What Do You Do When Someone Else’s Success Makes You Feel Like Shit?

  • September 7, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 46 Comments

Guest post by Jennifer Gresham of Everyday Bright and the No Regrets Career Academy which launched this week.

You tell yourself it’s irrational.

You know the stories are supposed to be inspirational.  You know you’re supposed to think: if they can do it, so can I!

But let’s be honest. Sometimes, those rags-to-riches or instant success stories just make you feel like shit.

You’re working your butt off, you’re doing everything you know to do, and when someone does it faster or bigger or better, you lose faith.  You wonder if you’re even capable of achieving your goals or if you should just quit while you’re ahead.

There’s that voice in your head that can’t help but wonder: what’s wrong with me? when will it be my turn?

As a career coach and writer, inspiring people to fulfill their dreams is part of my job description. So I wondered: why do some stories pump us up while others push us down?  And more importantly, is there anything we can do to tip the balance?

The answer is yes on both counts, and it turns out it’s a lot easier than you think. Let me show you how.

Whose success are we talking about anyway?

Recently I had the chance to interview Bo Eason, a former NFL football player turned Broadway actor and playwright. Bo set a goal at the age of nine to be the best safety in the world. Unfortunately, Bo was cut from his college team after his first day of practice for being “too small and too slow” for football.

A lot of people would have gone home as the coach demanded.

Undaunted, Bo continued to show up for practice, looking for a way to demonstrate his talent. Not only did he ultimately secure a place on the team, but he was the first safety picked in the 1984 NFL draft four years later.

I love Bo’s story, and I frequently think about his amazing persistence in the face of some pretty extreme challenges when I’m struggling to reach my own goals.

But then there’s the story of Cameron Johnson, who started his first business at the age of nine, and then went on to bank checks of $300K a month at the age of fifteen.

On the face of it, it’s a similar story of success and inspiration.  But somehow, Cameron’s story makes me feel a bit … inadequate. But why? What’s the difference?

My theory is that your level of inspiration (or irritation) is based on two factors:

  1. whether the person has done something you’re trying or have tried to do
  2. whether their definition of success aligns with your own

One of the reasons Bo’s story is so compelling for me is because even though our goals are quite different (I never entertained a football career), our measures of success, such as persistence and doing what seems impossible, are quite similar.

On the other hand, while Cameron is a fellow entrepreneur, the measures of success emphasized differ from my own.  As the opening line of the article says, “It’s said that even as a toddler, Cameron was interested in making money.”  I have nothing against making money, but it’s not a prime motivator for me.

So why does the article make me feel uncomfortable?  Because it calls into question whether I should be trying to make more money.  It challenges my measures of success with the more traditional ones supplied by society, namely wealth, influence and fame.

It implies that while I may feel successful, unless I’ve done what Cameron’s done, I’m not really successful.  And that makes me feel bad.

That’s why it’s crucial that you learn how to define success for yourself.  So you can stop the apples to oranges comparisons and start feeling better about your path and your progress … today.

The Success Trifecta

Personal and professional development gurus agree defining success is important, but very few tell you how to do it. Without a method, too many of us default to society’s definition and then wonder why we’re still dissatisfied when we get it.

In my experience, success comes from three things: core values, pride, and motivation.

Let’s take a look at each.

1. Core values

Core values aren’t just vague principles you think are important. They define how you view and interact with the world. Ideally, they serve as decision aides when you need to navigate tricky situations.

For example, my core values are family first, inspire change, and courage. These values drive real, everyday behavior. It means I walked away from nearly a million dollars in pay and retirement benefits with the military because the possibility of my family getting geographically separated was unacceptable. It means getting an email from a reader saying I changed their life is worth far more than the honor of getting dubbed an A-list blogger.

Make no mistake: I’d be happy to get a million dollars and A-list blogger status. But when I have to prioritize, family comes before money and making a difference comes before fame.

Those are my values. The key is to find yours.

