Want to hear something weird? It took me about two months to really figure out what the Cinderellavator story is about. As I’m following the story construction process, it became clear right away that I had a story concept, but not a story premise. More on the difference later. In a nutshell, though – the premise of Cinderellavator is going to be ‘Don’t Be Yourself – Be Who You Want to Be.’ Let’s talk about why that matters.
First – check out this GFY of a girl putting lemon (or lime) juice in her eye as part of an Internet video. Stupid, right? We line up to dunk on her for being ‘dumb’ but let’s be honest: how many of us HAVEN’T done something ridiculous for attention? The deeper issue here, and one of the reasons I wanted to write this blog post, is that young people worldwide are taught via social media: Attention = Success. Good attention, bad attention? Doesn’t matter. This girl has the attention of the world, and in a few years we might see her giving a TED talk entitled “What I learned by putting lemon juice in my eye” and the audience will applaud the lessons learned about ‘doing dumb things for attention.’
The message is loud and clear for millions of other teens like her – if you want to get ahead, you must stand out. How do you stand out when you haven’t grown up to be an Olympic athlete or child star, and your parents aren’t billionaires? Find ways to get attention. How do you get attention when you have no talent that can be turned into viral content? Do something stupid and film it! You see where I’m doing with this, right? The circular logic creates a culture that values outrageousness, and we’re making a generation of disposable clowns. If adults had any kind of ethical code, they’d be screaming to those kids: “This isn’t where your value is supposed to be found!”
The problem is, most people stop at saying “Just be yourself.” That’s bad advice. Being yourself doesn’t help you ‘be valuable’ in life, and that’s what all those kids making viral videos are chasing after. You can’t make a career out of ‘being yourself.’ Or you can, but the Kardashians proved that you don’t want to be that kind of person. How can you ‘be yourself’ and ‘be successful?’
The answer lies in understanding the true equation of success: “Value:Attention::Success:Value.” When you find your value (your talent, your ‘why,’ the thing that makes you YOU) you’ll find attention. You’ll also find success, because you’re doing what no one else in the world can do! This doesn’t translate well to viral content, of course, but you don’t need to be viral to be valuable!
My next novel Cinderellavator is going to be about that journey for one young person. The larger point that I’m making to myself and to you, is that we should be working on being who we want to be. That’s how we’ll make it through the day, month, year, and life.
So this blog post isn’t just about Cinderellavator. The premise of the story is a message to myself, and also to you my reader: Don’t Be Yourself – Be Who You Want to Be. Failing to learn that lesson will sting worse than putting lemon juice in your eye.