Do You Turn Advantages into Limitations?

  • March 15, 2012 by Corbett Barr
  • 31 Comments

I’ve noticed two kinds of people in this world.

There are people who look at someone else’s success and find inspiration. They use successful examples as a road map, and edit out the parts that don’t apply to their particular situations.

On the other hand, there are people who look for unfair advantages when they hear about someone’s success story. They like to point out connections, money, special talents and other reasons why the success was possible.

More importantly, they point out these advantages to invalidate the success story or serve as excuse why they couldn’t do the same thing.

Do you know the kind of people I’m talking about?

I guess you might call them naysayers.

I call bullshit.

Here’s the deal: every specific success story is different, and you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

Yes, successful people often have advantages. You too probably have certain advantages if you read the story the right way.

Looking for “gotcha” advantages in other people’s stories misses the point. When naysayers point to advantages in an attempt to invalidate someone else’s success, they conveniently ignore the real story.

Naysayers ignore the perseverance and incredible effort the hero in question had to bring to the table. They ignore the obstacles overcome on the journey. The naysayers ignore the self doubt and fear of failure the hero had to go through, just as you or I would have to.

There is so much to learn from every success story, just as there is so much to learn from every failure.

Whether you habitually attempt to discredit others’ successes might tell you something about your own chances of success.

Why should someone else’s advantages be your limitations?

Try focusing on what you do have instead of what you don’t. Look for the similarities in success stories instead of the unfair advantages.

The world has plenty of naysayers. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you like hearing success stories. Thanks for being here.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Robert March 15, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Great call. I hear too many people dismiss someone’s success strictly on socia-economic grounds. I wish people could get past some things and look at the effort the successful person put n and utilize that as motivation.

Corbett March 16, 2012 at 9:40 am

No question, self-imposed socio-economic limitations are some of the most insidious.

Lau'ren'tay Walker March 15, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Great Insightful posts, this is so dead on.

The naysayers & negative people tend to always ignore what successful people had to go through to get to where there at now.

It just didn’t “magically happen” & fall into their laps…they had to go on a journey.

It’s sad that there worried about someone’s advantages & whining about why their not achieving success, instead of realizing their own advantages & hidden potential strengths.

Anyway thank you for writing this Corbett, i’m a big fan of success stories :) adds fuel to my self determination.

Corbett March 16, 2012 at 9:53 am

Cheers, thanks for reading :)

Marianne Cantwell March 15, 2012 at 7:00 pm

This is brilliant! What the naysayers also miss is that the same people who had the big advantage often had a huge disadvantage, yet often don’t think to mention it in their success story (because that’s not the sort of person they are).

When I interview people on success stories now, I always ask them what they would have done without whatever ‘advantage’ I can see the naysayer might notice. They always come up with the best ideas and don’t consider the option that they would not have done it.

Corbett March 16, 2012 at 9:54 am

I think the disadvantages are what actually make many people successful. The advantages are simply footnotes in the story.

Herman G. March 15, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Your Rock! Corbett. Great Post!

Alexandre B March 16, 2012 at 12:09 am

Hi Corbett, that’s especially true in my country : France

Naysayers are legion and I don’t understand why so much people are so suspicious. If someone succeed, it’s because he worked his ass and he believed in his success.

I think we have to seek inspiration in every (positive) person. We have to learn from each other. I’m reading Richard Branson autobiography, the least we can say is that he was determined to never give up since his childhood.

All of this is part of your education and environnement. Curiosity is a great prerequisite to have a positive mindset don’t you think ?

Alex

Corbett March 16, 2012 at 9:57 am

It’s great how the Internet is bringing together people of all kinds around the world, isn’t it?

And yeah, curiosity is an important quality, although I think you can have negative curiosity or positive curiosity, depending on your outlook.

Stanley Lee March 16, 2012 at 1:46 am

Corbett,

Enjoyed your analysis. I think part of the reason is human beings are not designed to observe a case study objectively. The only fool-proof way to avoid either extremes from happening is to ask enough of the right questions. This would help us learn what’s going on behind the scenes, having a more objective view of the WHOLE picture.

Stanley

Juha Liikala March 16, 2012 at 1:55 am

Kind of reminds me of the dream zappers post (a good while ago, was it 2009?).

Only this time, the dream zapper would be the person him/herself (not other people), which in turn is definitely even worse. Really, if we don’t even believe ourselves that we can accomplish some big goal of ours.. that’s a personal dream zapper right there.

