If you want a life that stinks, project “specialness” on anyone more successful than you.
It’s not a unique strategy to assume that successful people have some advantage over you — wealth, high IQ, connections, excellent schooling, great teeth. We’ve all done this kind of mental gymnastics either to let ourselves off the hook for failure, soften the blow of rejection, or because it’s true. Advantage is a real thing.
The job before you is to always assume that advantage is in play. Project “specialness” on other people, with no regard for what it actually took for them to be successful.
If you want a life that stinks, assume that successful people have superhuman strength, or some insurmountable advantage that will keep them up and you down.
What we gain when other people are special
Your friend doesn’t have six-pack abs because of his clean diet and workout routine. He has that rocking abdomen because of the amazing DNA he inherited from his parents.
Your colleague didn’t get the promotion because she arrived early, stayed late, or took on extra projects. She got the gig because she went to the same college as your boss.
They don’t have a published novel, successful relationships, shiny hair, career advancement or a nice home because of effort. They’re just good looking. Lucky. And the kind of people who thrive on just three hours of sleep. Advantage point them.
When other people are special, we don’t have to try. They are going to win out anyway. We can rest on our laurels knowing that we tried our best, even though we didn’t really try at all.
We’re as unique as snowflakes — but are we though?
Do you remember life before the Internet? Before home computers were more common and affordable, and access to the world wide web graduated from that clumsy AOL dial-up phase? Do you remember what it was like before social media allowed us to see people and subcultures beyond our own town?
If you did not grow up with the Internet, you probably thought the Goth kid at your school was a one of a kind. You probably thought your prom queen was the fairest of them all. The people in your purview were unique and special, except for that they were not. There were more of them in the next town over and the next town after that.
If you look a little closer, you’ll find that the person that you have projected “specialness” upon is not as unique as they appear. They may have some unique skill or attribute, but are they the only one? More importantly, that special quality that captured your imagination may not even be the secret to their success.
Ask yourself: Are they successful because of who they naturally are or are they successful because of what they did to become who they are?
You are special enough
Maybe they do have superhuman strength. Maybe they have a legitimate advantage that you cannot overcome. Unless they actively steal your piece of the pie, there is room for you to reach your goals, too.
“Each one of us is special. You might not be able to do what others can do with ease and precision. Similarly, what you are capable of might be unimaginable for someone else.” ― Dr. Prem Jagyasi
Instead of coveting other people’s “advantages”, we are going to:
- Get clear on our goals — what we really want, not what we think we are supposed to want
- Analyze the successes of other people to determine what is useful for our own journey
- Handwrite an action plan that we keep with us at all times
- Allow a trusted friend to hold us accountable for our progress
If you’re in the habit of downplaying other people’s success, it may relieve your sense of failing in the short term. Of course they accomplished that, they have XYZ to help them.
Over the long term this kind of thinking erodes your self-esteem. You damage your ability to see yourself as someone who can succeed. When you project “specialness” on others you erode your agency to act in your own life.
You’re special enough. Let’s be clear, you are special. No one is so special that success is guaranteed barring out everyone else. But you are special. Never again will the same exact combination of bone structure, tenor of voice, stride, concious, mind, or sensibility — that is you — roam the earth. Do something with it.
You may be interested in 99 Ways to Build a Life That Stinks: An Anti-Self-Help Journal, available on Amazon (***contains an affiliate link***).