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Scott Galloway@profgalloway

Published on March 31, 2023

Until my forties, I was known … but not famous. Known in grad school at Berkeley, known in the e-commerce scene in the Bay Area, and, after having taught 5,000 students, known around NYU’s campus. Day 1 of “fame” came in 2016. The team at L2 (my business intelligence firm) was headed to our weekly team lunch when, from across the street, we heard: “Prof G … we love your videos!” Two Indian men in their twenties hurriedly crossed the street to tell me they never missed our “Winners & Losers” videos and that I had a following in India. Then they asked for a selfie. The whole team thought it was odd and amusing that people from several thousand miles away not only knew our work, but also that the work inspired affection and admiration.

Every day since then, it’s grown. Messengers swerve onto the sidewalk and high-five me. Women, visiting from Michigan, run out of restaurants to ask if I can wait a minute while they get their (horrified) son to take a selfie with me: “We listen to your pod together.” And today, I’ll receive dozens of emails and hundreds of comments from people I’ve never met or been in the same room with. Fame. Fred Allen said a celebrity is someone who works hard to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized. I have never donned dark glasses as … I love being recognized. I can’t think of a time when it didn’t make me feel good, even if I was in a hurry. It has, no joke, made me feel better about the world, and myself — people are so wonderful to me, and (almost) convince me we’re having an impact.

The real joy is people recognizing me when I’m with my kids or friends. Years ago, whenever anything good happened, I would call my mom and tell her first. She was inevitably more excited about my first mortgage or dog than I would ever be. The audible joy on the other end of the line made the achievement and the moment real. Even though she’s gone, my first instinct whenever anything good happens is still to call her. To make that good thing real. But she’s not around, so many great things feel as if they aren’t real, as if they didn’t really happen. People recognizing me, saying something nice, makes some of the nicer things in my life feel (once again) as if they actually happened. If I sound a bit fucked up, trust your instincts.

There is a dark lining to the silver cloud — one I try not to dwell on. I read recently that for every person who comes up to a celebrity and says something, 50 other people recognize the person but don’t approach. In crowded cities and locations, someone might say hi to me every 20 minutes. That converts to 150 additional people an hour who see me, though I don’t see them. The panopticon of fame. I understand why truly famous, A-list people feel they can’t leave the house.

Still, the saving grace is that, in person, people are wonderful. Online, they’re significantly less wonderful. A non-zero percentage of online recognition is really ugly. The inevitable corollary of success is that people feel the need to take you down, and online media has tapped into that instinct like nothing else. There seems to be a cottage industry for correcting or calling people out once they have (any) fame. I’d like to say it just rolls off of me, but it doesn’t. Some of it is just downright disturbing. Recently, I’ve been receiving emails from (purportedly) young men experiencing suicidal ideation who need help (i.e., money). Not just “a Nigerian prince needs your help” — these are closely tailored to my publicly stated views and concerns. They’re clearly fakes (possibly AI-generated), but still … disturbing. Fame has validated for me what almost every study shows: Anything that happens in real life is profoundly better, kinder, and more human than its online facsimile.


Fame is increasingly embedded in our economy and daily lives and thus garnering more research attention. One finding: it’s about our fear of death. Empirical studies confirm that our desire for fame increases with greater awareness of our mortality. Which makes sense: The only thing that can outlive your body is the memory of you.

That drive can inspire great achievements. Charles Dickens was famously obsessed with fame — and that obsession coursed through his characters. Ovid admitted his mission was for his “fame to live to eternity.” Some people, though, try to skip over the “great achievement” part. As Harry & Meghan subject us to their worldwide privacy tour, we’re not as much interested in them — both brighten up a room by leaving it — but in the hypocrisy of pursuing privacy on Instagram and Netflix. (Q: Is it wrong to wish they could be mowed down by a psychotic skier who makes vagina-scented candles?) Or maybe they wish for a more modern approach to fame: I hate fame. Look at me. Please. See how much I hate it? Look at me.

