No, I’m Not Happy for Jane.

I am Too XYZ to be inspired by the success of my peers.

The easy explanation would be jealousy. I want what they have. I cannot deny some of that may be at work. To some, being jealous of other people is a sin. To others it is a motivation. To me, however, it is neither. It just sits there, in whatever quantity it decides to show up in for any given person or situation. It has zero effect on what I am capable of doing, one way or the other. It neither holds me back nor spurs me forward. My movement is my movement.

The bigger part of it is frustration and/or confusion. I see people who started blogging after I did, who are now making money doing so. People are are getting noticed and becoming quasi-famous. The social expectation is that I rejoice.

“Jane, I am so happy for you! You started off, worked hard, paid your dues, and now you are finally being rewarded for it!”

And sometimes I really do feel that happy for someone getting somewhere. Especially if it is somewhere I am not trying to go. But as often as not, I silently shake my head and say, “Here we go again.”

Here we go again with someone else I know making good with a formula I busted my ass over to no avail. Here we go with the endless congratulatory tweets flooding our mutual Twitter feed. Here come the guest posts, the notoriety, the money. And worst of them all, the “you can do it too!” affirmations and the “aren’t you so happy for Jane?” gushings that come from our mutual connections.

No, I am not happy for Jane. Why should I be happy for Jane, exactly? Her success does not bring me any success. Nothing I did was in any way related to her attaining her success. And frankly, if my history over the last two years in social media is any indication, Jane will very quickly find little time to speak to me, or return my emails anymore because she has gotten really busy with all of the phone calls and new work that has just flooded in her direction since her blog was mentioned on BigImportant.Com.

In other words, a cost/benefit analysis of me has dropped my value in Jane’s eyes significantly because I am still sitting here struggling with an average of 30 views per post. (On a good day.) I sometimes express doubt and fear on top of that. I am therefore not a positive energy flow for her, and should be avoided.

Or perhaps I am not kissing her ass enough, I don’t know. It may amount to the same thing.

No, I don’t especially feel happy for Jane. Nor am I in the mood to be told that I should. That her success doesn’t mean I cannot also succeed if I do what she did.

That’s part of the problem. I don’t want to do what Jane did. I am not built to do it Jane’s way, or your way. And though Jane and a lot of other people would rather cut their own throats on a live web-feed than admit this, they are lucky. At least at some point in time they got flat out stupid lucky, and nothing you say will ever convince me otherwise. And no matter how XYZ you are, you cannot replicate somebody elses luck.

I’m a student of history, so I am 23 steps ahead of all of you readers who are about to quote Thomas Jefferson’s view of luck to me. The fact is, I do work at things. Hard. And I think it is the impression the Jane worked hard, and I do not which really makes it most difficult for me to celebrate along with the whole world as Jane sails. The impression that her advancement is due to work and positive thinking, so my stagnation must be due to me negativitiy and laziness. I have few trophies, so there is little reason for Twitter to be all aglow about how much work I have done to keep my head above water, or do the things with which I am uncomfortable.

My hard work may not be your hard work, but for the resources I have, it is just as hard if not harder, because the fruits of my labor are much smaller. Yet my hard work is easily dismissed by the vast majority of Janes out there, along with her cyber-sycophants. They refuse to believe that a person can be Too XYZ for cocktail parties and blog conventions and business card exchanges. They are literally under the impression that with a few select tough love stances they can reverse within me an entire lifetime worth of introversion and poor luck. They feel they can make me a superstar just by telling me to get out there, read a million books (all of which are the same), and start living. And yes, the first step is being happy for Jane when she makes it by doing half as much as I have done. To do otherwise is to be bitter, and bitter people never succeed.

What I am doing is my best at writing good content, marketing that content, meeting as many new people as I can in the manner that I am capable, asking people for help, offering mine, being persistent, and…getting absolutely nowhere in the process.

And then, when Jane and all of the others like her have exhausted all of their advice (assuming they bother to give me any), they eventually do one of two things. They tell me, “well, you are just going to have to change. I don’t know what to tell you.” Or they flat out dismiss me as some sort of log thrown in the way of their happy road to stardom which they think will taint their new road to success if approached. Fuck you too, Jane.