No success comes for free and like Lau’ren’tay said “it won’t just magically happen”. Maybe some of your unfair advantage is the biggest disadvantage that your “success idol” had and yet, he/she still found a way to overcome it.

There’s always a way. The real obstacle is if we’re willing to fight our way through the hard part.

Thanks Corbett and have a inspiring weekend everyone!

Corbett March 16, 2012 at 9:52 am

Great comparison Juha. I love that guest post by Ashley Ambirge (http://thinktraffic.net/the-smart-ass-guide-to-dealing-with-dream-zappers).

And you’re right, this kind of internal dream zapper is worse than the external ones.

Jeremy or IHeartTravel March 16, 2012 at 7:09 am

This is great. The story of success is one I wish was shared more often. I don’t mean shared for all its triumphs, but shared in all its glory, the failures, the mistakes, and then the triumphs.

These naysayers always try to criticize these successful stories because they believe the path was short. The story they read was really only the tip of the iceberg. The real meat & potatoes is really underneath the water!

Jason Fonceca March 16, 2012 at 7:42 am

Yes, Corbett!

I love this! Deeply.

Man, every time I read an article over here, I love it.

You call people out, you say what needs said, and you’re passionate about it.

F*** the haters, focus on the successful – it’s what I’m all about ;)

I usually aim to add or expand with my comments, but you covered it all :P

(Okay, if I can add one thing it’s this:)

Even if you encounter a naysayer… love ‘em, Jay-Z style.

“You can’t fade us,
you hate-ahs
I need you,
stay they-ehr
I breathe you…
like ay-ir.” – Jay-Z, Hate

Corbett March 16, 2012 at 9:58 am

I love comments that include rap lyrics :) Thanks as always Jason.

Robyn March 18, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I was thinking something similar the other day. I was in a bar here in the French Alps and someone said “You must have rich parents to do a season skiing.” There was no even thought it could be a choice we made, a plan we had and that hard work and saving went into making our dream a reality.

Some people want only to find reasons they can’t, rather than finding reasons they can.

Jen March 19, 2012 at 6:25 pm

I absolutely love this one, Corbett! I would like to throw in one more – which are the people that see other people’s successes and allow it to discourage them completely. I think it’s all about that abundance mentality, and learning that there are a lot of amazing, successful people out there – and, like you said, that’s a roadmap if you choose to make it one (rather than a death sentence or a threat).

“People think that at the top there isn’t much room. They tend to think of it as an Everest. My message is that there is tons of room at the top.” – Margaret Thatcher

Jason Fonceca March 19, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Great addition, Jen. :)

You hit a key point: “abundance mentality”, and these 2 simple words are often misunderstood. I actually posted an article on this recently, looking at common ‘abundant’ beliefs celebrities all hold and share on video. I’d be happy to link it if you’re interested :D

Also, I love your Thatcher quote, I always phrase it as “the top keeps growing”

Rodrigo @ The Brave Man Blog March 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Most people on my country are like that D: I had a lot of problems with them, and I still get some “advice” from the every now and then, telling me to “grow up” to “get real” that people like you were able to succeed because you are from USA, that people from our country would never have those advantages.

Ok, so I had 2 options here:

1.- Listen to them, take their advice, follow the life they are telling me to have and end up completely miserable like them (everybody else in the country ended up the same so I guess maybe there’s something wrong in them)

or

2.- Listen to successful people like you, who know what they are doing, who have an amazing life and who built success from zero

guess what option won? hahahahaha

Now when someone comes to me telling me “their point of view” my brain just starts to tune them out until I hear them like one of the adults from Charlie Brown hahahahaha

Great post Corbett

Mike Williams March 21, 2012 at 7:53 am

Oh the naysayers, most annoying people ever! He went to a ivy league school, he got connections (in my old granny voice) blah blah blah….Beat it!!!

I love success stories and connecting the dots and praising people for what they been through to get to where they are. I still don’t understand how people don’t get influenced and encouraged to do more with their lives after hearing success stories.

Success stories are the foundation to innovation. You hear one man/woman’s story and you get a “aha ha moment” (as Oprah would say) and you decided to build on the idea, make it better, reinvent it. I can go on for hours about this, but I don’t want to bore you.

Hooray!! for success stories!!!! Thanks for sharing

Have a empowering day

Dave Doolin March 21, 2012 at 11:35 am

I see this all the time myself.

