End-product myopia

Our world celebrates only the end product, and increasingly so.

We know Jerry Seinfeld merely through his stage performances or sitcoms. The little that we know of Lionel Messi is through his performance on the football field.  Our knowledge of Leonardo DiCaprio come from glimpses from his movies. Steven Wilson is but the voice of Porcupine Tree and its front-man.

Our entire understanding of most world-class performers happens through a narrow lens that is laser focused on their end product. This is becoming more prevalent in a shrinking world with smaller attention spans. The internet ensures that we watch about hundred loops of Christiano Ronaldo sprinting across the field, outfoxing 7 players to score. Or that snippet of George Carlin at his hilarious best, circulated endlessly on Facebook feeds.

This obsessive worship of the end product and its wide exposure appears outwardly beneficial. It elevates us from pedestrian standards to world-class levels. It promises to inspire us by showing us what is possible. But inwardly, it turns inspiration to intimidation. By setting the bar unreasonably high, it ensures that even after significant efforts, we pale in comparison. While cheering us on loudly, with sounds and images of superstars, it whispers to us that we can never be good enough.

By merely looking at the end product, we have a distorted perception of success. Our engagement with the world’s best remains superficial, with us deriving voyeuristic or vicarious pleasure from their success. We often have no idea of what goes into the making of greatness. We do not grapple with the process of how they get there, or the struggles they faced along the way. Any semblance of perfection is a result of years of showing up. The Beatles performed in Hamburg for thousands of hours before becoming a world-wide sensation. Coolio wrote lyrics for 17 years every single day, before his first hit. Van Gogh created 900 paintings, and 1200 sketches through a lifetime of destitution. This list simply goes on an on.

But to us, they are merely their end products.

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