Let Jane continue to win by doing all of the ass kissing, story telling, cookie cutting life style choices she wants to make. That’s all marketing, and that it works as often as it does is a testament to how dull and pointless much of the online world is. Where originality is punished and caution is seen as weakness. Where bad luck is a heresy and being in poverty is impossible. Let her and others like her soar to the heights that so many others “friends” of mine have soared due to knowing the right person, or being a pain in the ass long enough to get a guest post somewhere or just otherwise whoring themselves up online. If they can live with themselves, so can I. But I will be damned if I am going to go out of my way and pretend that I am happy for them, just so that I can attract the allegedly helpful people out there who respond most to “hard working, positive thinkers.”

Do I not believe that honest, hard working people, who do not sell themselves in the way I have described can get ahead? I do think it happens sometimes. If I am permitted to believe in a lucky break then yes, sometimes very agreeable, honest, and most of all authentic people do get to where they want to get, and beyond. I do believe their hard work can bring them some of those breaks. However if I must dismiss dumb luck from the equation 100%, then no, I don’t believe such success stories exist, even for people I like.

But in the end, whether it be luck, or skill, good people or bad ones, authentic folks or media whores, my reaction is the same; their stories do not inspire me. They do not make me think that I can do it, and they do not give me a better view of the world simply because someone who deserved it got someplace they wanted to be. Maybe it is because I am spinning my wheels. Maybe it is because the nature of such people’s lives and personalities are so far removed from my own that I simply cannot relate. But the moral of the story is that it can get really difficult hearing all of these success stories on all of these blogs and in all of these Twitter feeds. They serve as a discouragement to me, not an encouragement. And they are everywhere.

Do you in your heart and soul truly feel that happy for colleagues and friends when they succeed while you struggle? Or are your congratulations just the lip service you feel society and the internet expect you to pay in order to make you more apt to receive a bone of your own some day? If you can’t answer that here, take some time and answer the question for yourself. Will the answer be what you think it is?

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4 Comments

  1. JMH

    For me, it has a lot to do with how I feel about the person succeeding and, on a pettier note, whether they are succeeding at something I would want for myself. People I genuinely like? I am happy when they land new jobs or get recognized for their talents or have triplets or whatever. And even if these people have success in an area that is of interest to me, I look at their methodology and ask myself if I would honestly want to make the effort that they have to achieve their success. Most of the time, the answer is no. Cold-calling, query letters, networking, etc. are not my thing, so I don’t feel justified in begrudging someone else the use of these tools to get ahead. Do I believe that if I wanted to do these things, that I could mimic their good fortune for myself? Absolutely, but then I have a pretty intense ego;)

    I do, however, feel irrationally annoyed by good things happening to mediocre people (and this extends to the realm of pop culture, too) and seeing them lauded for their unique achievements and insight when I could name a dozen other folks off the top of my head who are doing what they do at a much higher level and not receiving any of the accolades. C'est la vie, I suppose.

    And while I might have been facetious about how my latest opportunity came about, I would never deny there was an element of luck involved (i.e., if it hadn’t been for a publishing world M&A, I wouldn’t have the byline I do right now).

  2. Yes, if I truly care about someone, I am happy when they get what they want. I mean a lot of things change when you value the person themselves. But I suppose it is no surprise that i do not automatically value a colleague in the same field as myself.

    And you point about mediocrity is a good one. That may even be a big part of my own problem…seeing people, not just the famous ones, get ahead when I know plenty of others, sometimes myself included, who are much better at what we do, but are still struggling.

    It's not that I begrudge people their successes. I just don't feel the instant need to be happy for everyone I know when they get a head. It just seems duplicitous for me to pretend I am excited about someone's advancement just because that is what is expected of me.

    As for your own success, there may actually be some inspiration for it for me, in that you tend to be just as cynical, uncomfortable and unswayed by bullshit as I myself am. =)

  3. Anonymous

    I feel exactly the same way you do, Ty. Society is a big lie to me and I constantly get shot down because I refuse to buy into it. I don't want to look, act, talk and feel like everyone else. I want everyone to be who they are and everyone to be equal. Therefore I'm just trapped here. I do always feel like I'm celebrating other people's successes (who usually know someone, didn't actually work for it) and never the one in the spotlight. It's beyond frustrating.

  4. Thank you for sharing your frustrations with me, Anonymous. It is good to hear that someone else shares them as I do, even if I do not feel good that such frustrations exist for you. What do you do about it when you get to feeling this way?

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