For a while, because of my No Impact Man blog, book and film, I was actually famous. People stopped me on the street and on the train. Not every day. But several times a week. And the press requests from places like the New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian, The Chicago Tribune, NPR, Good Morning America, and The Colbert Report, and even international TV were frequent and non-stop.
I can’t say I liked being famous or even “New York mini-famous,” as my friend called it. It’s very stressful. People say mean things about you!! You feel like you are living in a fish-bowl. You constantly feel you might put a foot wrong. You can’t go on a dating app without getting recognized. But something really good came of it for me.
You see, you have a choice when you feel like you are under extreme pressure to perform. You can try to figure out what everyone else expects of you and try to be that. Or, you can ask yourself who you really are and what your own nature is and what your truth is and what your authentic choices are.
You can fall into the trap of trying to be what you think it will take to get what you want. Or you can choose the freedom of being who you really are and trust in the results. At their extremes, psychology and the spiritual traditions tell us, the former path leads to isolation and neuroses and the latter leads to atonement and enlightenment.
In my case, slowly but surely, I settled into trusting in being who I am. Like, I couldn’t figure out what I should say or what I should do. I could only figure out what felt authentic to say or do. That was the gift of the gauntlet of fame to me. That I had to grow a backbone and learn to simply be true to myself. I now feel safe in so many circumstances because I trust who I am (of course, my spiritual practice had a lot, if not more, to do with that, too).
Did it work out? Well, I’m no longer famous (a good thing) but I am still, I like to think, relevant in the cultural conversations that are important to me (check out the podcasts and interviews above). Who are we really, as human beings? What is the purpose of our existence? How do we address ourselves to the enormous social and environmental justice challenges we see? How can we live, safely, yes, but with meaning and purpose? How can we steer our culture and society in the right direction.
These are the conversations I’ve wanted to be part of, especially since my more recent book How To Be Alive, came out. And these days, those are the topics I get interviewed about, things that feel important to me to talk about. You can listen to me talk about those things at the links above. Meanwhile, here is the type of email I often get after my interviews:
I heard you on the Good Life Project podcast… Thank you so much for your words. You’re helping me see how I can have a positive impact on the world, helping me feel an awful lot less guilty about things like my carbon footprint, water usage, and social justice because you’re teaching me how to help.”
To arrange to interview Colin, click here.
Of course, there are elements of being famous that are fun. I loved being on the Colbert Report, for example. My only regret is that they cut my one funny joke. At the time, the press were making a big deal of my using alternatives to using toilet paper. Colbert asked me, “So what do you do?” I said, “Want me to take you out back and show you?” He broke character and laughed. So they cut it! Too bad for me. :)