Regardless, these people know we only truly die when people stop knowing who we are.


Despite what Instagram and the Daily Mail indicate, becoming famous is not most people’s No. 1 priority. In fact, only 1 in 10 Americans admit that fame is important to them.

Who are the 10% who want to be famous? Ambitious, attention-seeking, conceited, and psychologically vulnerable folks. Psychologically vulnerable, meaning they feel they have issues that fame will help them overcome. The other term for this is low self-esteem. I just read the previous paragraph and … feel seen.

This may explain why young people are especially interested in fame. Compared to 2% of boomers, more than a third of 18- to 24-year-olds say fame is important to them. Becoming a celebrity is akin to sitting at the cool kid’s table. It’s the “perfect balm for the sting of social exclusion.” The social media cocktail stirs into this follower counts and like buttons, escalating young people’s emotional tumult to dangerous levels.


If fame is a treatment for feeling inadequate, it’s likely not a good one. It turns out fame, like power, is an addictive substance. Many famous people report feeling fearful they’ll lose their notoriety — and when they do, the transition out of the public eye creates a psychological burden. As with heroin, getting hooked is the easy part. Actors, singers, musicians, and athletes on average die younger. The upside? They cement their fame. Neither James Dean nor Marilyn Monroe was that talented. Kurt Cobain would still be famous. But I digress.

Fame is a drug increasingly laced with the fentanyl of fame itself. Almost any position or attribute is a positive if you can be famous for it. Whether it’s homemade porn, catastrophizing on Twitter, or mocking the disabled, if it makes news you’ve won. And in an attention economy you can monetize that. The wheel spins. BTW, it’s the dealer who wins.


I have just the right amount of fame. On a regular basis, someone approaches me and says something nice about our work, and it’s rewarding. At the same time, I can eat at a restaurant bar alone and feel (mostly) anonymous. Knowing that some people likely do recognize me triggers the Hawthorne effect  — I am now more conscious of my actions, as I assume I am being observed. Probably a good thing.

I’m a high functioning fame-aholic. I love alcohol and THC but am not addicted. Neither gets in the way of my life, and I don’t crave them. I am, however, addicted to the affirmation of strangers. I hope that makes me more like Dickens, less like a Windsor. I’ve accepted I’ll never be a serious scholar, because as Zhuangzi noted, “He who pursues fame at the risk of losing himself is not a scholar.” I don’t do peer-reviewed research as (almost) nobody reads it. But I believe the work we do makes a difference in other ways.

The allure of fame takes some people to dark places, so it matters where the void that people try and fill with fame comes from. For me, I believe the void is that, growing up, I was invisible. Not a good or bad student, neither a loner nor especially social, athletic but not talented, funny but not hilarious. At big public schools it was pretty easy to blend into the ecosystem as a defense mechanism against predators who were more popular, mean, or even violent. An especially bad acne week? Rejection from a person/group beyond my social reach? No problem, just retreat and go invisible.

Our research on struggling young men largely distills to one determining factor: The presence, or lack thereof, of a male role model. I had one — my handsome, sharp-witted dad was the most impressive man I knew — but he moved away when I was 8 and (often) didn’t seem that interested in me. And why would he be? I was barely there. And if my dad didn’t see me, why would anybody else?

So my limited fame fills a hole, an old fear that I’d never amount to anything, I’d remain invisible and … alone. The hole leaks, though, so it never fills up. Recognition from strangers, as you age, feels increasingly like empty calories. The affection people have for you is for your public representative … it’s not really for you — they don’t know you. And if they did, they’d likely be disappointed. I believe the last sentence illustrates what people call impostor’s syndrome.


I’m 15 seconds past my 15 minutes and still trying to determine how — regardless what demons inspired my pursuit of fame — to turn chicken shit into chicken salad. So we highlight the work of other academics; catalyze the conversation on important issues; help people feel more connected to each other and the country; and (most important) call attention to others’ achievements. Fame, like compassion, is not a zero-sum game. It’s so easy to share and means so much to people.

