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Trade Your Passion for Glory

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"Well, you're in your little room and you're working on something good.
But if it's really good, you're gonna need a bigger room.
And when you're in the bigger room you might not know what to do.
You might have to think of how you got started: sitting in your little room."
The White Stripes, "Little Room"

A character becomes successful in an activity, promptly lets success go to their head, and then loses the drive that made them successful in the first place.

Say Bob is a talented singer/songwriter. He got it from years of practice and determination and eventually gets noticed for it. He gets a cushy contract, and women are all over him. Soon he loses the determination to make good songs, and only cares about the money and the prestige, rejecting the idea of Doing It for the Art even when he can afford to do potentially unprofitable side projects.

What happens then can vary. He might become a Jerkass to his friends or a jerk to everyone else. He might start losing his skill and have to take drugs just to get on stage. He might lose his contract and his money, and either learn an Aesop or spend the rest of his life moping about his Glory Days. He might even keep all those, and get a job as a music executive where he's totally cynical to anyone new who thinks this is "just about the music".

This can make up entire plots, or just make a backstory for some character who is either the cynic or lost it all. Often happens in a Sitcom, sort of overlapping with Compressed Vice. In this case, losing it all is how the Reset Button is pressed. This can be Truth in Television, although many times it's hard to tell, as it's often fans complaining of Sell-Out and It's Popular, Now It Sucks!.

Note this doesn't count when Bob just gets caught up in recreational drugs. That's covered under Hookers and Blow and Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll.

Compare/Contrast I Coulda Been a Contender!.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Videl explains that after Mr. Satan became world-famous, he got so caught up in the money, prestige, and women that he stopped training. Gohan sensed that Videl was already stronger and more skilled in martial arts than Mr. Satan.
  • 18if: Mirei Saegusa attempts to cut off her leg as an attempt to abandon ice-skating because of this trope. She felt the constant pressure from sponsors, fans, and trainers taking the fun out of ice-skating.
  • Tiger Mask proposes an interesting variant: at one point Tiger Mask did stop training beyond the bare minimum and lost his edge, but it was because the reason he was fighting, namely paying the bills for the orphanage where he grew up, before Tiger's Cave, got him caught in a series of matches for his NWA Maskmen World Champion belt and just didn't have time to train, and by the time he got to the eighth and last challenger, Tiger's Cave wrestler Miracle 3, he wasn't at his best anymore, and once his Fujiyama Tiger Breaker failed he couldn't fight back effectively and lost. Winning backfired horribly on Miracle 3, as losing gave Tiger Mask the time to train himself back into shape (becoming a match for Miracle 3) and devise the Tiger V (that Miracle 3, not having seen before, could not counter), leading to Miracle 3's defeat and unmasking as a fraud.
  • Mokoyama from Yakitate!! Japan got this way when he was hired by St. Pierre, becoming more interested in luxury and makeovers than baking.

    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen has tycoon Adrian Veidt who uses his former superhero persona Ozymandias as a merchandising juggernaut. Rorschach sees him as a sellout. He couldn't be more wrong; his obsession with saving the world far outstrips Rorschach's, with tragic results.

