One guy I know became an entrepreneur because he wants to someday make the cover of Inc. Another wants to be as famous as Jobs or Bezos or Gates. Another wants to join the "in" crowd at Davos or Sundance or Allen & Company. (If those events make it out of the other side of the pandemic.)
In short, they see building a successful company as the means to a famous end.
Hold that thought.
Singer/songwriter Sia once wrote, "If anyone besides famous people knew what it was like to be a famous person, they would never want to be famous."
That's why several musicians I know despise having to hit the festival circuit every summer. All they ever wanted was to be rock stars; now that they're no longer stars, playing their hits is a burden and not a joy.
And that's why, 40 years in, Metallica's Kirk Hammett still loves being a musician. As he told me, "All I ever wanted was to play music with my friends." To him, everything else -- fame, fortune, and public acclaim -- is (admittedly considerable) gravy.
Sometimes, of course, the pursuit of excellence results in fame.
As his friend told it, as a promoter she needed to provide several things to get Stephen King to do a book signing. The venue must hold at least 5,000 people. Security must be provided. Attendees could only bring three items to be signed. Since the event would last approximately eight hours, someone -- in this case, Palahniuk's friend -- had to hold an ice pack to King's signing shoulder the entire time.
One hundred books into an eventual 15,000, King asked for bandages because the calluses on his signing fingers had cracked. "I'm bleeding on the stock," King said to her.
The next person saw what was going on and said, "If Mr. King bleeds in his books," he shouted, pointing to the person ahead of him in line, "he has to bleed in mine!"
So King kept signing and bleeding on books. By the end of the event, he had to be helped to his car.
And then he had to be helped from his wrecked car, after fans who didn't have tickets to the event rammed and totaled his vehicle because they wanted to meet him.
As Palahniuk writes, "Shaking my head over her Stephen King story, I asked, 'So that's the big fame we're all striving for?'"
Clearly King's primary goal wasn't to be famous. Or rich. Those achievements occurred decades ago; King keeps writing a book or two a year because he loves to tell stories.
Everything else -- fame, fortune, and public acclaim -- is (admittedly considerable) gravy. And, quite possibly, more burden than joy.
French writer Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian's most well-known quote is, "He who laughs last, laughs best."
But if you seek fame as its own reward, a better quote might be, "In order to live happily, live hidden."
Fame may inadvertently come your way. Virtuosity is instantly recognizable. Mastery sparkles and shines.
Remarkable people are (literally) worthy of remark.
But if you start a business -- or start anything -- simply because you want to be famous, you might win that battle, but in the process you just might lose the fulfillment, gratification, and meaning-of-life war.
And that's the one goal we all want to achieve.