Fame and atheism go well together because the only thing that survives death is living people’s memory of you and if/how it influences their actions. In 50 years, I’ll be gone. When I think about that (which is often) I am reminded that I don’t need the recognition of strangers to make me immortal. There are two men who’ll then be 62 and 65, who lived with me the first 18-plus years of their life, who will remember me. They’ll remember how intense, yet goofy, I was. I’d also like to believe they’ll be more kind and secure than I was, as, every day, their father confirmed they were wonderful and immensely loved. They won’t remember my books, the TV networks I helped kill, or any other accomplishments. They will feel me, though. They’ll tell stories about me, I’m certain of it. I’ll be famous.

Life is so rich,

P.S. This week on The Prof G Pod I spoke with California Representative Ro Khanna about TikTok, SVB, and a vision for America.

P.P.S. To celebrate Section’s rebrand, we’re offering 100 class passes to take an upcoming workshop for free. Enroll here.




  1. Tom Connolly says:

    Nice piece. Thanks for this.

  2. John says:

    I found this essay from a link in the Elevator newsletter. This was part of their take:
    “So we’re always a little suspicious of a semi-famous person writing about fame.”
    I read it anyway and did find it interesting, even though I’ve never heard of the author. Fame is, indeed, relative.

  3. Jo says:

    It’s hard not to like you.

  4. Doug S says:

    Sorry about your Mother Scott, I just lost mine and know exactly how you feel about the emptiness of wanting to call. I am not 100% if I really want that feeling to disappear. Appreciate your work and opinions

  5. Ken says:

    I’m curious as to why a guy as complete as Scott wouldn’t have already realized that with wisdom comes the realization one must lose their sense of self.

    Surely the professor knows – and can help others understand…

  6. EJF says:

    Spot on. If you have kids all that matters is they remember you and maybe tell a story about every now any then. I did not do that enough about my Dad and will try to change.

  7. Shaun says:

    Great last paragraph Scott and great reflection. I had a father who was in the miliary and away a lot. I think he tried but he was mostly an absent father. Truth be told, I have often used his as a role-model of how “not to be a father”. Turning 48, had the first talk with my son that I “won’t be around forever”. Your comments of leaving them with a legacy of fond memories and shared time hit home for me. Thanks Scott!

  8. Barbara Fox says:

    I love this and can relate to some degree. I don’t think I really want fame, but when I work my very hardest, try to be kind in my work and use the words please and thank you, I would like TO FEEL RESPECTED.

  9. JHdT says:

    Agree with nearly everything you write, but saddened by the choice to include an untrue media trope. Harry & Meghan did not leave the UK for privacy reasons. They left for security reasons caused by racebaiting tabloids. To cite their so-called “hypocrisy” minimizes the real threats they endured. Their need (and right) to make a living will not allow privacy in traditional terms, but they should be afforded safety. Unfair to confuse the two to make a point.

  10. O.C. says:

    Prof G. Super touching.
    After wiping a tear I look forward to more snarky data driven insight.

  11. Mike J says:

    Being totally honest, this newsletter was boring. I became interested in Prof G when he was leaning into finance and tearing WeWork a new one. Ramblings about fame are of no interest.

    • Peter J says:

      Being totally honest, this comment was pointless. Prof G still leans heavily into finance and industry insight, if that’s what you’re interested in. If you don’t enjoy his more personal offerings (and I am sure most people do, like me) then why read them, let alone bother to comment on them?

  12. Chuck says:

    Last paragraph is perfect! It truly sums up life as an adult

  13. Brian Hudd says:

    Big fan – always enjoy reading your work. I was wondering how many of your readers recognized the Bertrand Russell reference. I believe that he phrased it as you might be dead but you don’t cease to exist until the last time somebody says your name.

  14. Daniel says:


  15. Arnesto L says:

    after a Jewish person dies, when their name is mentioned or written. Z”L (zicharon lavracha) is said. It means “May their name be for a blessing”referng;the good deeds the deceased did durng their life. So your reasoning is over 5000 years old.