    Film — Animated 
  • Arthur Christmas turned out to have three generations of Santas fall into this. In the end, they remember Christmas is about the children, not their inflated egos.
  • Pirate Captain in The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists actually trades his Team Pet(who turns out to be a surviving Dodo) for a load of treasure just to win Pirate of the Year.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Big Chill has this as a major theme. All of the characters (except for Chloe, the younger girlfriend of Alex) were activists when they were younger. When they all get together for Alex's funeral, they worry they've sold out and abandoned the ideals they used to hold in the 1960's; all except Harold, who claims getting out in the real world was the best thing that ever happened to him.
  • The main theme of The Candidate. Bill McKay is an idealistic liberal crusader recruited for a Senate campaign that neither he nor his campaign manager thinks he has any chance of winning—the idea is that simply by running, Bill will raise awareness of his liberal causes. However, as the campaign unfolds, it turns out that Bill does have a chance to win. Faced with the chance to actually be a senator, Bill rapidly starts making compromises and selling out his principles. In the end, he wins but he's sold his soul and has no idea what to do.
  • In The Citadel, Andrew Manson starts out as a crusading young doctor doing pioneering research in tuberculosis. But this leaves him hungry and broke, so he sells out and joins a practice catering to rich hypochondriacs. He earns a lot of money but feels guilty.
  • A theme in Citizen Kane, as Kane, a young crusading newspaper owner, becomes "The Man" in his later life.
  • This is the main plot of the second half of The Greatest Showman, when Barnum begins neglecting his circus and its ideals in favor of being accepted by “respectable” high society.
  • Jack from L.A. Confidential is a brilliant police detective but he's gotten used to living the Hollywood lifestyle because he's on the take and he consults for a TV police drama. The Night Owl murder investigation reinvigorates him. He is killed by his corrupt chief when he finds a clue.
  • In The Life of Émile Zola, Zola's friend Paul Cezanne accuses Zola of this, saying that Zola has given up his youthful passion for the comfortable life of a famous writer. Zola later admits Cezanne is right, but Zola finds his passion again when he stands up for the wrongly imprisoned Alfred Dreyfus.
  • A theme in Rocky III is that Rocky Balboa got so caught up in the fame and money that he lost his edge. His rival Clubber Lang paints himself as the hungry new star and Rocky of being a "paper champion" living on past glory. Heck, the theme for the movie even includes the trope name.
    Mickey: The worst thing that happened to you, that can happen to any fighter: you got civilized.
  • The “Broadway Melody” number of Singin' in the Rain focuses on a young Broadway dancer who falls in love with an unattainable girl, eventually becoming famous in order to pursue her, and forgetting that the reason he came to Broadway in the first place was just because he loved dancing.
  • Star Wars: Yoda tells Luke that part of the reason the Jedi fell was that the Order had lost touch with their spiritual and peaceful ways, allowing themselves to become mired in political and material matters while acting as peacekeepers for the Republic.
  • Two For The Money. Matthew McConaughey is a former athlete who becomes a successful sports betting advisor due to his knowledge, meticulous research, and expert analysis. Once he reaches the top he becomes so enamoured of his own legend that he stops doing the work that made him so good in the first place.
  • Wayne's World, although Wayne and Garth get past it quickly when they see the price they are paying.

  • This is Serge the Fairy Godfather's personal conflict in Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella. Fairy godparents were originally part of a guild that helped children in need, but under the command of the head godmother Jewels, the guild turned into a business. By the events of the book, the godparents are catering as magical beauticians to Spoiled Brats while requests from poorer people get pushed back indefinitely. Serge is only still around so he can rise up the chain of command and be an Internal Reformist. He kicks off the plot and answers the request Ella's late mother submitted on a spur of inspiration to do the job he loves again.
  • The Great Gatsby: Gatsby had a lot of dreams and wanted to do a lot of great things, but his infatuation with Stepford Smiler Daisy led him to become a millionaire by being a smuggler:
    Well, there I was, way off my ambitions, getting deeper in love every minute, and all of a sudden I didn't care. What was the use of doing great things if I could have a better time telling her what I was going to do?
  • The Stand: Played completely straight with the musician Larry Underwood, although he eventually stops acting that way.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played with in the second season of Extras. The main character, Andy, gets his own sitcom which makes him ridiculously famous...but the show has been meddled with so much that it's no longer any good in Andy's opinion (and in the opinion of LOTS of other people.) Andy struggles with continuing to do the show and being a rich laughingstock or quitting the show (and permanently damaging his career) to do better work.
  • Sophie from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a classically trained thespian whose heart lies in theater. She gets stuck doing a lowbrow Apron Matron comedy schtick that she hates but brings her a fortune because of a bad manager. In the finale of season 2, she fires said manager and hires Susie to try to get back to what she loves after seeing Susie’s passion for doing right by the titular Mrs. Maisel.
  • Inverted in an episode of Motive. The Victim of the Week is a former amateur boxing star and Olympic medalist who wanted to keep his craft in the ring untainted by commercialism and money. He fakes a Career-Ending Injury to avoid going pro, and refuses to trade on his name in any way other than open a hole-in-the-wall gym where he beats up and expels anyone who tries to make money off boxing. This enrages his brother/manager, who eventually murders him out of frustration at him leaving potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table out of stubborn pride.

