Talk is cheap: Regarding Adam Cayton-Holland's "Lord of Discipline," in the August 24 issue:
The article about Rory Vaden was fascinating. I wish him well, but I also worry about him. An obsession with any one concept, including discipline, is sure to have a shadow side. Discipline is indeed very important, but so are many other qualities, including playfulness, compassion, acceptance and humility. What matters is not just the appearance of these qualities, such as the rehearsed self-deprecating humor of a talented public speaker, but genuine openness to sources of meaning other than achievement, to learning from very different points of view, and to the possibility of cherished beliefs or commitments turning out to be misguided. I hope he knows this.
It sounds like Rory has a lot to offer as long as he doesn't over-generalize his own story. I hope he resists the temptation to blame people for circumstances beyond their control or to scorn the choices people make without really understanding their lives. If discipline is his hammer, it is important to remember that not everything in the world is a nail.
On a role: After reading "Lord of Discipline," I couldn't help but feel that Mr. Vaden could, indeed, be a good role model for many youths. However, claiming that he received a "sign from God" telling him that he must become the "youngest world champion ever" is hysterical.
News for you, Mr. Vaden: God doesn't give a shit about your winning a speaking competition (it's not unlike people who thank God that they won an Emmy award), particularly when some of your modeling pictures make you look like a cheap rentboy. (Did God also guide you to photograph yourself with your pants pulled down to the pubes?) I believe you've puffed yourself up so much over the years that you think God has become your personal manager. Maybe a better idea would be to show a little more humbleness. After all, pride ("discovered by some producer or director or agent who instantly saw the potential in me to be one of the world's most famous celebrities") is one of the "seven deadlies," as I'm sure you know. With quotes like that, I'm wondering if you're really doing this for the greater good or just your own gratification. It is possible to do both, of course, and there's nothing wrong with that -- but a little more humility and a little less smugness may ultimately be more helpful.
The power of positive thinking: The Rory Vaden story is as positive a one as I've ever run across. Congratulations. He's ideally suited to become a senator or the president, run a Google-like corporation or be the next Michael Moore. Whatever he chooses, a lot of us readers out there want to know: Where's the line?
We will back him and the weekly paper that told his story.
Gene W. Edwards
Cold calling: Several months ago, I met Rory Vaden after a "new talent" show at Comedy Works. We had a thirty-second connection over our respective moms doing Mary Kay sales when we were kids. It made a better punchline coming from a boy, though from my perspective, selling moisturizer and lip gloss in the form of cracker-and-cheese parties is a punchline in and of itself.
I was inspired and awed by Adam's article. And then ten seconds afterward, disheartened and pissed. Because I am not Rory Vaden.
In my youth, I was the poster child for such a mantra as Rory "sells." I did my projects the day they were assigned and ran cross-country like I was training for the Olympics. As I grew up, I began reading through the night (unfortunately for my grades, not class-required material), camping with "foties" in college (obnoxious, drunk, yes, but swimming in the stars at midnight) and, to top it off, majoring in art. Not practical digital media, or architecture or design, but paintings of donkey-horses and Bruegel-like creatures running through junkyards. Needless to say, post- graduation has been a string of low-paying jobs, tedious and painful. Unfortunately for me, the most profitable career choice -- sales -- makes me shake like Pete Doherty in rehab. The idea of going to a different state and knocking on doors selling books strikes the fear of God in me.
I admire those who have such a "calling." Who follow that one path at all costs, so as not to "get by," but to be "there." Shit, I want that, too. I'm just writing to give hope to those who are maybe a bit more of a whimsical spirit. Who don't really understand the "shmoozing" and "rubbing elbows" and "dressing the part" and "fine-tuning the body for the mind" world that we live in. Those for whom discipline is sidelined every once in a while to obtain the experience that makes you a painter/singer/ lover/dreamer. To experience life and all its foibles. There is a reason why Rory Vadens come once in a generation: All the rest of us are building our sand castles in the sun with hot dogs, water fights and the occasional jellyfish sting, while he is winning the blue ribbons with thoughtful design, a team of (self-recruited) help, and ten hours of painstaking mastery. We need both in this world.