Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Relativity of Fame

Yesterday I looked at a photo of a “famous” guy that was being recommended to be a spokesperson for a new Swiss product.

“Who is that?” I wanted to know.

“Oh, he is very famous in Switzerland,” replied my colleague. Apparently this guy had a line in a James Bond movie once and has been a star in Switzerland ever since.

Wow. One line in an American movie. If only that’s what it took to be considered a success in the United States.

All of this reminds me of a conversation I had with a Swiss doctor awhile back, where he confessed that it wasn’t hard to be considered “great” in Switzerland. In the middle of his career, this doctor went to Harvard Medical School for a year, where, astounded by the amount of talent surrounding him, he realized just how hard he’d have to work to even have a chance at success in the American system.

It’s no secret than Americans work harder than almost anyone else on earth. The statistics prove it. But I don’t think Americans want to be workaholics. I just think they don’t have any other choice in such a competitive, cut-throat environment.

Sometimes I think how much easier publication might be if I were a Swiss writer instead of an American one. Switzerland has so many more publications relative to the population (which is smaller than the Chicago metropolitan area), that getting published in the country’s top publications would have to be easier than it is in my situation, where my odds of landing an essay in The New York Times “Lives” column, for example, is something like .07%, as it is printed only 52 times a year and gets over 8,000 yearly submissions.

At my husband’s company in Switzerland, 65% of new hires are foreigners because there aren’t any qualified Swiss citizens to do the jobs. But of course, if you are Swiss and are qualified, you automatically get first dibs, since companies have to prove to the Swiss government there was no Swiss that could do the job before they hire these foreigners. If only it were so easy to compete for a job as an educated American in the United States.

The only bright side to all of this as an American, is that at least when you accomplish something, you know you must have been great. Because to beat the odds for most things in the United States means you really had to fight for it and be at the top of your game. Cause let’s face it, for us Americans, one line in a movie does not a star make—in fact, with a one-liner, we wouldn’t be considered much of anything—except perhaps, still a nobody.


Jessica said...

That is so true... it is a hard, cold, competitive world. Good luck getting your articles published though - we are cheering you on! And a fan base... also does not a star make... but it helps. ;)

Chantal said...

Thanks for being a fan :)

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