The more ambitious, driven and industrious among us know the hard work, pain and disillusionment that come with the territory of being successful. You fight to keep your vision and dreams alive in the face of setbacks, doubts, ridicule and criticism. You fight to not let your drive and ambition be at the detriment of the things and people you hold dearest. You fight to keep your integrity and moral fiber intact while painfully clawing your way to the top. You fight to prove your naysayers wrong and your gut instincts right and you fight to ultimately realise your true potential. All this fighting truly makes you your own life’s version of Rocky Balboa and, like him, you eventually get to reap the rewards. However, what you are never prepared for is the hate, envy and jealousy that accompany your ascension to the top. How do you fight against people’s negative perception of you especially when you’re the last to know that you’re being vilified? How do you convince others that your enjoyment of the fruits of your labour is being misconstrued for pomp and conceitedness? Why has your struggle to the top attracted so many enemies when all you needed was a friend? Why should you even care about any of this?
Well there’s one thing I know for sure, no one has the ability to completely block out the hate, vitriol and envy that they encounter. Even a strong and formidable character is not hermetically sealed off or immune from such sustained attacks. So we just have to find a way to cope. Now there are two coping mechanisms that are usually employed – humility before all or complete disassociation from some.
Humility seems prudent, doesn’t it? We have all those quotes: ‘Don’t burn your bridges’, ‘A great man is always willing to be little’, ‘Pride cometh before a fall’, ‘You must eat humble pie’ etc. which try and reinforce this concept. Furthermore, given the fact that too many of today’s rich and famous seem to exemplify avarice, selfishness and arrogance, it would be nice to see them more appreciative and humbled, especially given the fact that after reaching the top, there is only one way to go and that’s down. I actually agree more with this approach because you are prevented from harming and abusing the very people who stood as your backbone when you were at your worst. The only problem is that humility and success are an oxymoron. Humility is really having a modest or low view of your own importance. Unfortunately, this attribute is the greatest hindrance to being successful. Furthermore, malicious people will use this concept as a weapon to subdue your efforts and stifle your dreams. Success demands complete faith in oneself, an indomitable will, raw passion, fierce determination, a competitive disposition and the burning desire to do better. So how do you suppress all of that once you get to that place of accomplishment? Understandably, you should come humbly to those who have been your most fervent supporters but why should you also prostrate yourself humbly before those who only had ill-intent towards you?
COMPLETE DISASSOCIATION FROM SOME
This brings me to the other approach which is ‘complete disassociation from some’. The idea of brutally and confidently cutting away all the naysayers, dream-blockers, idea crushers, mockers and sneering idiots from the fabric of your life is extremely appealing. After all, you already have your own doubts and demons to contend with so why add third-party negativity to it? I really love the idea of this except that this approach would evolve from ‘complete disassociation from some’ to ‘complete disassociation from all’. That’s because in your rise to success, some friends become enemies and, surprisingly, enemies can become friends (sometimes very loyal too). So if you completely disassociated yourself from your purported ‘enemies’ at the start and cut off all ties with those friends who have been relegated to the ranks of ‘unfaithful swines’, you would be left with no one. The worst thing to being a success is having no one to genuinely share it with. That makes life a very lonely place.
SO WHERE DO WE STAND?
The fact is that both mechanisms are highly effective. In life you learn that with every habit – there’s a norm, with every norm – a rule and every rule has an exception. This is no different. You will need to be humble enough so that you are able to accept correction along the way; form and maintain sustainable relationships with people who will aid in your success and maintain a quiet and respectable dignity about the whole affair (especially when you’ve accomplished your goals) so that you don’t unnecessarily create enemies among people you have come to call friends. As for those that are wholly incorrigible, who despite your best efforts just can’t help but despise, vilify and hate you for your progress, by all means – cut them off and cut them off completely. I do not subscribe to playing the sacrificial lamb to people’s cruel nature especially if I’ve already survived my own baptism of fire. You should not have to apologise for doing well. Why should you? Realising your potential is the least you can do with the talent you were blessed with and the short life span we were all cursed with. Know when to exercise humility, be smart about who you surround yourself with but NEVER apologise for doing well.
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