Every day as we walk, bus, cycle or drive around, we barely notice the million and one things we pass by because they’re so familiar – especially our own face in a shop window. Which is no reflection on us . . .
Some people drive the same route to and from work day after day and frequently arrive at their destination unable to remember how they got there. It’s as if they’re on automatic pilot throughout the commute.
I can’t do that because a comedian must observe the world and the weird, wonderful and sometimes worrying things that go on within it. Every day I look for ideas that might generate a routine or form the basis of this column.
Which brings me to last week – and the lady in her mid-20s I saw wearing a dark blue ‘hoodie’ on the back of which was written the slogan “BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE”.
From her appearance, I assumed that she must ’want to be’ a 19-stone, pram-pushing wobbler who constantly talks on her telephone in between shouting at her young son for running off ahead of her. But I’m prepared to be proved wrong on this.
It was the slogan, rather than the mobile advertising hoarding, that captured my attention. I’m all for motivating people to be the best, whether they’re a barrister or a barrista.
But believing you can “Be whoever you want to be” is not so much motivational as completely delusional. Before the end of the year I ‘want to be’ a headliner in Las Vegas and win £10 million on the Lottery, but my in-built reality checker tells me that’s unlikely to happen. Not unless I buy a Lotto ticket occasionally!
Most motivational slogans come from America where the ‘can do’ attitude is encouraged.
While that’s admirable, telling people (especially impressionable adolescents) they can achieve anything in life, whether they want to be a President or an astronaut, is irresponsible.
Even if they work hard, it doesn’t take into account that millions are after that same goal, so it’s just not possible for everyone to achieve it. Nor does it include the important yet elusive element of good luck.
The eminent psychologist Daniel Kahneman summed-up matters neatly when he said: “Success = Talent + Luck.
Great success = A little more talent + A Lot of Luck.”
And I’m sure he didn’t wear a ‘hoodie’ with this written on the back.