Steve Pavlina provides a good list of values to sort through. The important thing is to consider whether you’re willing to live by them. It’s okay if you choose values that aren’t driving your decisions today (that is, in fact, how Pavlina uses them), as long as you’re willing to commit to them for the foreseeable future.

2. Pride

When you’re a little kid, you think about making your family proud of you. When you go to school, you want to impress your teachers and more often, your friends. A few years later, and now you’re focused on the boss.

Pretty soon, you’ve completely lost sight of what makes you proud of yourself.

I recommend people look back over their experiences for clues. At first you may be tempted to list the achievements that meet society’s standards: prestigious college acceptances, awards, or promotions. And maybe you really are proud of some of those things.

But small moments can be sources of pride too, and in many ways, knowing what they are is much more important.

For example, convincing the director of a play to give me a part in the college musical, even though my audition hadn’t made the cut, is a big source of pride for me. (Notice the correlation with Bo’s story?) Or how I lobbied the Principal in 4th grade to let me start a school newspaper, rallying assistance from fellow kids and teachers alike.

Find the underlying sources of self pride in your stories and design a life that regularly supplies them. You’ll feel like a million bucks, even if you aren’t earning it.

3. Motivation

Science says we are pretty lousy at predicting what makes us happy.

One reason may be that we’ve lost sight of our intrinsic motivators.

Intrinsic motivators are those activities that are rewarding in and of themselves, regardless of the outcome. They’re the source of fulfillment. Unfortunately, studies have shown that our intrinsic motivation tends to wane precipitously with each passing year in school. As adults, we feel more and more constrained by obligations to provide, perform, compete, succeed—and intrinsic motivation takes a beating.

This is especially true for “over-achievers,” who are prone to measuring the value of every experience by its outcome or return on investment.

When outcomes and returns are the only yardstick, it’s easy to become jaded and a bit empty too. That doesn’t sound like success to me. There has to be a healthy balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators to keep moving you forward on those challenging goals.

Because in the end, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Inspiration isn’t advice on how to do what someone else has done. It’s about becoming the person you always wanted to be. It’s about unleashing your untapped potential to do great work, to create the world you believe in.  It’s watching your ideas spread and enrich the lives around you.

If you do that, you’re guaranteed to change your own life for the better.

Someone might even call you an inspiration.

Now it’s your turn.

What do you do when someone else’s success makes you feel like shit? Share your tips in the comments.

Jennifer Gresham is the founder of the No Regrets Career Academy, which offers a free mini-course in career change.  She’s on a mission to help people make Monday their favorite day of the week.

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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Thursday Bram September 7, 2011 at 6:19 am

I know I don’t have the healthiest response to such situations — I tend to grit my teeth and decide I need to work that much harder. I’m clear on my goals and my motivations, though, and I’m hopefully moving towards a position where I can recognize my own successes a little better.

Jen Gresham September 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Well, your response may be totally healthy, depending on what you decide to do after gritting your teeth. :)

If you go back to working on your own goals and definition of success, I’d say your response is terrific. If it side-tracks you and encourages you to chase after another version of success, obviously that would be less so.

At least get to the point where you can rationally recognize your own successes…then the emotions should follow. (For what it’s worth, I think you’ve done amazing things!)

Sarah Russell September 7, 2011 at 6:20 am

Interesting idea :) Whenever I feel like shit after someone else has achieved something awesome, I usually take it as a sign that there’s something my subconscious is trying to tell me or that there’s something I’m not being honest with myself about.

For example, yeah Cameron’s story makes me feel bad – I’ve been busting my butt for years, and yet I’m still way far away from that level of success. Maybe what’s bugging me is that I don’t feel like I’m earning enough to justify the amount of work I’m putting into my business – so instead of pouting about it, I can take a few weeks to focus on profitable activities besides growing intangibles like traffic or engagement.

