We adopt societal scripts that make us feel uneasy with the idea of being successful.
You’re made to feel like Monty Burns from the Simpsons if you want to live what, in your opinion, is an above-average lifestyle. There’s a certain level of guilt associated with trying to achieve your long-term goals. Underneath that guilt, you’ll find fear.
Marianne Williamson put it well:
We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?
That’s the question that bugs you, isn’t it? Who the hell are you to be successful? What makes you so special? And that holds people back from the beauty of achieving success — the process of growth itself instead of the rewards.
Define success however you want to, but know there is a way to achieve it without having to be selfish, greedy or step on top of a bunch of other people to get what you want.
There is a reality where we could all thrive and co-exist at the same time. That won’t happen for a wide variety of reasons, but you can enjoy guilt-free success if you make a few of these mindset shifts.
“When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. In contrast, when givers like David Hornik win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.” – Adam Grant
When you’re in a competitive frame, you’re entirely focused on what you can get out of the situation at hand. You look at the world through the lens of zero-sum games and a winner take all mentality.
There’s a level of competitiveness that makes sense. You live in the real world so there are going to be other people trying to achieve similar goes and results will vary among everyone. But that doesn’t mean you have to be ruthless and cutthroat to get what you want.
“Success is something you attract by the person you can become.” – Jim Rohn
There’s a weird paradox when it comes to getting what you want. On some level, you have to desire it. But, you also don’t want to want it too much. You can’t be, as the kids say, ‘thirsty’ for a certain result.
When you find yourself chasing success, that’s when all of the negative and counterproductive emotions and attitudes come out — greed, narcissism, envy, selfishness, etc.
So, what’s the difference between chasing success and attracting it?
Take myself for example. Clearly, I want people to read my writing. I intentionally try to make my writing persuasive and engaging. I actively promote my work. So, I am trying to be a successful writer.
But underneath it all, I understand that focusing on becoming a better writer is the number one action to take. If I do that, I can attract an audience. I never try to force people to like my writing. I don’t get mad if I’m not their cup of tea. Instead of forcing my ideas onto others, I send them out as a signal knowing they’ll attract the right type of readers.
You can use my example as a metaphor for trying to achieve any goal.
“Understand that ethical wealth creation is possible. If you secretly despise wealth, it will elude you.” – Naval Ravikant
Money isn’t the root of all evil. The love of money is the root of all evil. Compromising your character to make money is evil. The way you make your money matters more than how much you make. Money is whatever you decide money is.
For me, I look at money as a source of fuel. I’ve developed a healthy relationship with it. So many people find themselves in dire straits financially because they have deep-seated psychological scripts about money:
You make more money, this fuel source, not to “buy happiness” but to give yourself a logistical advantage that can improve your life:
Ultimately, understand that you can make money without being greedy. Why do you buy things? Because you want them. Does the Apple store employee put a gun to your head and force you to buy the iPhone? Nope. So why be mad at apple? Why have shame in creating something people want to exchange their money for? You shouldn’t.
“The reason to win the game is so that you can be free of it.” – Naval Ravikant
Money is the perfect example here. Make a bunch of money so that you no longer have to care about money. Go through the journey of trying to get what you want and ultimately come to the realization that you didn’t need to do anything at all to feel successful.
On the one hand, success isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It really isn’t. But it’s hard to understand that until you experience it. When you’re in a constant state of wondering what if, you’re going to have that low-level of anxiety in the back of your mind for the rest of your life.
A bunch of money won’t make you happy, but being broke will make you miserable. Too much food will make you sick, but not having enough is painful physically and psychologically. Take these examples and match them in many different contexts.
Success isn’t everything, but failure and living well below your potential can harm you. Win the game so you don’t have to play it anymore. Society rigs the game against you, so escape it. The goal here is to figure out how to get enough success to escape the game without adopting new games to play.
Morgan Housel puts it well:
“The hardest but most important financial skill is getting the goalpost to stop moving.”
Scratch your itch and then stop scratching. You’ll be free.
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar
It’s hard to avoid self-interested thinking and behavior, but you can at least put that energy to good use. Call it ‘enlightened’ self-interest. If you need to feel a sense of importance, get it from helping other people.
Want to be a good conversationalist? Learn how to listen. If you actually pay attention to someone instead of waiting to talk, you can make them feel like you’re a conversation wizard even though you barely talked. Give credit to other people instead of trying to hog the limelight and they’ll all love you. Don’t ask yourself what type of business you want to start, find out what people want to buy and give it to them.
Focus on the vibes you give to other people instead of being pre-occupied with what they think about you. Take Maya Angelou’s quote to heart:
‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
These concepts all overlap with one another a bit, but you get a sense of the type of attitude you can use to get what you want. You don’t have to be this domineering conqueror who crushes everyone in your way. You can just be a warm and inviting person who has a bit of ambition but doesn’t need the ultimate level of success to feel fulfilled.
Get it? Got it? Good.