I don’t want you to succeed

And I hate myself for that.

We humans have a destructive tendency to view everything as a zero-sum game. We are so focused on the idea of winners and losers that it’s hard for us to imagine that everyone can win. It feels like, if you get yours, I won’t be able to get mine. It feels like there’s only so much of the pie to go around.

This is wrong! This is terribly, destructively, unequivocally wrong in many aspects of life. Take immigration, which is a hotbed issue in many countries. (Don’t get political on me, I’m just talking about the economics of it.) It feels like, if I, a natural born citizen, lose a job to an immigrant, then I have been harmed, right?

Wrong! Dangerously, ignorantly, misguidedly wrong. What happens in an economy is that, when more people play the game (work, spend money), they require more goods and services, which means businesses expand and are created to fulfill those needs, which means the entire economy grows. It might feel like I was wronged in losing out on that job, but it’s growing the entire pie so that both the immigrant and I can win. How can that be bad?

But it doesn’t feel right. Even as I explain it, I understand how that feels when you get that rejection letter. It feels like there was only spot and they took it, which means I’m out of luck jack.

I feel this all the time. When I hear from a reader who is writing as well, I want to encourage them, to cheer them on. I know intellectually that we can all win together, and there’s enough room for all of us to have a slice of the pie.

I know this, and yet a little traitorous voice in the back of my head disagrees. “If they succeed, you can’t!” it shouts. “You should get yours first. Then you can safely cheer them on once they can’t hurt you.”

No. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong! This is totally wrong, and I hate that part of myself. That’s the lizard brain talking, the ancient part of our minds from back when it was eat or be eaten, and the part that still views others getting ahead as a sign we’re about to fall behind the herd and die.

I fight against this voice every chance I get. I fight against it so that I can wholeheartedly encourage, cheer for, and help anyone trying to do great things, because there’s enough room for all of us, and because it’s the right thing to do.

And yet the voice is still there, and it always will be. Maybe you have that voice as well. I think we all do, or else we humans wouldn’t have survived long enough to create the languages, computers, or blog software you’re using to read this post.

To be honest, I’ve been scared to write this post for nearly a year. It’s an ugly part of me, and I wish it would disappear, but I don’t think it ever will. I think this is something many of us struggle with, and I hope by putting this out there it might help some of you come to terms with your own struggle. At the very least, its made me feel better about my own.

I truly, honestly, wholeheartedly wish for everyone’s success. I truly believe there’s enough room for us all. That little voice in the back of my head isn’t me. I’ll keep the lizard brain on a short leash, so we can all succeed together.

3 thoughts on “I don’t want you to succeed

  1. Great article thanks.
    I am very much struggling with that same voice. I call it the “monkey on my back”.
    The issue is not to blame ourselves for such thinking and give as much as we can to the others. Good to write it out!

  2. I’m somewhat put off by the blanket logic used here. In the creative arts, sure this logic surely applies because of the very nature of creative arts. I don’t agree that this applies all the time. You have a nice job in an important role under no threat from some talentless schmuck on the street who can come in and do a similar quality job for less money. Me? A bad stretch can cost me my job. I don’t have security, and I’m not making much money right now. No money means I’m not enjoying this amazing expansion of the economy because I can’t pay for anything. And people who have more on their plate, like a family, have every right to be angry that they lost out to a job, not by merit, but because they’re less cheap.

    • Then consider it primarily for the creative arts. It’s not, mind you; life is only a zero-sum game when you look at it on too small of a scale. It’s zero-sum when you’re competing for one job (even if it’s one you – or I – used to hold), when you’re playing one sports match, when you’re competing for the affections of one guy or girl.

      But when you expand your view? Both of us can have jobs, both of us can find success at our sport, and both of us can find a significant other who loves us.

      If you’re being treated like a commodity, I encourage you to distinguish yourself in ways that make you utterly indispensable, or work hard to create opportunities for yourself to join an organization where you’re not treated like a cog. If that’s not possible, you might need to plan your escape to another line of work. Yes, easier said than done, but I’m trying to do it right now, so at least I can speak from experience.

      I don’t see the sense in getting angry though. It’s not productive. Yes, there is bad luck. Yes, there is unfairness. Shit happens, & life is not always happy. I prefer to focus on setting my life up to minimize the chance of bad luck and to maximize the chance of serendipity, rather than wallow in anger.

      Doesn’t mean I don’t get angry, mind you. I just try not to. No one’s perfect, least of all my silly ass, lol

      Personally, I don’t much like the idea of luck, and I try to take responsibility for everything that happens to me. You want to know why? If I consider it my fault that I got fired, then it’s under my control. I can fix it. That’s wonderful. And yes, there is luck, but in the medium to long-term, maybe 10% of events are the result of pure chance. The rest can be shaped.

      Sorry, I rambled a little there. The only other thing I’ll say is that I tend to exaggerate and speak broadly because it’s annoying to equivocate in order to be “technically correct” when it comes at the expense of the message I’m trying to get across. That doesn’t mean my point is wrong. The spirit of it is absolutely correct, even if the logistics and its application in certain situations can get a bit hairy. We can all succeed, so there’s no reason to wish ill of others, even inside our minds.

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