  16. robert says:

    I’ve been unable to interest many friends and acquaintances in Scott’s work because of his ego; they dismiss him as a leftie Trump-like character despite the sensible and sometimes brilliant work he does. I once had the same problem after an 8 page profile in the New Yorker back in ’04, and several years with a woman from a famous family. Finally, I opted out, and returned to a normal life in the Village: I was in danger of believing the hype.
    Try it, Scott, you might like it!

  17. Alice says:

    I admit – when I first started listening to this, I wondered why on earth didn’t Scott read this himself? I do like George Hahn – and his voice is amazing – and smooth like butter, but Scott has an incredible voice as well. And, soon into the piece – I completely forgot my thought about how it was presented and just listened to the words. Scott – this is such a beautiful piece and touches so many emotions about why we are here on this earth, the importance of love and good parenting and hope. Our young childhood experiences (from ages 3-10 especially) are dropped so deeply into our subconscious and become our patterns in life, despite our NOT knowing really WHY we do the things we do. Your vulnerability, as a man, is refreshing. Your awareness of fame and what it means to you is so insightful. I so look forward to your weekly Podcasts with Kara and the deep- and -fun relationship you two have as you banter on about family, kids and tech, politics and business. Pure joy. And, isn’t that what life is about? Love and finding joy in our lives? Keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you.

  18. JP Cavalcanti says:

    Your writing this time made me cry and feel wonderfully alive!

    • Mitch P says:

      I was going to write my own comment but think this sums it up best for me. What an amazing ending!

  19. Chip says:

    Just a word to say what an honest, lovely, thoughtful post. Thank you.

  20. Mel says:

    I love your work. I look forward to your newsletter and podcast each week – they never disappoint and always put a smile on my face. I hope I get to smile and thank you in person one day. You have a big fan here all the way at the tip of Africa.

  21. Phil N says:

    I discovered you via the Pivot podcast about a year ago, I know listen to this weekly, as well as read your newsletters. I absolutely love your way to approach so many aspects in life, and also the substantial amount of ‘data’ you provide when talking about a subject. Please keep it going, it means a lot to many people out there, and we all want to become better and make a difference, thank you!

  22. Mark says:

    I first heard you recently during an interview with Dan Harris. I am not sure of why I was attracted to your view of yourself and your world. At best, you are successful, oddly transparent and brilliant. The conflicting side finds you a needy boy whose interpersonal transparency is well worn and ego driven. Still I signed up… humans are complex

  23. victoria says:

    since my last comment was censored i will try again very interesting that if you say anything that is not enhancing to the Professor you are censored … Quite an insight for one of the most provocative writers with very good ideas and insights. Toning down my comment so hopefully it is published for all of the wonderful insights given caution should be given to insights and advise as with the Professors stock insights and predictions all wrong have cost us over $150 000 .00 in loses so reader beware a brillant writer does not make a prognositcator of finance. Hopefully this note is not censored like other

  24. Paul Gersten says:

    Dear Scott, excellent approach and reflections on this key issue for everyone who wants to be a great human being for society, a specie which is downsizing and in risk of extinction in the long run. I fully agree with your last paragraph. But being also a professor, thinker and recurrent reflexive on my actions, I would add that our “real students” the ones that likes knowledge as we like it, are remembering and will also remember you and us, and will talk about your taughts and ideas to their children and family. So the forest of ideas and good actions that you are sowing will have in your case more than two trees because an important portion of the 5.000 NYU’s students will expand it. I feel that in my frequent introspective talk and it stimulate my teachings and good attitudes with my daughters and students every day. Lejaim!

