Others’ Success: Motivatation or Discouragement?

I read this article “How The Cult of Early Success is Bad for Young People” at TIME today, and the title bothers me.

What do you think?

From a glance, this article is pretty well written, I suppose. It cites various resources, and provides an interesting point of view that I mull for quite sometime. But this type of journalism bothers me, because it nitpicks at success stories and positive energies… and turns it into an argument that success is bad for other people

Perhaps it’s for the sake of publishing a story-grabbing title in the midst of hundreds of  articles about Taylor Swift and Malala Yousafzai. But try to imagine and put yourself in their shoes… say, for example: you have worked really hard over the years, and you share your stories of struggles and how you eventually reached a point of success as a way to inspire… and somebody merely point out that “Hey, your story discourages people because it made them feel not good enough, yknow”. How would you feel?

I understand that success could be bad for yourself if you don’t manage it properly. But to accuse someone’s hard work, experiences, and otherwise successful story as something that could harm others, is rather uncalled for.

The article argues:

The fact that young superstars seem to have been born fully formed implies that growth and learning aren’t part of the recipe for success. “It not only tells them they don’t have time to grow, it saps them of the motivation to grow,” Dr. Dweck says.

I suppose it’s true that to a certain extent, we sometimes couldn’t help but to compare ourselves against other people. Though in most cases, I found myself comparing with friends / somebody kinda closer to home, rather than some faraway celebrities or world figures. Still, I think I’m pretty good with this: being comfortable without really caring about how well other people is doing. Some ways it’s apathy, but some ways it’s simply being content with how I’m doing, regardless of the imperfections.

Because if we think about it… it’s not those success stories that discourage you. It’s your own comparison that discourages you. Just like how hope and being strong is a decision to make, I believe that being discouraged through comparison, and staying in that pit, is also a choice that we have.

And there’s always a thousand reason that can cause us to be discouraged. But hey, I don’t think it’s ever fair to put the blame on somebody else.

Because it’s also our choice, to stay courageous, and take whatever success other people experienced out there… as a way to motivate us, to do a little better.




6 thoughts on “Others’ Success: Motivatation or Discouragement?”

  1. I have mixed feelings about this. I remember once in Psychology class, the difference between envy and jealousy was being discussed. Envy was actually considered positive, because it simply meant you are aspiring towards something a peer, or someone more privileged than you already has, and that is a very human motivation to act on. Jealousy, on the other hand, was destructive, where in the worst cases you would want to hurt the success of others. It is also, unfortunately, human and you can only learn to monitor your impulses as best as you can.
    I personally find envy very discouraging for myself. I sometimes can’t help comparing the progression of my life with people my age, whether they are in the limelight or not. I do find “late bloomers” more encouraging on the success ladder, simply because their lives are more relatable. Having said that, I also can’t help admire the talents and achievements of those who deserve it. The singer Adele is only a day older than me (talk about HIGHLY skewed comparison!) and I adore her and feel almost a strange, sisterly pride for her achievements.
    I know I am on my own path, and whatever I achieve or fail to achieve is what “I” am responsible for, but comparing yourself is inevitable, I guess, whether it is good for you or not.
    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

    1. Thanks for sharing! 😀
      Hahaha yeah, highly skewed comparison against Adele is kinda far stretched. But I get what you mean that we can adore those celebrities instead of being “jealous” of them. In most cases, I found myself comparing with friends / somebody kinda closer to home, rather than some faraway celebrities or world figures.

      Isn’t it funny, that sometimes these “friends” (though not as successful as Adele / Taylor / Mark Zuckerberg / or whoever), hits closer to home and affects us more, than those celebrities. I think it’s because in social comparison, we try to find figures that we could picture ourselves become, rather than stores that sounded too far away to be true.

      Still, lately I think I’m pretty good with this: being comfortable without really caring about how well other people is doing. To be honest, I’m not sure if this is good a thing either. Because some ways it could be considered as apathy, and not drawing motivations from others’ success either… But I think it’s one way to be content with how I’m doing, regardless of the imperfections.

      In fact, I like to draw inspirations from strangers, who I never really know. For example, as I’m trying to learn paint watercolor, I like to learn and be inspired by successful painters in instagram etc. I don’t know these people. And I’m not really making any effort to know them either. Because for me, I don’t get jealous of their skills in their craft (it’s actually encourages me to practice more), and it’s easier to see them simply for their skills, because I don’t know them personally.

      Am I making any sense? Haha. Do you feel the same way?

      1. I don’t think it’s apathy, especially if you are excited and interested in making your own life successful. I’d say its enormously healthy. It ensures you have peace of mind, are able to appreciate other people’s achievements and work on your own self-development. But, it is a competitive world. Always has been, even when there wasn’t a complicated economy like the current one. People encourage comparison from a young age, whether it is your peers or anybody far off (after all, Taylor Swift and Adele are people too, same rules of humanity apply). Even if you ignore it, there will still be people telling you that you are either doing well (or not) because of your age and circumstance, or despite it. I’ve seen it happening to people all the time, and such relativism is a natural part of living in a community, isn’t it? People just have less patience and faith in “late bloomers”, which may explain why they find it more of a struggle to reach where they could have earlier, despite always having the talent. I personally, have never found comparison motivating. I am like you. I definitely need inspiration, but I prefer to focus on the work than who is doing it.

  2. I agree with what you said about comparing yourself to those closer to you than to celebrities. That’s very true for me as well. Maybe it’s because celebrities seem much more distant, so that it seems like they live in a different world that isn’t all that relevant to me.

    I suppose the real danger in glorifying others’ success would be that it makes those of us who take a bit longer to figure life out feel like we are defective in some way, like the article says. However, perhaps part of the answer is not to downplay successful young people, but rather to present a more balanced perspective and to spotlight people in all walks of life, not just the outrageously successful.

  3. Comparing yourself to others is such a slippery slope, everyone has their own unique path to follow, this means they will have barriers, obstacles, wins and losses, specifically attributed to their path. 2 lives can never be compared because no two are the same. Great post!

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