Granted, it might not be something I can fix right away (if I can figure out what it is in the first place), but at least by acknowledging that I’m bothered by something, I can usually figure out what it’s saying about me and how I might need to change.

Jen Gresham September 7, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Sarah,

It’s good to try to get to the bottom of what’s bothering you, but I really recommend doing the core values exercise at a minimum. I was honestly shocked when I finally verbalized mine–I can’t tell you how many decisions in my life would have gone a different direction had those been in place earlier.

The other key is that there are no right or wrong values. Too often we claim the values we think we’re supposed to have (like hard work!) or the values our families instilled in us. Be honest with yourself about why you want to be in business and what you want to achieve. It’s not just an exercise–as I said in the post, it should be helping you make decisions every day.

Hope that makes sense!

Elana Miller September 7, 2011 at 6:49 am

Hey Jennifer, interesting post – I especially like the part on motivation because I find it so interesting that almost everyone has self-improvement goals, like to get healthier or fitter, to start a business, so learn a new skills, to improve their relationships, but only a small subset of those people actually take action to get what they want. The missing piece is motivation but also has to do with the other facets, like aligning your actions with you values and pride (or self-confidence to the point of delusion). Interesting stuff!

Jen Gresham September 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Great connection to habit change! You’re absolutely right. We tell ourselves we want to lose weight, but the reality is, until you *really* want to lose weight, the temptations and short term pleasures nearly always win. I lost over 30 pounds after the birth of my daughter, but only after I gained an undisclosed amount, nearly failed my fitness test for the military, and got totally disgusted with myself. Then I had all the motivation and commitment I needed!

Hugh September 7, 2011 at 7:05 am

Great post, Jennifer and thanks for making me feel human and exonerating me from the guilt that I sometimes feel when looking at others’ successes. What do I do when others’ success make me feel like shit? I’m an analytic, so I look at why I think that person is successful, what traits he has that has made him successful, etc. The conclusion I ALWAYS come to is that the other person has nothing that I don’t. The successful person works hard, is focused, and is persistent. Notice that smart is not a criterion, IMO. Once I realize that the successful person doesn’t have anything I don’t, I relax and realize that I can do whatever I want as long as I work hard, focus, and am persistent. Then all is once again right in the world.

Jen Gresham September 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Hugh,

LOL–we all feel like shit at other people’s success sometimes. Clearly I was experiencing it more than most, or I wouldn’t have felt the need to address a system to overcome it!

As I said to Thursday, just be sure that when you refocus and persist, you do so on your own goals and success criteria. What you do depends entirely on what you want to achieve. So if you persist in comparing yourself to someone who makes more money, that will drive a different set of behaviors than if you’re trying to inspire a large change in a population.

Maarten September 7, 2011 at 7:16 am

The definition of success is exactly what it is about indeed.

Personally, I don’t like the word success. Because it insinuates that it has got something to do with money. Success in life should be more about pursuing and achieving things that excite a person. A totally different angle.

Jen Gresham September 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Well, I’m of the mind that someone can define success anyway they want, with no right or wrong answer. There’s nothing inherently evil about money, it just often fails to bring the satisfaction that one hopes it will. But there’s no doubt it’s handy when you need it. As Woody Allen said, “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.”

Matthew September 7, 2011 at 7:33 am

I think you’re right on point.

I’ve found that my level of satisfaction in an accomplishment corresponds directly to how much effort I put into achieving the accomplishment. Furthermore, making a bunch of money will never satisfy us because we’re inclined to compare ourselves against one another, and there will very likely always be another person above you on the list. An understanding one’s values, talents and passions is critical to feeling “successful”, and completely dilutes the importance of dollars and cents. Having “enough” will always be enough, if you’re inclined to let it.