  25. Paul Gersten says:

    Dear Scott, excellent approach and reflections on this key issue for everyone who wants to be a great human being for society, a specie which is downsizing and in risk of extinction in the long run.
    I fully agree with your last paragraph.
    But being also a professor, thinker and recurrent reflexive on my actions, I would add that our “real students” the ones that likes knowledge as we like it, are remembering and will also remember you and us, and will talk about your taughts and ideas to their children and family.
    So the forest of ideas and good actions that you are sowing will have in your case more than two trees because an important portion of the 5.000 NYU’s students will expand it.
    I feel that in my frequent introspective talk and it stimulate my teachings and good attitudes every day. Lejaim!

  26. Enrico says:

    Thanks for this. I love all your weekly rants but this one was particularly personal and touching to me, as a son and father. Keep it up!

  27. David says:

    I am a stranger but impressed with your vulnerability. I am republican and I want to throw up sometimes when I hear some of your rants but I respect them and you so you must be doing something right. You aren’t and imposter you are just an intelligent, entertaining, funny, asshole and I keep coming back. Go forth and enjoy life

  28. Adrian Michaels says:

    Love your thoughts but just want to say that notoriety is not a synonym of fame. It’s often used that way but it really isn’t.

  29. cyril tobin says:

    I appreciate you using your fame to populate the Church of Reason. Can you imagine the damage to the social ills of society if every parent strove to be famous in the profound way you describe?

  30. Bert says:

    I have just subscribed after being totally impressed by seeing Scott on Bill Maher’s show. I liked the article; to me it seemed personal yet introspective and holistically informative. I’ll be staying tuned in. Cheers

  31. Maurice says:

    Teriffic personal and authentic. Be aware you are getting better and better

  32. Marty says:

    This started happening to me with the rise of YouTube 15 years ago, completely accidentally. All this time I’m still not all that comfortable with it but I always remind myself that people are responding because they like what you do. It could very easily be the opposite if you were more infamous than famous. So this article hits home. There’s always someone more famous than you, and when you meet them, make sure you get a selfie, right?

  33. Chris says:

    Last paragraph- nailed it!

  34. Katie says:

    I lost my dad a few years ago but he has absolutely lived on-there are five nieces and nephews who were born after he died but they talk about him like they knew him. That kind of fame really is the best, thanks for highlighting that so poignantly.

  35. Phillip says:

    As always terrific. Hope I see you in a restaurant and I’ll just smile and say thank you and keep walking.

  36. John says:

    So glad I found this newsletter, good stuff!

    2 things: First, I recently learned more about Twitter and the online trolls more directly than I had experience with, and wow, it was really something. Me: “Hey, great article, thanks.” Twitter: “You are a fat white guy.” Uh, thanks, I already knew that.

    I had the smallest possible run with fame, and then, I just said no. A long time ago, I was blogging a bit myself. And I remember thinking, if my name was in Washington Post Op-Ed page, that would really be something, right next to all those famous, smart people. Then, I did it. I sent something in, it got published, and I found out that wasn’t quite as neato as it seemed like it would be. It caused me more trouble than it was worth. Now, I just comment, usually warmly, on other people’s writing!


  37. Dahn Shaulis (Higher Education Inquirer) says:

    The US is royally f***ed as a civilization. So little substance amid global climate chaos, an economy of bullsh*t jobs and hours upon hours of bulls*t leisure time watching screens. Billionaires without conscience and their brainwashed followers, and untold millions of working class folks facing intense weathering of the body, soul, and spirit.

  38. Frances🇨🇦🇲🇶 says:

    Fame – An imposter you are Not! nor do you ever sound shallow. This is one follower that will let you know!!! I think I’m savvy enough to recognize the difference. I appreciate your focus on university tuition and applicant acceptance, the effects of SM on youth, the issues affecting young men, bringing up two sons, and of course, let’s not forget your love for Leia and Gangster🖤🤎. Amanpour, Zakaria, and Galloway, among a few others who are Canadian , are staples in my life and not a ‘fluff head’ among them. Keep doing what you’re doing. Passing on my invisible high five 😉

  39. Erica F says:

    Prof G, your fame comes from the cumulative effect of all the hard work you and your team have put in to develop analyses which define “seeing around the corner” thinking. It’s truly now a part of your personal brand, which is where the fame comes from. I started reading oh, maybe 4 years ago? And then I took 2 of your sprints because of the value I found from your columns and LI posts etc. Now you have a bunch of books, your podcast, the show on CNN+ (RIP), and even appear on Bill Maher. So I guess what it boils down to is that you’re not just famous, you’re a damn good marketer! (Fitting for a prof of marketing LOL) Anyways, keep up the great work!

