How Relevant Are You?


(Balloon Girl. Probably the most iconic image by British street artist Banksy.)

My apologies for being blog-less for a month. Computer problems had me locked out of my site.

Last week I overheard a conversation about Bruce Jenner’s transition to being female.Now, you have to hear this dialogue in a thick Southern accent.

“You seen Bruce Jenner?”

“Ah, yeah. I don’t know what he was thinking. And as his age?” Shakes head. “He is not a good lookin’ woman.”

“I know that’s right.”

“His daughter’s not doing too well with it. She’s having a hard time.”

“I hear that. My Daddy did something like that? Mmm hmm.”

Jenner had been a public figure since the seventies when he landed in history books as the World’s Greatest Athlete. He was then, and is once again, relevant.

So I asked myself, what gives a person relevance?

Visibility + Message + Right Timing (and a little luck) = Relevance

Let’s face facts. The current topic of the times is the LGBT community. I’m almost embarrassed to be straight in this decade. So the transition of Bruce to Caitlyn is relevant. Who is more visible that a former superstar who married a Kardashian, then decided to live the third act of his life as woman? That’s lightning in a bottle.

If we feel invisible, we feel like we don’t matter. Celebrities, sports stars, and politicians do visibility like the rest of us can’t. It’s part of their job, and very expensive. The public buys whatever they’re selling in product or opinion. Relevance often comes with a stiff price tag.

Take the British street artist known as Banksy.

In 2013, he spent a month planting works around NYC in a scavenger hunt style. Twitter followers ventured to parts of the city that they didn’t frequent (or ever see) for the opportunity to be part of a select group able to gaze upon a piece of statement art. Some pieces were white-washed over by the property owners who didn’t want the attention. Others were chiseled off the wall and carted away to be sold for big money, none of which made it to the artist.

Banksy hired a white-haired gentleman to sell some of canvas pieces on the sidewalk for $60 each. Only a handful sold. No one recognized the similarities in the work, and apparently, they were unsigned by the artist.

The art world appraised those pieces to be worth $250,000 each.

What made this artist relevant? Even though he hid his face, in one month Banksy created unique visibility for his art by using modern technology, and each piece sent a clear message to the public. His visibility on social media communicated, “Find my personal message, but you only have a limited time before it is removed or destroyed.”

Relevance is communication in action that requires good timing to be noticed in grand fashion.We all matter to someone. How relevant we become depends on our ability to show up and communicate ideas that resonate in that moment in time.

In the movie Gladiator, Maximus famously says, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

What do you do that will echo in eternity? Do you make yourself or your work visible? Most importantly, do you have something to say?   

I doubt Annie Leibovitz will photograph me any time soon. But if she does, I’d want that reason to be clear and relevant.

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