Great post! Good luck on your launch!
-M

Jen Gresham September 7, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Thanks, Matthew! So far, the response has been amazing. The great thing about giving away a ton of free training before selling something is that it’s a win-win no matter what happens. The comments I’m getting back from people indicate I’m helping them with a problem some have struggled with for years. Who wouldn’t feel successful about that? :)

Nate September 7, 2011 at 8:55 am

I definitely agree with the point on intrinsic motivation. In fact, I’d argue that most of us are too ‘externally motivated’ rather then internally motivated or intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is happiness in doing the activity itself without concern about what the outcome is.

This is why I cringe when people talk about going out and doing their own thing, making a difference in the world and starting a business and someone says something like “well what about the janitors in the world?” As if to imply that a janitor can’t be happy.

As a personal example, in college I worked as a line cook in a restaurant. To this day, it is by far the job I enjoyed the most. To my brain that’s confusing. It didn’t pay well. There wasn’t some good benefits package or vacation, so my logical brain says “that’s not really a good job.” However, my intrinsic motivation was so profound in that job. I experienced intense states of flow that I haven’t experienced in a job since that time. There was joy in the work itself.

I think that needs to be a starting point. What do you actually enjoy doing? Looking at your own core values is absolutely a wonderful way to start doing this.

Larry Clark September 7, 2011 at 9:57 am

Jennifer, great post. You hit the nail on the head for me. In fact I am going through the very scenario you stated. I feel like shit because I’m working my ass off to make pennies, while another guy close to me is making 10′s of thousands a month.

I hate it. I get envious, I get angry and I start thinking maybe this isn’t what I should be doing. In fact I’ve been thinking about changing what I write about. The topic and niche that I am in. My main blog which is the one I am posting this comment under, doesn’t do so well, even though I have been making money on the internet for quite some time now. Another blog of mine about getting off of painkiller, doesn’t make a lot of money, but I get emails everyday from people who thank me for helping them get their life back, and off of painkillers. It is rewarding in it’s own way and it keeps me writing a bit and I get a smile on my face more than with my main blog.

But the main thing right now for me is money. It’s a prime motivator for me as the economy has destroyed my day job and company as an IT consultant and I have a family to support. Me, my wife and two young children aged 1 and 3. I make enough to cover over half the monthly expenses, but we’ve also been paying the other half with our savings which is about to run out. The thought of having to go back to work for someone else abhors me. I don’t want to work for “The Man” so to say.

So yeah when I read this persons income reports each month it makes me sick sometimes that I can’t do the same thing. I started looking at myself as a “half asser”, one who does only a half ass job at what he does.

I admit I do not blog like this person does, as least not on the same subject as we both write on. He seems to be able to write epic length posts and very in depth, while I seem to be able to only conjure up a mere scraping of the surface type posts.

On other subjects, that I seem to be more interested in and possibly have a bit more authority in, I can write for days. I guess maybe I just answered my own questions right there, huh?

But the old ” here we go again” sounds off in my head and the thought of starting yet another blog makes me wanna puke.

BTW on your suggestion in a podcast with Srini, I joined the Guest Posting Program and still have yet to complete it. Imagine that. I keep saying I am going to work on it today, but never get around to it.

I really should just put aside an hour or two a day to get through it.

But again, I gut anxiety when I start doing something other than trying to make money. And that’s another thing, I have spread myself so thin, it’s not even funny.

Anyway, I digress…
thanks for the post…
Larry

Jen Gresham September 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Larry,
There’s no need to feel guilty about wanting to pay the bills. Maslow was right: we have to take care of our basic needs before we get to self-actualization. Don’t keep holding out on what’s profitable because you’re worried you’ll be selling out.

