I’ve always liked the saying, “If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.” Sadly, the natural response to that is often, “Well, it must be nice to have… [whatever you earned that they resent your having earned].”
A successful person doesn’t just wake up to discover great achievement. Good ideas usually evolve over time and are almost always accompanied by failure and disappointment along the way. Christopher Columbus had a good idea. Unfortunately, almost nobody believed him, and he needed the moral and financial support of others to launch his mission that changed the world. It must have been exhausting and frustrating, and the years that followed were a disappointment as well. It doesn’t take away from the greatness of his idea, but it shows how great ideas don’t always lead to easy street.
There’s a crucial difference between the attitudes of successful people and people who do not succeed. Successful people take failure in stride, using it as data to figure out what’s actually right. Their failures are far less important than the success they expect. Unsuccessful people see failure as unacceptable, so they never take risks. Of course Columbus wanted to prove that Earth was round, but he also wanted to accomplish other things that he could not. If he had realized how hard it would be, he might have given up rather than persisting against unbelievable odds. His life and the lives of everyone else – even today – would probably have been very different.
Success is a combination of good ideas and hard work. For someone who believes in a great idea, working hard is not a burden. In fact, it’s part of the reward! People who are filled with resentment (the “must be nice” crowd from above) don’t understand this. They look at someone who’s successful and they think, “He or she is so lucky.” Luck had nothing to do with it, other than serving as a general term for coincidence and happenstance combined with creativity and the effort required to bring that idea to fruition. The envious person who mutters “must be nice” believes that one person is just as likely as another to achieve fame, fortune, or success. It’s therefore “unfair” when one person accomplishes more than another.
Successful people unintentionally foster envy by saying things like, “I’m very fortunate.” Did your rich relative die and leave you millions? If so, then that’s certainly fortunate. But it’s still up to you to hold on to that fortune or spend it in a way that makes you happy. Inheritances aside, most fortunes have to be created. Envious people evade the fact that most wealth is caused by an idea somebody had for which a lot of people were willing to pay. A by-product of that envy is a sanctimonious disdain for money (though he or she clearly wants money). This disdain is nothing more than resentment toward the productive efforts of others and anyone who benefits from those efforts. Envy is prevalent, destructive and irrational, and it fuels much, if not all of today’s “us against them” social and political policies.
It’s psychologically healthy to value success, its potential and actualization in yourself and others. Healthy thinkers want success to flourish everywhere; the more the merrier. Achievement is not only an end in itself, but also a value to all who benefit from it. It can inspire, comfort and profit those who are not quite so successful. Great success is special, and it’s not the norm. It doesn’t come to everyone, inclduding those who make great efforts. But that’s no reason to resent it.
Michael J. Hurd, Life’s a Beach