The following piece grew out of an email response made to a young entrepreneur who had encountered a negative reaction from a family member to his fast-growing success.Put momentarily off balance by the incident, he quickly recovered by calling to mind his Vision, Mission and Values (VMV) Statements for his business and then including them naturally in the course of the ensuing conversation.
While he felt he had done enough to counter his relative’s negative views, he was surprised that little seemed to change in their attitude.
He raised the issue with me. I replied:
Hi. Congratulations on going back to your VMV for a simple statement of the truth of your business.
For those who are ready to listen, your VMV will explain the real value you add to people’s lives.
For those who are not ready to listen, it will make YOU feel better knowing that you have been as clear as possible in the circumstances. Just be prepared to accept that THEY won’t feel any better as they are likely to be blocking the message for a bunch of reasons – none of them wholesome from the point of view of their future quality of life.
I learned long ago that, when you are successful, a small percentage of people (probably less than 10%) choose to be uplifted by what you are doing and start thinking about how they might learn from your actions and so enjoy the same results as you are enjoying; but that a much larger percentage are confronted and discomforted by the gap between the results of their actions and your own.
Reflection on “the gap” can lead to one of only a handful of possible explanations:
1. You have been gifted with more intelligence, energy and talent than they.
a. Conclusion: Lucky bastard!
i. Response: I’ll just keep praying – and buying lottery tickets.
2. You are no more gifted than they but are prepared to break rules, cut corners, lie, cheat, steal and rip people off.
a. Conclusion: Sneaky bastard!
i. Response: I might be poor, but I’m honest – I don’t have to do anything – including get a job! Can I have another beer please until my social security cheque arrives?
3. You are using more of your intelligence, energy and talent than they.
a. Majority Conclusion: Greedy bastard!
i. Response: I’m not prepared to become a money-grubbing workaholic – I’m off to a party; or
b. Minority Conclusion: Hard working bastard!
i. Response: I’d like to have what you have, so I’ll change my behaviour, learn from what you do, and go get it.
As a strategy for living with the proof that their behaviours are not producing the results they want, and to avoid having to change those behaviours, most people will interpret whatever you are doing that is making you successful, as a negative and console themselves with the “virtue” of their doing nothing.
In my experience, however, poverty arising from inaction is the one true obscenity on the planet, so it takes a strong mind and some pretty agile mental gymnastics to make black white and to remain a part of that negativity.
Hold your VMV out front of you and walk in its light, my son!
Here endeth the lesson.
Having written this, I was still left with the issue rattling around in my head and so I did a bit of quick research to see what the more considered thinkers in the field had to say on the topic of “Success Envy”.
In his day, JD Rockefellers personal fortune exceeded that of 2011’s 3 richest individuals (Carlos Slim, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett) combined! So JD knew a thing or two about success:
• I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.
• If you want to succeed, you should strike out on new paths rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.
• If your only goal is to become rich, you will never achieve it.
• Singleness of purpose is one of the chief essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one’s aim.
• The common denominator for success is work.
South American telecommunications mogul and world’s richest individual (2011 – these things change!):
• When you live for others’ opinions, you are dead. I don’t want to live thinking about how I’ll be remembered.
• When we decide to do something, we do it quickly.
• Our concept is more to accomplish and solve things, rather than giving, that is, not going around like Santa Claus. Poverty isn’t solved with donations.
• Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.
• It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure; and
• Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.
• In this business, by the time you realize you’re in trouble, it’s too late to save yourself. Unless you’re running scared all the time, you’re gone.
• Life is not fair; get used to it.
• Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
• If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.
• It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.
• It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.
• Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.
• We enjoy the process far more than the proceeds.
Someone receives a promotion, gets an important assignment, makes a major discovery, or moves into the president’s office. ”He’s lucky”, an envious person remarks. ”He gets the breaks; they’re always in his favour.”
In reality, luck or the breaks of life had little or nothing to do with it.
So-called ”luck” usually is found at the exact point where preparation meets opportunity. For a time, an individual may get ahead by “pull” but eventually someone with push will displace them.
Success is not due to a fortuitous concourse of stars at our birth, but to a steady trail of sparks from the grindstone of hard work each day.
Though not in the same company as the greats quoted here, after 35 years in business you tend to recognise some recurrent themes:
• Your circumstances in any aspect are approximately the average of the five people you invest most of your time with in that aspect of your life.
• 10% inspiration directing 90% perspiration seems about right.
• Inspiration changes more things than perspiration.
• Whether in science or business, Nature favours action over theory much of the time. However, action is no substitute for inspiration.
• If you are successful others may be confronted with the results of their own behaviour – and that’s often uncomfortable for your both.
A character by the name of Helmut Schoek nailed the flaw in the “tall poppy syndrome” beautifully when he said, “The envious man thinks that if his neighbour breaks a leg, he will be able to walk better himself.”
Envy of others success is a losing strategy and one that is accompanied by continual pain. In the words of Spanish philosopher Baltazar Gracian, “The envious die not once, but as oft as the envied win applause.”
Be compassionate – and keep doing what works for you!