  • The Trope Namer is Rocky III's anthem "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. The song is basically a summary of Rocky's meteoric rise and subsequent Badass Decay during the film. Of course, it also details Rocky's triumphant comeback as he regains his killer instinct, the titular "eye of the tiger."
    "So many times it happens too fast,
    You trade your passion for glory.
    Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past,
    You must fight just to keep them alive."
  • Brazilian musical group Ultraje a Rigor has a song titled "Jesse Go" about a man named Jesse Go, who became famous but ruined it by letting it go to his head and ended up being forgotten.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Many stories in the WWF/WWE highlight this trope as the frequent downfall of heels (and occasionally faces) who have been champions for long periods of time. Eventually, a combination of arrogance and complacency lands them a defeat at the hands of their title-hungry rival.
    • Stone Cold's infamous Face–Heel Turn had him ally with Arch-Enemy Vince McMahon to claim the title at Wrestlemania 17. However, Austin's main drive was largely to torment and harass Vince and his allies. His Badass Decay got to the point where Vince himself was actively trying to provoke him into attacking him so he'd snap out of it. Fittingly Austin did eventually return to his old self by screwing Vince and the entire WWF - by handing a win to WCW, no less.
    • CM Punk accused John Cena, in his hometown of Boston no less, of having sold-out his ideals and no longer being the plucky underdog he portrayed himself as. Punk pointed out he was now a multi-time champion and merchandise machine. His greatest insult came when he claimed that as much as Cena wanted to pretend he was like his beloved Red Sox, he was more like the New York Yankees.


    Video Games 
  • In Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, Frank West got so caught up in the fame he got from the events of Dead Rising that all he was doing was talk shows and publicity events. Soon his 15 Minutes of Fame are up and he has to rediscover what made him famous in the first place, being an awesome photojournalist and zombie-slaying hero.
  • Played with in Persona 5 when the group starts to lose sight of their original goal to inspire people to change and decide to start going after high-profile targets to win the public's approval, unintentionally turning themselves into a fad rather than the true social reformist like they originally intended. This even allows Shido to manipulate and take advantage of the Thieves to screw them over and use Akechi as the mole. However, there was a very good reason for targeting Okumura despite the public's demands since he was actually abusing his workers and he was going to marry off his daughter Haru into an abusive relationship and the team suspected he was involved with the mental breakdowns.
  • Ace Hardlight in Ratchet: Deadlocked was once a genuine hero but fell into a depression after a mission gone awry resulted in the destruction of his home. Sometime after this, he met Gleeman Vox and became a contestant on Dreadzone, killing other heroes for glory and fame. After losing and being scolded by Ratchet he finally snaps out of it, warning him not to let Vox do the same thing to him.
  • This is one of the major themes of Saints Row: The Third. The Saints have become just as much of a media empire as a gang, and they've grown soft as a result, allowing The Syndicate to nearly take them out. The rest of the game is about regaining their edge. Canonically, they go right back to their old ways after defeating STAG and running the Syndicate out of town, selling out for glory and fame, culminating in a term in the White House as President by the next game.

    Western Animation 
  • Daria has a variant in one episode where artsy Jane gets a job doing copies of famous pictures for some easy money. She soon loses motivation to do her own original work and is noticeably stung when a customer notes that her technique is becoming lazy.
  • Seems to happen to at least one Griffin family member at least once a season on Family Guy.
  • It's implied that David Xanatos in Gargoyles worries about this, since he's built himself up from nothing to have immense wealth and power but now there isn't much left for him to aspire to. Part of what he gets out of his fights with the gargoyles is that they let him prove that he's "still got the edge."