In pretty much every industry of late, people of great talent, drive and achievement are being labeled rock stars. I certainly see it as I work in the information security industry.
Those who get the label tend to deserve it. But there’s a dangerous side-effect: The term rock star can bloat the egos of those it’s bestowed upon. It leads to big heads and bad attitudes. I’ve watched many handle it with humble grace. And I’ve watched a few fall into the trap.
Exhibit A: me.
As a security journalist who posted new content almost daily, I got a lot of praise and, yes, some called me a rock star. This snowballed when I started The OCD Diaries.
I found myself on more than one “security influencers to follow” list. People kept praising me for my supposed raw honesty. So I did what any good addict does: I drank it up, tied all my self worth into it and started to believe it all.
Don’t get me wrong. I think I’ve accomplished a lot of good stuff, and I’ve certainly been lucky in my career. But a rock star? Looking back on it now, I don’t think so.
I believed it when people told me, though. My head grew larger, while my brain went stale. I stopped trying. I truly believed I could pull off anything with little effort.
Of course, the real world doesn’t work that way.
I eventually found myself growing snobby, moldy and stagnant. Somewhere along the way as I bought into my own hype, I started to fail.
I lapsed into old habits. I began dialing in my work. The praise became chains, weighing me down like Scrooge’s old business partner in A Christmas Carol.
Sometime last fall, I went from being a rock star to the office jerk. It left me off balance and in a depression that deepened over the winter. I started to worry about being found out as an impostor. Worse, I found myself losing my usefulness.
Since then, I’ve been working hard to return to my roots. I feel like I’m starting to make real progress, but I still have a ways to go.
As for those in my industry who remain honest and humble, I aspire to be more like them. And I don’t fault those who are kind enough to put the rock star mantle on others. I simply see as lessons for all of us:
Never stop working your tails off.
Never stop seeking truth.
Don’t be like me — not too much, anyway.