  40. Jamir says:

    Brought a tear to my eye thinking of my dad who died of Covid 2 years ago. He was a wonderful man. Thank you!

  41. Gail says:

    I love them all, but I especially love this one. I think the greatest gains we can make in terms of self are sometimes rooted quite firmly in an understanding of our weaknesses; in our ability to say, yeah, that’s me.

  42. Lo says:

    Fame what a headline and subject to focus on. My favorite, Scott is how you address
    Fame in such a widespread way. You also give a little wiggle room, a way to look at tough mirrors, still able to go for it…accountability, first, my thoughts, before Fame! I am one not and never been mesmerized. I think it is a dark potion, mainly. Yet once there, if so, better to pre-pare!

  43. Bob E says:

    I called my son to chat after reading this. Thanks for the suggestion.

  44. Peter says:

    I’m pretty sure it was Aristotle who wrote that the pursuit of fame was an error since it is entirely dependent on the judgment of others. I took that observation to heart as a college freshman and never thought about fame again.

  45. Jon says:

    What I’ve always appreciated about you, Scott, is your extreme transparency, which is so refreshing for all. If only more leaders took that page from your playbook. I was starting to wonder where today’s article was headed and then BAM! you hit us at the end with the eye cleanser and it made for a great landing. Cheers

  46. frank mcelligott says:

    Well that was great, an old man, who killed Cnn Plus, that sees after all his life works, what matters is sons. Great work Scott::::

  47. Chris Patten says:

    Neither James Dean nor Marilyn Monroe were that talented! You silly sausage.

  48. JC Wandemberg says:

    Immortality is a matter of faith my dear Scott. You are very bright, yet refuse to see it. Why? You have nothing to lose and an eternity to gain. It’s a no brainer!

  49. John Bentley says:

    I am a Brit but when I was 32 sold out my worlwide business in media and comms inc the largest UK film studios for many £millions and made an offer for the Sonesta hotel group whose 22 hotels included the NY Plaza. I was a household name in the UK but not until later until I formed Viewcall Inc in the US to market my creation of the world’s first Internet TV and sold it to Oracle Corpn was I known in the US where I also started digital gaming. Having had homes in Park Avenie, Benedict Canyon and Park Lane London I retired to a small village in Portugal with my fourth wife where I knew no-one and since then 17 years ago we moved again to a mediaevel small town in France so as to avoid meeting people who might know me. We live now in a 3 bedroom villa in a one acre garden and pool and have never been happier. Fame can go F itself.

  50. Jocelyn says:

    What an honest self-appraisal…not many people (famous or not) would be so open about their need for some type validation – from strangers or peers. Right now you’ve found another excellent outlet and an even more subject matter; young men and how society is failing them. I hope you recognize that it IS this fame thing that will help get this message out there!

    Carry on Dog…we are listening!

  51. Rob says:

    Ugh, that last few sentences produced some water works. Nice essay, Scott.

    • SDolph says:

      You’re a good man, Scott Galloway. It’s great that you have a widening audience of young men who can be quietly influenced by your wit, self-examination, and compassion. The need for (male) teachers with huge hearts has never been more acute.

  52. Pablo Hoberman says:

    I follow you almost in every place you speak. But this one, I guess is maybe more personal to me, I so agree with you! Congratulations on your personal comments…Right on spot! Thanks you for putting it so good in words!

    • Lo says:

      Hurrah, well said, the more honesty the more free. To both for recognizing challenges to letting loose. Right words, right action, the world shines.

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