Keep Your Good News Top Secret
Not everyone wants to see you succeed.
You can learn everything about jealousy from a scene out of Robert Penn Warren’s classic novel, All the King’s Men. You don’t need to read it. I’ll cut to the chase. In one chapter, some rich ass politician drags one of his staffers to his dad’s house in the sticks. You’d think some rich ass politician like Huey Long (historical inspiration) would renovate his papa’s place. And he has. Just the inside, though. Not the outside.
The outside of the house looks ashamble. But inside, it’s plush AF. There’s even a bathroom. In the 1930s, a bathroom was a big deal.
The novel’s main character — Willie Stark, governor of Louisiana — explains why he didn’t renovate the outside. Appearances.
He didn’t want his dad’s neighbors to resent him. It turns out, people judge you for your success. It makes old friends into enemies.
There’s a simple way to avoid this problem. Leave the outside of your house un-renovated. Let the paint peel. Nobody breaks into a house that looks average on the outside.
Why you let the paint peel.
My estranged uncle has a similar problem to Willie Stark. He’s worked hard his entire life. Saved all his money. Now, he needs to spend it. And he does. Mainly on himself. He has no family.
He built a giant house with a gate. He owns five sports cars and a fishing boat. There’s just one problem.
He built his fancy house on 100 acres of family property. Which just happens to butt up against a trailer park. And not just any kind. The kind where you’re pretty sure people are cooking meth.
So his house has been broken into. Twice in the last year.
One time, he woke up to find some strung-out zombie hillbilly staring through his bedroom window. Creepy AF, I know.
Keep your victories quiet.
They say nobody likes a loser. But they don’t exactly love a winner any better. It’s not your fault for kicking ass.
But you have to anticipate jealousy. It often comes from the last place you’d look. Like your friends, your coworkers, even your family. The very people you thought were supporting you.
The very people who can do the most damage.
Few injuries cripple your self-confidence like a so-called friend dismissing something you worked hard to achieve. So don’t leave your life vulnerable to envy. Keep your good news quiet. At least at first. Figure out who you can actually trust. It’s not always who you think.
And sometimes it’s nobody.
Jealousy lives in us all.
We all have to share a room with a vicious little demon. The best of us have trained ours. So when they act up, we channel the evil into something more productive. Some haven’t trained their demons, and let them run loose — attacking others. Especially anyone on top.
We really need leash laws for demons.
A large swath of the population doesn’t like it when someone touts their own accomplishments too openly — even if they earned them. This lesson comes straight from medieval conduct books by the likes of Machiavelli, Erasmus, and Christine de Pizan.
The best advice, even from conduct books, doesn’t talk merely about ways of acquiring power and influence. But also how to guard yourself against the pettiest forms of villainy.
Don’t flash your purse book in public.
Advice from conduct books always boils down to a version of this:
Keep your personal motives quiet. Keep your personal victories quieter. Not because you’re trying to screw anyone — but because your trust is hard won. Because you are humble. Supposedly.
If you flash your money, someone will want to steal it. The same goes for trophies and plaques.
Don’t attract too much attention to yourself. Not because you’re shy. But because you know the real action happens offstage.
Not much has changed in the last five hundred years. People are still shit. Except for you guys (gender inclusive). I like you.
Don’t shout from the summit.
There was a time when some of us announced our victories. We chased after prizes and awards and stats. It’s not that these never mattered. They do. It’s just that we acquired a lot of them, and we shared our good news. And people got pissed off. Because the success kept coming.
And we kept highlighting it.
Doing this makes some people feel small. On the one hand, that’s not your problem. On the other, you don’t want people dogging you.
Your mind has to catch up to your success. You’re suddenly surprised by it. You worked your ass off. Made the climb. Now you’re here. You want to shout from the summit.
Here’s the thing. Everyone watched you make the climb. They see you at the top. Shouting just pisses some people off. It shouldn’t. They should let you shout if you want. The better of us understand.
Still, don’t shout from the summit. You’re just going to make enemies. The people worth impressing already see you.
Let your success speak for itself.
Trust me, people see your stats. Your new car. Your smile. Your newfound swagger. The ease in your stride. They notice you’re drinking top shelf now. Let everyone do the mental math.
A certain form of hypocrisy has infested our culture. Guys want a girl who’s pretty, but doesn’t know it.
That’s the premise of a hundred boy band songs. Yes, the idea disgusts me. They’re singing about how they want a girl whose looks, wit, or whatever aura pleases them. But the girl can’t own it.
Her talent or beauty has to be for everyone else. Not her. But here’s a little trick I’ve learned. You can own it, but pretend you don’t.
This idea applies to guys, too.
Let other people comment on your intelligence. Your talent. Your beauty. That always works out better. I’ve been there. It’s always better for people to figure out on their own that you’re hot shit.
We don’t want to see others’ jealousy.
Many of us want to share good fortune with everyone because we insist on an optimistic outlook of humanity.
And I do. It’s just that I don’t. Err, we can go both ways. Your supposed best friend might also decide to stab you in the back.
Don’t let that happen. Act humble.
We often blind ourselves to our friends’ jealousy, despite clear signs. You might be achieving everything you wanted. Suddenly, someone you trusted says something like this: “If you win one more award this year, I think I’m going to break something.”
You laugh. Because you don’t want to believe your friend wants to erect a ceiling over your success. But some of them do. Some of these people don’t deserve to be your friend. But you can find that out other ways, without showing your flush hand.
Some friends broadcast their jealousy. Others take a more insidious approach. You share good news, and they try to diminish it.
They try to make you feel naive, crazy, or self-conscious.
They shrug. Or try to find some hidden downside. They try to make your pride or excitement look silly.
Some will try to gaslight you.
Others twist your success into an opportunity to wield weaponized advice. They’ll paint your achievement as a failure waiting to happen.
They’ll make you feel naive for ever celebrating your victory. According to them, your award doesn’t mean as much as you think it does. They’re just trying to set you straight, though.
They’re really looking out for your best interest. So they say.
Give yourself time to bask.
Nothing feels better than giving yourself a pat on the back. You can do that in the comfort of your own home. Or a Starbucks.
You don’t have to say a word to anyone.
Those can be some of the best moments of your life. The moments where you lean back and say, “Everything’s going to be okay.”
Or when you can splurge on top shelf bourbon.
In truth, you don’t really need anyone else to take pleasure in your achievements. What you accomplish speaks for itself. It provides you with new resources to do things you want. Who knows, maybe it even enables you to empower others.
Like always, take what I’m saying and run with it. Disagree. Take parts of my truth and stir them with yours. Nobody really understands everything anyway. But, please, don’t cook meth in a trailer outside my uncle’s rural mansion. If you insist, do it Walter White style.