That said, don’t try to create the perfect solution. Chris Guillebeau ran a terrific post on how to make money quickly when you really needed it. These ideas are not enough to replace an income, but they’re a great way to stave off disaster in the meantime.

http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/paying-the-bills-your-responses/

Larry Clark September 7, 2011 at 9:59 am

Oh BTW, many people I have consulted with say I’m a success and doing better than most people are or ever will and this is great, but it’s not quite paying the bills and that’s giving me the problems. That and my head telling me otherwise…

Sadya September 8, 2011 at 6:15 am

Larry, you need two jobs. One that pays bills, one that gives fulfillment. There’s no such thing as the ‘Man’. Get a part time gig, get a full time gig if you have to. Think of it this way, it will be fodder for your blog/websites. There is so much stuff that happens at the workplace that you get enough content for a life time, and you get to build your network.
Get your finances on track so that it stops affecting your mental (and maybe physical) health. And then once you are in control, hey you can quit.
Also stop looking at the other guy. its a waste of time.

marianney September 7, 2011 at 10:12 am

My first reaction to this was “I don’t feel like shit over other people’s success. I just see it as more and more people are doing it, so why can’t I?” But then the more I read and the comments made me realize that yes, I do feel jealousy and inadequacy when I hear about people’s success. I admit, I have not worked as hard as I should be working for the last year and when I do I feel like I am just not smart enough or talented enough to succeed like my mentors are.

I do appreciate what you say about values and pride though. A few years ago, I did write down my values and goals and when I come to a crossroads, I try to ask myself which is more in line with those values AND goals and it gives me my answer.

What you had to say about Pride however was very eye-opening. Too often, we look at our accomplishments in terms of societal standards and not what actually makes us proud deep down.

Great post!

Jen Gresham September 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm

That was one of my biggest a-ha moments, figuring out what made me proud of myself. It honestly changed my whole outlook. Hope it can do the same for you!

Cara Stein September 7, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Interesting! For me, Bo’s story induced more bile than Cameron’s. I guess for me, it’s obvious I’ll never be a 9-year-old internet marketing genius, so I can dismiss that story easily. On the other hand, I feel like I could, and should, be so frickin’ determined and persistent that I’d do whatever it takes to get what I want, whether it be showing up for practice despite being cut from the team or working 87 hours a day to make my online workshop even better and do more guest posts and review things and make more connections. Bo is the one I feel inadequate next to.

The thing that helps me most in standard envy situations is to get back into an abundance mindset: there is enough success to go around for everyone.

For cases like Bo’s story, I have to remind myself that good enough is good enough. I don’t have to be perfect. There will always be more that I could do to make things even better, but it’s impossible to do it all, so it’s ok not to. And if I’m going to make myself miserable at my business, I might as well go back to my cubicle–I didn’t leave to increase my suffering.

Jen Gresham September 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm

No, that’s it, Cara. Everyone has a different reaction to a particular story, based on what the difference between what they are doing (or hope to be doing) and what they feel they should be doing, usually because someone else said it was important or good or whatever.

In your case, your definition of success means accepting good enough, which is nearly a 180 in mindset from Bo. So your reaction isn’t surprising at all. Just keep telling yourself it really is okay to be yourself! :)

Don Kim September 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I visited the link about Cameron Johnson and was quite impressed. I also read the other profiles of youthful entrepreneurs and their success stories and was no less amazed. One thing that stands for me is how the younger generation is using the internet to amass great fortune at such an accelerated rate. I was just as envious of their luck to be born and raised with such communication technologies.

I think one thing to keep in mind is that these young people have no inhibitions, lots of free time and are not encumbered by things like raising a family. Add to that youthful energy to surf, hack and program websites that old timers like us don’t have. Given this it is unwise to try to compare yourselves or try to emulate their business formula. Rather, be realistic about where you are, your abilities and the effort and dedication you can put right now and for your remaining work lives to achieve financial independence.

Nevertheless, the positive about their stories is that it IS so much more possible to gain financial independence then ever before! This post was a much needed kick in the ass for me to start a business again!

Jen Gresham September 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm

It’s a good point. The mechanisms to wealth are changing rapidly, and for the first time, the younger generation is in many ways better prepared to tap it. On the other hand, we hear an awful lot about the appearance and rise of the quarter-life crisis, which only emphasizes the necessity of defining success for yourself.