What these people don’t get is that while it’s true that some people have advantages, the advantages are neither necessary nor sufficient for success. The hard work component is *always* necessary.

Thus we have two people “born with silver spoons in their mouth”.

One might turn out to be a Bill Gates.

Another might end up on the sidewalk on 6th Street addicted to meth.

Same advantage, different results.

Another thing people miss is sometimes Mr. Market just says “No!” People with advantage may be able to pivot out of a wrong market better than those without, but in the end, they have to do the work anyway. Else they go broke, it just takes longer.

What I’d like to see is more transparency on how people find and leverage their advantages. Pam Slim on a recent interview with Ramit Sethi talks a little bit about this, which is a great start. Her experience is that people tend to be a little over-optimistic about what they can achieve, given their resources (material advantage and experience), within a certain period of time.

Help people get those expectations set correctly, everyone wins!

Zubyre Parvez March 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm

It’s obviously rigged up, there’s even silly names in the game. There’s a gap between what we are and what we say we are, that gap is called variance, and it creates negativity, that’s the source of it, not the person who calls the bluff. But owing to the hard work that these movers and shakers create it’s also due to skill. So it’s not just bluffing. The system does support true creativity as well, but it’s not a democratic arena, but if there’s value in what we do, there’s value, and people will recognise value online or elsewhere.

The elite is an illusion that’s the development of the hindu caste system, after that system was the hollywood system. People are all the same, it’s just some people aren’t convinced of this fact. Systems play on people’s uncertainty so they want to be part of a special group. Remarkable people are just individuals, they may be in a group or might not be, that’s not the issue.

Adam March 22, 2012 at 8:29 am

Great stuff, I really enjoy your thought process! Using profanity automatically offends someone, so why use it? Why lose that one person by using a word you never had to use?

Toni March 25, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Love this post which immediately made me think of of a favorite lyric from a fitting song – 311′s “All Mixed Up”you’ve got to bet on yourself, now star…”f*** the naysayers cause they don’t mean a thing, cause this is what syle we bring”.

Frank Martin | Modern Monkey Mind March 26, 2012 at 9:49 am

A similar thing seems to occur when looking at historical figures. Somehow after the fifties the Founding Fathers were no longer allowed to be heroes because they kept slaves among other things. I think we expect our heroes to be perfect, and when we realize they aren’t, instead of seeing them as more heroic for being human and STILL accomplishing what they did, we ditch them.

Russ Henneberry April 2, 2012 at 9:08 pm

This post had me nodding my head YES throughout. So true, to be successful you need to study those that are successful and, as you say, edit out the portions that don’t apply to your circumstances.

It’s easy to get emotional. Envious. But (and I can’t remember where I saw this quote) “never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”

Thanks for writing this Corbett!

Dean Soto April 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Great post, Corbett

But (and I not a Naysayer), there are certain stories that wouldn’t have come about had it not been for certain advantages. This doesn’t mean that you should knock them, but it is true and something that is healthy to acknowledge.

For example, I’ve heard numerous stories of people quitting their job to make their dreams come true of entrepreneurship. However, they live in an area where they can easily live off of 2K a month or less. That’s not possible for everyone. If you own a home in Southern CA, you will likely need about 5K or more a month.

That being said, it’s much easier to jump ship in a low cost-of-living area. So knowing that someone else mat not have the amount of expenses you do is a great way to avoid frustrations of not being able to quickly “follow your passion”.

BUT, you are right in saying that you shouldn’t make it a limitation for someone in a high cost-of-living area. In fact, living in an high-cost area would probably make a better business person.

Anyway, all that was just to say that I think it is okay to acknowledge the advantages of other people to help you to see why you may be where you are at in your journey.

Dean

sohila zadran July 2, 2013 at 3:02 pm

The other day, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iPad and tested to see if it can survive a 25 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now broken and she has 83 views. I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!

Jason Fonceca March 16, 2012 at 10:05 am

A pleasure Corbett, thank you man. You make the blog scene a better place.

And if you love the rap quote, that means you’ll love my upcoming 2-part post: “What If Rappers Blogged, and Bloggers Rapped?”

Stay tuned!

Corbett March 16, 2012 at 11:27 am

Can’t wait!

Alexandre B March 17, 2012 at 1:05 am

Absolutely Corbett, more people wanna be lifestyle designers. Escape the 9 to 5 and help people with their knowledge. By the way, I want to thank you for all the stuff I learned because of you ;)

I never thought of that but I agree, negative curiosity exists.

All the best
Alex

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