Think of a person you envy who’s multi-talented, innovative, influential, famous, successful, or any combination.
Did you also think of Niel Degrasse Tyson or Elon Musk. No? Whatever. You probably thought of a celebrity, and you’re not alone. I want to talk about how we raise strangers to hero or role model status. How we can both deify them and cruelly punish them. I think it’s a problem.
Consider how this person came into the world. He/She was born from a human being and born with the same tools you were to become talented, innovative, influential, famous, and successful.
On social media, I observe high levels of mental radiation – a condition I call Celebrity Worship. When the worshiped screw up somehow, it’s bigger than any natural disaster. It floods news feeds, news channels, memes. It’s pandemonium. They let they’re fans down. Everyone has an opinion about it. We’re all so disappointed. No one imagined that he was capable of such horrors.
He’s not allowed to behave that way, because he’s held to a higher standard. He’s not like regular people. He’s…
He’s exactly regular people. He’s just a man.
I understand the reasons we idolize the intelligent, accomplished, and successful. Envy can be healthy when it’s used for motivation. I don’t understand why we elevate other people to an imaginary plane where mistakes aren’t made.
The judgmental attacks on someone who’s made a mistake that any other human being could make boils my blood. Who are we to judge anyone else? It looks even more ridiculous to be offended or pretend-hurt when the person’s actions don’t affect you directly.
I’m kind of a thoughtful ass hole, so I’ll say things like, “Did you send Kim K. a text to tell her how upset you were?”, “What did Kanye say when you messaged him about it?”, “Does that mean you and Colin aren’t going on the cruise next summer now? Didn’t you already buy the tickets tho?” Gives me a chuckle and jabs in my point too.
What is this sickness, this obsession with needing to cut successful people down? In The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield gives the best answer I’ve found yet. In the chapter Resistance and Criticism, he writes “When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own…Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others.” I can think of so many examples. How easy is it to shrug off a buddy or family member’s pitch for a business idea or a recent achievement when you have nothing going for yourself at the time? It’s like “Nobody got time for that!” How about when Teresa from the neighborhood finally opens a restaurant after years of everyone bragging about her cooking, and you declare that her macaroni & cheese was no better than your grandmother’s then drive your family to Golden Corral on Sundays right past her restaurant? We do it, and I needed to understand why so I could stop.
If I understand it, I can explain it to others to get them off the drug too. Success shouldn’t breed animosity, and if/when it does, something there is broken. It happens among co-workers, peers, BFFs, married couples, and family. In some situations, you just can’t simply remove yourself from a person’s presence like quit a job, move, etc, but hopefully, you can still keep inspirational people within your reach.
I have a handful of friends and family members that are carving their own niches in the world. They’re positive. They’re looking forward or they’re looking up. I noticed recently that I reach out to them a lot more than others. Passion has its own gravity, ya know. I lean toward them because it helps me stay in that place of encouragement and keeps me clear of toxic criticism. Another reason is I know that seeds need nourishment to grow. There are so few of us that we kinda HAVE TO lift each other up. A long surviving adage goes “It’s lonely at the top.” Honestly, it’s lonely trying to get off the ground.
I started this project motivated by my circle’s pats on the back. They relate to me. They understand what I’m expressing, and they dig it. BOOM – there’s my audience! When I launched my site and began watching the traffic, the blood would drain from my face. Where is everyone?? Picture doubt, confusion, and anger dancing with pitch forks around my flame of hope. It felt like shrinking and the room around me growing massive. I was tormented by it for a while until I started to peel it back a little bit (notice a theme yet?).
Why wouldn’t everyone I know be on board with my success? Because they’re preoccupied with their own success? Maybe, but not likely. If you’re in a place of growth, you want to see other people blossom too. It fuels you.
Am I not good enough? Of course I’m not good enough! I just got here. Still, my team should have my back.
Am I just being really Supported right now and letting myself be distracted from doing the work like the pro I want to believe I am? Most likely. Yeah, definitely.
This thinking reinforces my belief that success is personal. It has to be. If I give in to my extrovert nature and wait on applause to know that I’m doing well, I won’t move forward in anything. Nor would I improve.
I want to wrap this up with two thoughts:
- If you discover you’re the person chucking stones at someone who’s achieved any level of success, ask yourself what’s behind your angst. Do you actually want the person to fail? Have you put them on a level you feel you will not achieve? Is your own success hindered by theirs? If the answers are all no, then move on. If any are yes or sorta, then STOP. You’re distracted from your own progress, and you’re wasting energy.
- If you’re ever on the receiving end of the stones, ask yourself why until you get to the root of why you’re the target of hate. Ask yourself things like the following: Can you make progress or achieve success amid the opposition? Is it coming from someone that has your best interest in mind? Does giving the bitterness attention move you forward? Most importantly, is the person with the stones responsible for your success or failure?
Not everyone that doesn’t get behind you oppose you. Indifference is that understood Option C. There will be many that don’t care either way. Even that’s better than routing for someone’s failure.
These are the thoughts that keep me level-headed and objective (I’m a feelings guy after all) about my own success and the success of others.
*Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles is awesome. Ask me about it. Buy it. Borrow it. Read it…multiple times