Tess The Bold Life September 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Jenifer,
This is the best I’ve ever read on this topic. Guru’s don’t tell us because then we’d be less confused and wouldn’t buy their products and fall into the ‘more is better’ trap. Who then would they create urgency with…each other? Lol

I would never trade more money, fame, and stuff for the joy of being with my family.
I had to work my arse off when I was young and raising four daughters w/hubs.

Now I love to travel with my grandchildren nothing beats doing so.

One thing I’ve realized is that when I set a goal it’s never enough because my ego moves the line. When I’m fooled by that it’s easy to get lost in a guru’s success and values.

Jen Gresham September 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm

What you’re describing, the ever moving goal line, is really common among over achievers. It’s a terrible reality that over-achievers are much more likely to be unhappy than the average joe. When I was going to school at the Air Force Academy, we had general after general get on stage and brag about their poor school performance. The joke was “2.0 and go”. It used to bother me, but now I think it’s an important message just poorly packaged. When we have a source of comparison, like grades, we can get fooled into thinking it’s the right thing to compete over. But it isn’t. That’s why I said you have to be so careful about reminding yourself what that success looks like, or you focus on the wrong actions.

But hey, I’m preaching to the choir. Thanks for the kind words!

Vic Magary September 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm

I experienced this “feeling like shit” syndrome quite a bit when I owned a martial arts school. I got coaching from some of the most successful school owners from around the country and still couldn’t get it right. And when I looked at those who were successful, I couldn’t help but think they did not do anything better than I could do. But despite my coaching and studying and 14 hour work days, they did in fact do it better. And maybe that’s why it stung.

I eventually had to shut down the school and now make my living online. I damned sure don’t work 14 hour days anymore. Sometimes feeling like shit is a blessing in disguise.

Jen Gresham September 8, 2011 at 2:41 am

What a fascinating story, Vic. I admire your honesty. The other tenets in my career training is that you have to find the intersection between your passion, your personality and your strengths (or aptitude). But that requires you to honest about what your aptitudes are and how far you can go simply through skill development.

I actually think your story is quite inspiring. I’d love to talk to you about it more.

Sadya September 8, 2011 at 6:05 am

Vic, you should become a personal trainer or a martial arts tutor. Do a vblog/ youtube channel to teach daily lessons. The karate kid movie (with Will Smith’s kid) is evidence enough that kids are still dreaming about kungfu , and the parents about fight club ( women might just be dreaming of Brad pitt & Edward norton).

Lindsey Morningstar September 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm

This post hit the nail on the head for me. I’m constantly comparing myself to others, whether it’s money, job rank, popularity, or pant size I’ve always trying to be the “best” at it all – whether the hell that means. But when I think back to my core values which are connecting with others, authenticity, and emotional/physical/financial security I realize those don’t align with any the qualities I look at when playing the comparison game.

It’s also interesting I feel quite secure and satisfied with my profession as a child psychologist and researcher, but as a blogger I feel like I’m always falling short. Like somehow the hours I put towards my creative work should pay off in fame and fortune. You definitely have me thinking, and probably continue thinking for days to come about these internal questions. Thanks for one of the best posts I’ve read in a while.

Jen Gresham September 8, 2011 at 2:49 am

Oh, that is an interesting observation! Are you blogging because you feel you need to, or because you love it? It may also be that you just need more skill development in writing online as opposed to verbal communication, which is what I’m guessing you’re used to in your practice. I have always been a pretty good writer, and thought that would be enough to earn me an audience when I started my blog. Boy was I wrong! It wasn’t until I got specific training (and a mentor) on how to write online that I saw exponential growth. So sometimes our problem isn’t goals or success, but just skill development. If you want more information on the course, just contact me. Glad you enjoyed this!

Pavel September 7, 2011 at 10:07 pm

What a great post!

Jen you eloquently put in words what I often felt, but never had the guts to admit to myself.

