Woke up this morning to this link sent from a friend showing Matthew McConaughey training with Coach Ian Murray of Triathletix at Zuma for the upcoming Nautica Malibu Triathlon on Sunday. For weeks now I’ve been hearing grumbling from fellow triathletes about the celebrity factor at Sunday’s race. They get to start first. They get their own tents, racks, and special treatment. There’s other racers on the course who get ignored. It’s a gawkfest. But the truth is that I, and I think many of my fellow athletes, are jealous of them. I’m jealous of anyone who can afford to stop working for six months or a year, hire the best coaches, buy the best gear, and commit every day to training.
I have a unique window into the celebrity world in my day job as a technologist. I’ve crawled under the desks of some of the world’s most famous people. Their lives are not normal. They can’t go out without being mobbed by fans and cameras, they are disconnected from reality because they cannot go out without being mobbed by fans and cameras, and they are perpetually judged for every public move they make. They are rewarded for this fame with huge sums of money with which they can isolate themselves and build walls to protect themselves, their families, and their privacy. If they choose to live in L.A. they accept the rules: here’s a lot of money for being in the perpetual spotlight. There are many celebrities who reject the offer and leave L.A., many even leave the country. Their careers continue and they refuse to feed the media beast other than when it suits a movie or product they’re promoting. They can’t control everything, but it’s a lot easier to have a life from a Chateaux in France than behind the Chateaux Marmont off Sunset Blvd.
I wouldn’t want the life, but I am jealous of some of the things it affords. Namely time and the ability to pursue whatever flights of fancy crossed my mind. I have clients who race motocross bikes and motorcycles because they love it. I have clients who have set foot on every continent and country on earth. I have clients who enjoy a quiet life hanging out with friends and having exquisite meals prepared for them. In most of these cases their lives are an extension of the people they were the moment the money hose was turned on them. Because that is what fame and wealth do to people: it freezes them perpetually in time at the moment fame hits.
If you ever wondered why child stars were so damaged it’s because of this crystallization. Fame and wealth require those privacy walls to be erected quickly. Trust becomes prime. With wealth and fame come greedy friends and family, exploiters, and hangers-on. The walls go up, the suspicion sets in, and to a large part, personal growth is inhibited. It’s hard to make new friends if you’re constantly wondering about new people’s motivations for friendship. I heard an interview with Ice Cube where he was grateful every day that he met and married his wife when he was poor, unknown, and struggling because he had no doubts about her genuine love for him. This is why celebrities glom onto pop psychiatrists and newage self-help trends. Only the truly isolated need Self Help to grow bullshit detectors. The rest of us have regular interaction with the outside world that corrects bad behavior. When that interaction is taken away, and still the money, riches, fame, and notoriety grows, there’s a conflicted reward system put in place. Immaturity is rewarded with more fame and wealth. Bad behavior yields more ability to get into trouble.
Which is why I don’t hold anything against the celebrities competing on Sunday. They’ve worked hard to be there. You can’t buy your way into triathlon. You’ve got to put in the work. J-Lo and Matthew McConaughey may be able to afford private coaching from great, established coaches but the coaches won’t be spinning their cranks for them. The stars can’t buy their way to the finish. They’ve got to put in the miles, practice transition, test what works for them, eat right, and train, train, train.
I wish I had the luxury of time and money they have to dedicate myself more to the things I love doing: the people in my life, the charities I support, travel, and the exploration of new hobbies. I do the best I can with what I have, and work towards creating room for everything I want. Which is why I’m going to go hit the bike again, save my nickels for a new tri bike for next season, and not think about anyone else on the course on Sunday. They’ve got their own race to run.