30 Under 30 – and the pressure to be extraordinary

This week, Forbes released their annual 30 Under 30 list. As someone, under 30 – I have a love-hate relationship with this list.

Let’s start with the positive – I really love reading about all the incredible things my ‘peers’ have done. In what I call the ‘change the world’ categories like “Education”, “Social Impact”, and “Health Care” – some of the stories are truly amazing. From millions of dollars raised for scholarships to major scientific discoveries and the creation of apps and companies that combat some of the world’s big problems – these people are doing good things. Like you can’t knock it – the people on these lists are VERY impressive. I am thrilled that they are getting recognition and attention for their projects.


I think there are many valid criticisms of this list. Arguably the biggest is the privilege many of the people on this list have. Aditi Juneja was on the 30 Under 30 list in 2018. She wrote a fantastic critique of the list for Vox. As she says, “Lists like these fetishize achievement while erasing the role of privilege and access.”

Of course privilege and access matter. There was a tweet sent around last year suggesting that alongside the list, everyone should have to supply their parent’s salary. I get it – I think having financial freedom allows you to take big risks that could have big rewards. A lot of people on this list have been able to take those risks. Plus, as I scan through the lists – a lot of the people of note work for high profile companies that would give their work big budgets and a high profile. For example – I adore Dave Jorgenson, I think he should be on this list. I think he’s built something incredible on Tik Tok and pushed the way that traditional media communicates with different audiences. But… I wonder if he’d be on this list if he worked for a small paper, and not The Washington Post – or if people would care at all if he worked for a small paper.

On a personal level – I hate the list because I feel an immense amount of pressure to achieve things and I often feel the desire to be extraordinary. These lists give me extreme FOMO – a feeling like ‘I am failing because I am not a 30 Under 30‘.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I work in a very high profile competitive industry that values being ‘famous’ and ‘winning’ above all else. How many people watched your show? Did your show win an Emmy? Did other famous Emmy award-winning people say your show was good? How many followers do you have? How much press coverage did you get? Are you ‘friends’ with the right people? Do you know Dan Levy?

It feels incredibly shallow to say it out loud – but I stress about these things too. Did I work on the big/popular show? Did our show get nominated for a CSA? Do the right people watch the shows I work on? I hate to say it – but I care about this. As a producer on an individual level, I worry about how small my personal audience is. Today I have 443 followers on Twitter – which is fine. And let the record show that most of those 443 people are people I personally know and love – but I worry that “people” (what does that even mean?!) don’t respect me (what does that even mean?!) because I don’t have thousands of followers or a blue checkmark. I hate that I stress about this. I realistically think I stress about this more because of lists like the 30 Under 30.

I see the folks in my industry who are “crushing it” because by virtue of their success they have millions of followers. Then I think why don’t I have millions of followers... it’s an awful cycle. I don’t see the thousands of incredible people who are like me. Just people going to work each day trying to do their best.

But while that tiny voice in my head tries to fill me doubt or imposter syndrome; I know my worth! I know it’s ok to go slow. It’s why my plans for global domination are my ‘twenty-year plan’. Now is not the time to be on the 30 Under 30. It’s time to put in the work and make my mistakes, learn, and grow.

It’s like this post from Modi Toys:

So here’s what I’m doing about it.

I’m looking for people who are building things – people who are at the start/middle of their careers and trying their best but not making a lot of noise yet. So if you’re one of those people hit me up 🙂 I want to develop a support group! A little bit of Shine Theory.

I’m also trying to find stories to read about people who are putting in the work or that even if they have a happy ending, the stories focus on the hard work to get there. I want to listen to podcasts and interviews about the messy middle. I want documentaries that are about the grind to the top. I’ll give you some examples.

I recently watched the BlackPink documentary – BlackPink: Light Up The Sky. Highly recommend it in general – but I loved how much time was focused on their training years. These women worked for four-six years before they even debuted, and then they had another three years before they finally “made” it in North America by performing at Coachella. I’ve been working for the last six years in the industry and if I think about them as my “training years” – it makes me feel better (I’d go so far as to say – good) about ‘debuting’ and building over the next five.

I love listening to The Hollywood Reporter‘s Award’s Chatter podcast. Host Scott Feinberg is a fantastic interviewer who really dives deep into his subject’s past. He always starts at the beginning with “Where were you born and raised and what did your folks do for a living?” – then goes slowly through every step along their journey to be someone worthy of Awards chatter. His subjects often remark on how well researched Feinberg is. I personally enjoy how much time he spends on the years before they hit it big. His most recent interview was Billy Crystal, but look through the archives. Hundreds of people have been on the pod including many high profile guests.

Books. When in doubt – I always turn to books. Some of my favourites include Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Bossypants by Tina Fey, and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Books that focus in on the little things, that growth can take time.

I’ve heard good things about Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Amy Wallace & Edwin Catmull and it’s on my holiday wish list.

I’m also looking forward to adding this one to my shelf as soon as it comes out:

If you also suffer from this feeling of pressure achievement and “success” – I want to know what you engage with to remind yourself that being ordinary is ok. Give me your ideas and suggestions because I could always use more ❤️

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