About five years ago I came up with a saying that’s been used as a quotable quote a time or two. It’s short and simple but it’s true. I know, because in the past, I’ve been in the middle of it more than once. It goes: Success is harder to deal with than failure. It means just what it says. When we reach to the top of our particular ladder or when we become successful in something it is harder to deal with than when trying to be successful or when we were a failure.
Getting to become the top dog, the best in our craft or discipline, or the chief authority in anything causes many people to become conceited and arrogant or worse yet, to forget how they got to the top. They start to believe that they’re naturally better than those who are not at their level. That they were born better than the others. They start to believe that they’re more talented and simply just better human beings than the ones who aren’t as high or as good as them in certain areas. They forget about how they got to be so good. How they became the top dog or the big shot. And that almost always entails tons of hard work. That work could be lots of scholastic study. Or it could be hours and hours and years and years of blood, sweat and tears to become the best.
The problem is twofold. First, it’s easy to fall into the conceited trap when you’re really the best at a craft, discipline or some form of athletics. You see that you’re much more accomplished than others. All the things you studied for and worked so hard for have come to fruition and you see others much farther back than where you are at. And here is the big trap. People. Many look at you as a god. Or as being so much better than them. They tell you that you’re amazing or something special when really you’re not. You worked your butt off. You cried and worked very hard trying to get great. You may have been bullied, laughed at, talked down to by being told that you’d never get good. But now you are there. You are good, perhaps even great. And now people are telling you that you are something so good, so special and simply so great, that you start believing it a bit. And then you start believing it some more and more and more and presto, you are that Mr. or Mrs. Cool that you never liked while you were coming up the ladder. The snob. The know-it-all big shot.
And here’s the second part of this problem. Some people become good at things because they have unholy needs in their psyche that they need filled. I don’t mean anything religious by saying unholy needs. I mean psychological problems that they’re trying to sooth by being good or great at things. The problem with those people is that it is never enough. Nothing is ever enough. Another accolade is always needed. Another piece to fill that unholy need is needed. But nothing fills that hole. At least not by trying to be great at things. Or not by being better than others. Or not by having their adoration either. All of that feels good for a while but there’s always, and I do mean always, tomorrow when that need raises its ugly head again.
You see it in people who are on the top of the heap but they still need more. Brian Williams, the NBC News weeknight anchor is at the top of his game. He has the highest news position on the network. World traveler and respected by millions. It was just found out that he lied about an incident that occurred or actually did not occur to him in a war zone, 12 years ago. He’s lied for over a decade about what he said happened to him while he was in Iraq with American soldiers as a newsman. He said the helicopter he was traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG (rocket propelled grenade). He made it sound like he was in the midst of a harrowing moment of macho and coolness as his copter was shot down when absolutely none of it was true. It was lie. Why would he have to make up such a story to make him look bigger and better than he already was? This kind of thing happens a lot.
The key is to have your psychological needs filled in ways that work. Get competent psychological help dealing with them if needed. Also, never lose sight of how you got to where you are at. Realize that you are really no better than others. Realize that you are just an accomplished human being that reached plateaus by hard work and perhaps help from others. Be proud of your accomplishments but never let it get to your head. If it gets to your head you will start to feel empty. You will get bitter. You will lose feelings of honesty and even empathy for others. You will begin to lose the sense of what healthy accomplishment really is. And you’ll feel lousy. Get good, get great and when you get there be humble. Feel fortunate. Perhaps, help others get there too. If you are trying to fill unholy needs by over-accomplishment, it won’t work. Find other ways to become whole, wholesome and happy. Be a person who stands tall, calm and proud.
Steve's a three-time survivor of violence in his youth and was an award winning police officer.
For several years, Steve also did radio political and current event commentary and taught college Criminal Justice. He is the former host of the long running 'The Kovacs Perspective' Internet radio talk show.
Presently, Steve is the owner and Managing Director of one of the oldest martial art schools in Ohio, 'The Mayfield Academy of Self-Defense'.
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