There comes a day in many of our lives when we will briefly become famous. For one of my friends, that day came early on, when he was the first baby born in Boston in the year 1974 (his photo was on the front page of the Globe). For me, that day was in 2006, when an article about my book They Don’t Teach Corporate in College went viral from the front page of Yahoo! and led to instant bestseller status. Since the advent of reality television and social media, exponentially more people have gained their 15 minutes of fame, but the sad truth is that most squander it. They make bad decisions and let the attention go to their heads. Just a short time after their fame peaks, the average person returns to obscurity with nothing to show for that time in the sun. Should you be lucky enough to find the spotlight unexpectedly shining upon you, here are some guidelines to follow so that you use the situation to your advantage:
Stand proud on that soapbox
While everyone is paying close attention to what you have to say, fine-tune your pitch and use the opportunity to educate them about what you do and why you do it. Ideally, your 15 minutes should be a jumping-off point from which you can solicit attention for current and future projects or initiatives that are important to you.
Accept a busier schedule
Work/life balance is certainly critical in the long-term, but not while you’re taking advantage of your 15 minutes. Keeping in mind that people’s interest will only last a short time, cram as many activities (phone calls, interviews, events, meet-and-greets, etc.) as you can into each day. Trust me. The sleep you’ll lose now will be worth it in the end.
Meet new people – lots of them
While you’re in the public eye, you’ll have the chance to mingle with high-profile individuals you probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet otherwise. For instance, when I was writing my 18-month-long column for the Wall Street Journal, I interviewed a huge name celebrity every week, and then made it a point to establish personal relationships with these people so we could help each other later on.
Sustain the momentum
Eventually, people will stop pounding on your door. When that happens, will you have enough leads to keep you busy based on what happened during your 15 minutes? You will have to work harder for less attention, but with discipline, creativity, and perseverance, you can stay relevant and extend your success.
But handle your comedown gracefully
Accept that the nature of human beings is to look for the next big thing. Very few individuals manage to stay in the public’s consciousness for years. Be grateful for your 15 minutes, but recognize that now you have to stand on your own two feet and start living and working like a regular person again. Solicit support from your family and friends so that you don’t suffer “child star” psychological damage.
Have you had your 15 minutes yet? How did you handle it?