I think so many people while reading about success in the same field that they are in, write things like “Oh you such an inspiration to us, thank you”, meanwhile thinking “what a lucky prick…..” :)

Jen Gresham September 8, 2011 at 2:51 am

LOL. Courage is the first step towards greatness, however you want to define *that*…

Renee September 8, 2011 at 8:36 am

Thanks, Corbett, for introducing me to this great new writer!

Jennifer, great post. I loved this point in particular:
“Find the underlying sources of self pride in your stories and design a life that regularly supplies them.”

I love the emphasis on self-reliance and self-design of one’s life.

However, I disagree with this point:
“As adults, we feel more and more constrained by obligations to provide, perform, compete, succeed…”

To that I say, not necessarily. Only if we *choose* to be constrained, which isn’t a life of self-design if you ask me.

To answer your question about what I do when other people’s success makes me feel like shit: I can honestly say that I really don’t care about other people’s success, other than to be happy for them. I don’t even think about it, really. I guess it’s because I’m not the jealous type or I’m fairly self-assured or I have a good family/friend foundation which is more important to me than other people’s success.

I’m blessed (?) with a sort of obliviousness to keeping up with the Joneses or comparing myself to others (except when it comes to body image. Why can’t I lose those last 10 lbs?!? ;-) . It’s just natural to me, so I don’t know if other readers would find that much of a “tip.”

Anyway, thanks for this post. I love your writing style, and I look forward to following your blog. I’ll be signing up!

Jen Gresham September 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Renee,
I completely agree with you that’s it’s a choice to be constrained by those things. I was only saying that most of us fall into that trap, but you’re absolutely right, we can change how we look and think about it.

Not being prone to comparisons is a true gift. While said comparisons can drive one to better performance, I think the trade-off of a loss of self-confidence isn’t usually worth it. There’s plenty of room in this world for successful people.

Great to meet you and I look forward to seeing you over at Everyday Bright as well!

Ty Unglebower September 8, 2011 at 10:19 am

For me, one of the reasons Bo’s story was more palatable, and perhaps inspirational in a way, was the nature of it’s focus. That story, (at least as presented here) was not a success story. It was a “struggle story”, that ended with success. The set backs, hard work, sadness and pain through which Bo had to travel was at center of the narrative. A journey.

With the punk kid, it was simply about, “He’s rich!”. A success story of the kind that jumps right to the success. A reminder that, A.) There isn’t a lot of work involved for someone like him, unlike us “normal people”, and B) The journey doesn’t matter, and the struggles, if he actually had any, don’t matter. Only the end game matters.

I don’t care that the kid succeeded, and in fact I wish he would not have. But Bo, I could get behind that story a bit.

Jen Gresham September 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm

That’s really insightful, Ty. I think you’re right. Plus, Bo is actually an incredible likable person–it helps I met him face-to-face, whereas Cameron, for me, is just a name in an article.

Thanks!

Heather September 8, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Hi Jen, It’s great to see you back! In the work I am doing at the moment values are central. I explain values as something you never reach-like travelling north, south, east or west- you never get there. Goals are destinations like New York, Paris, London, wherever..you can reach them. Knowing what you value (like Bo and you) and moving towards it is how you get to live a meaningful and valued life (or success).

What holds people back from this is the fear of the struggle, or the discomfort they often have to create to move towards their values. Willingness is key. Once you have that you will live the valued life you want. Your story illustrates this nicely. You have accepted the struggle and discomfort of giving up your million dollars to move in the direction of something you value ( your family). There are many who would not take that step out of fear. But now you’re the winner in your own life. If we remember that others’ successes are highly personal and meaningful to them, and we ourselves are moving towards a personally meaningful and valued life then I don’t think there is any room for feeling like shit in comparison to others’ successes.

Jen Gresham September 9, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Great points, Heather. I like your analogy to north, south, east and west. I may have to borrow that! :)

Sean, YourExtraordinaryFuture September 9, 2011 at 11:09 am

Thanks Jennifer for your helpful thoughts, and your honesty.

