always rehearsing and practicing to make their arena shows better, flashier and more fun. NBA stars hit the basketball court every day to keep their layups in working order.

Today's throwaway culture will come at you like a guy hawking a reality show, with glossy presentation folders and all sorts of big talk. It will try to convince you that fame and fortune is going to be easy.

There's a saying, popularized by writer Malcolm Gladwell, that it takes 10,000 hours of practice for anyone to become a master of anything -- writing, chess, baseball, cooking, or underwater basket weaving. That's a lot of time, but he does have the point.

After all, if being great at your art is what you really want, won't every minute be worth it?

Karen Osborne contributes to “Coming of Age,” a CNS column series for and about youth. She is a staff writer for the Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y..


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