Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Not for a Million Dollars

It's one of those things that we used to say growing up- not for a million dollars. There were a lot of ways to apply this statement, but in general, it was used to indicate that we would never, ever do certain things, even if there was a big cash reward at the end of it.

Does anyone feel that way anymore?

It seems like everyone is willing to do a heck of a lot for a million dollars these days. And it's strange to think that way, because today, a million dollars is not as much money as it used to be. Millionnaires are much more common these days than they were 20 years ago, and many don't even consider a million to be rich. In fact, recent American studies indicated that those with less than $7 million in assets didn't consider themselves to be 'rich.' It was their counterparts with $7 million plus who considered themselves to belong to that special category, which is not as special as it used to be.

It might be that more people are willing to do more things to get that million dollars which could explain why there are more millionnaires than before. Some people work for it, others inherit it, and then there are all these other people for whom the work is debatable. Among the list of unlikely list of millionnaires is Rebecca Black, made famous for what some consider to be 'the worst song in the world.' It's called Friday, and unlike that glorious day of the week, is not exciting or original in any way. In fact, it's actually quite dumb. Even the singer herself admits it. And yet, she can cry all the way to the bank, because that dumb song has made her a millionnaire.

The song was recorded for a nominal $2200 fee paid for by her mother- a $2200 investment with a $1 million return is impressive and you don't have to be a business major to figure that out. But is the 'worst song in the world' worthy of that much money? And who wants to be known for that? Being famous may be great and all, but even if I was famous for having the world's ugliest hair and was given $1 million in return for that claim to fame, would I really want it?

The desire to be known for something is usually the product of a creative spirit and the knowledge of one's own mortality. It comes from a desire to leave something behind, something that is unique to us and of our own creation. This is what inspires every artist to get up in the morning. So we're not all going to paint the Mona Lisa and I get that. But should we really strive so low?

How much is our identity and sense of self worth worth? Is it worth $1 million? Maybe 2? And how many people have lived to regret their million dollar decisions? How many actors have found themselves eternally typecast in exchange for their success? Worse, how many of them have turned against the very franchises that have built them up? And then there are those who disappear in the shadows...

Is it more important to have cold hard cash than a sense of pride in what we do and what we're known for? I guess that means that the people of principle will always be self-righteous...and poor.

Self-righteous and rich always looks so obnoxious, so I guess it's better this way. It's hard to tell what any of us would do when faced with the temptation of doing something stupid for money. There are many ways to justify those kinds of decisions and tell ourselves that the money, if put to good use, will mean more in the end than a little embarrassment or discomfort. Which is a slippery slope of the indecent proposal variety.

Maybe we should all ask ourselves what our sense of self-pride is really worth.

Or maybe we should raise the stakes a bit and say 'not for a BILLION dollars.'

There. Now we have standards.

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