“That’s why it’s crucial to define success for yourself.” Amen to that. It doesn’t work any other way . . . it CAN’T work any other way, can it?

“Becoming the person YOU always wanted to be.” Yes–the power of authenticity.

Thanks again Jennifer.

Jen Gresham September 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Well, some people get lucky, and sadly we think that luck applies to everyone. Personally I like making my own luck. Glad you liked the post! :)

Cathy | Treatment Talk September 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Hi Jen,

Thought provoking post. I think deep down we all have a spike of jealousy when someone else does well, and we don’t feel as if we measure up. We look at ourselves and wonder why we aren’t there yet. I really like your ideas of core values, motivation and pride. All important to think about as we do make choices that determine our destiny, be it to make a lot of money, to feel satisfied with what we are doing and / or feel as we are helping others. I’ve moved on to blogging after my teaching career, so do not feel the pressure to measure up to anyone but myself.

samantha October 16, 2012 at 5:03 am

This was an awesome post.

I really found it beneficial when you said that we can become irritated when someone else’s idea of success is different from our own and that causes us to question our own concepts about success.

I have recently had a friend who i grew up with since babies till after university. We were best friends. She went to LA as a fashion designer and played in this cute band touring around europe. When i first saw her success i was really proud of her and so happy she was happy it made me cry.

I since bumped into her on visit back to australia from LA in our home town where we grew up as next door neighbours for all those years as best friends. I was going through a really hard time and she looked great. I was so excited to see her and told her how great she looked. Of course as i wasn’t looking my best she didn’t return the compliment. We had a nice chat but it became increasingly clear to me that she was ‘pretending’ she still cared about me. I then messaged her and told her that i would so much appreciate spending some more time with a good wholesome old friend as i needed someone by my side who really knew me. She pretty much ignored me.

Since then i found her success repulsive. I feel it is driven by narcism and pride. What was a happy thing for me had now become something i despise. Her flicking off her roots as though she was now ‘so much better than that’ made me feel like she was a superficial phoney who i could no longer be happy for.

I realised through your post that the reason her success had angered me so much was because it was built on such a different foundation for what success meant than what i value. It really made me shift my perspective and i am no longer subjecting myself to anger and irritation over her success, but feel indifferent. It called me to honour what is important to me rather than feeling inadequate because i did not measure success in the same way.

This has also helped me to stop thinking destructively about her such as ‘well i hope she gets a wake up call and realises one day that the family and friends she has betrayed are no longer there as she values her superficial life over such important things’ But really…whatever path she goes on, you are right when you say that she too has her own set of ‘core values’ and although they are distinctively different from mine, that does not make them wrong.

Thankyou for an awesome post…you rock!

Vanessa June 27, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I’m still having some trouble with this. Like some days are really good and I have little sparks of motivation, but other days I just get in a slump. I’m trying to be an actress and sometimes when I’m reading about the people who usually inspire me, it gets me really down. I see these people who achieved success really early on in life and I just start thinking why can’t I have their life, or why wasn’t I so lucky to know what I wanted as a child or to have a family who supported that early on. I just turned 24 and though I know that’s not old, I can’t help but let the thought creep into my mind that I will never know what it’s like to be young and successful because time is moving rapidly away from me.
We had to do a related thing in my acting class last week, to come up with our own definition of success outside of what normal people consider success since as an actor successful or not you’ll never always be working. and while it was pretty thought proving, here I am a day later back to being sad and feeling worthless.
I thin I’m going to try the core values thing and see if that helps any.
Great article.

Jen Gresham September 8, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Good point, Sadya! There are new ways to reach people now. But you still have to have certain skills in place to excel. Granted, those can all be learned, but if you don’t enjoy it, it makes it harder than it needs to be. Sounds like Vic is doing well for himself regardless!

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