In a perfect world, when you are dedicated to achieving something great, when you have a hard to achieve goal or when you want to reach the highest level of some kind of success, people would see you as right and good for doing so. They would lend their energy to supporting and enabling you in that endeavor. But we do not live in a perfect world. And the reality is that while a select few people will see you as right and good for ‘going for it’ as well as support and enable you in your endeavor, many will not. And this will inevitably put you in the position where success will only belong to you if you are willing to be seen as the bad/wrong person for the sake of what you are dedicated to.
It’s no secret that some people greatly harm others and seriously lack ethics when it comes to achieving whatever it is that they want to achieve. This specific shadow of success focus is talked about often. What is not usually talked about is the fact that no matter what, if you decide to succeed, you will inevitably have to make decisions and do things that someone (or many people) will see as immoral, bad, wrong, or harmful.
So that you can see what I mean, I’ll give you a few examples:
- A man has a goal of becoming the most acclaimed documentary film maker in the world. To do this, one of the many things that he must do that will cause people to see him as bad and wrong, is to decide that if he gets put in a pinch between his career, or the needs of a person in his life, his career is the #1 priority. This means that if he must be in another country for a specific shoot on the same day that one of his loved ones needs him, he is on an airplane flying to the shoot. So many of the people around him will believe that people, not career should be the priority in a person’s life. And that anyone who would prioritize their career over the people in their life is both heartless and self-centered. To be the most acclaimed documentary film maker, he must be willing to be seen as narcissistic and to do the opposite of what most people think is the right and loving thing to do.
- An executive chef wants to earn another Michelin star. To do this, he and his kitchen staff must uphold the absolute highest standard in terms of the quality of each dish they serve. This means, he must hold the other chefs in the kitchen to that standard of excellence. To do this, he sets the bar super high, he is critical, he is demanding, he is driven and he does not let any mistakes slide. This makes his kitchen staff feel under pressure, stressed, and causes them to grapple with whether they are good enough or not. Many people would think that he needs to be softer with his staff and allow people to be people, and people make mistakes. But if he does this, he will not earn a Michelin star. So, in order to achieve his goal, he has to be willing to be unlikable.
- A woman wants to have a career in comedy. But she has been raised by her parents to believe that people who want to be the center of attention are narcissistic, pathetic and hurt other people around them, who deserve attention but shouldn’t have to fight for it. In order to become a comedian, she must be willing to push through that feeling that something is bad and wrong about her for wanting what she wants.
- A young man has suffered from poverty all his life. He was born to two religious missionaries. Growing up, he constantly heard that money is the root of all evil and that money is the cause of corruption… That it can’t buy you happiness and that to value wealth is a sin. For as long as he can remember, he loved the idea of being wealthy. And because of that, he felt guilty. In order to become wealthy, he has to be willing to ‘sin’ and to be rejected by his family.
- As fate would have it, an athlete with the goal of winning a tournament has to square off in a competition against his best friend. He knows that if he beats his best friend, his best friend’s career will be over. He knows that many people outside the sports world would feel that the right and good thing to do, would be to let his friend win. Or at the very least, to try to manipulate the play so they both look good and neither loses sponsors. But to achieve his goal, he must be willing to demolish the competition, including his own best friend.
- A woman owns a company, she needs to expand. In order to take the company to the next level, she must make sure that her employees are up to the task. Years ago, she hired her cousin when her cousin needed a job. The problem is, her cousin is not very good at her job. Her cousin is for sure not good enough to take on the new case load that the company expansion would put in her lap. Nor is she professional enough to interact with the new high-end clientele. Given that this woman has talked with her cousin several times about needing to ‘up her performance and act professional’ to no avail, she must now fire her own cousin. She knows that if she does this, she will be shamed and ostracized by her whole family. Thanksgivings will never be the same.
What all of these scenarios have in common, is that in order to achieve something, the person must come up against the limiting factor of their own self-concept as well as the way they are seen by others… and choose to not be limited by it. In each of these scenarios, in order to achieve something, they must be willing to do something that causes them to feel guilt and shame. And that causes other people to see them as bad and wrong.
This is not a small thing. This is major. As humans, we are a relationally dependent species. Our survival and the meeting of all of our needs depends on other people. And this means, we are biologically wired to think and feel that our survival is dependent on the approval of others. The process of socialization teaches us that in order to be safe and loved and to have any of our needs met, we must be and do right and we must be and do good. We are absolutely trained for this. To the degree that it even prevents self-awareness. To understand more about this, I encourage you to watch my video titled: Self Concept, The Enemy of Awakening.
The best way to imagine the dynamic this sets up on the inside, is to imagine that every time you are socialized to see something as good or right, you build an electric fence inside yourself, separating you from whatever that bad and wrong thing is. For example, if you are taught that wanting attention is bad and wrong, you build an electric fence between yourself and seeking attention. In order to have a career where you are on stage, you then have to be brave enough to cross this internal electric fence. And you may even have to do this with people on the outside giving you consequences as well. Using our analogy, you can put time and energy into changing your mind about seeking attention being wrong, which is to take the electric fence down. But that aside, you are not going to be able to succeed unless you are willing to cross some of those internal and external electric fences.
You’ve probably heard over and over again that to truly succeed, you have to be brave… That no growth or expansion happens in the comfort zone. Do you want to talk bravery? Talk about the bravery it takes to go for what you want, even though your entire survival system is telling you that the consequence will be for other people to see you as bad and wrong and to suffer all the consequences of that negative opinion they have of you… consequences like feeling like crap about yourself, other people not liking or loving you anymore, none of your needs being met, being ostracized, being seen as the enemy, which leads to being attacked, or even death. So many people simply have not accessed this bravery within themselves. And some people never will.
When it comes to success, you must become as conscious as possible about this specific dynamic within success… That to a degree, your success relies on your willingness to ‘be the bad guy’. The big question that every person has to answer for himself or herself is: Where is your line? What are you willing and not willing to be and do to achieve what you want? There is no right answer for this question, which is why every person must answer this for himself or herself according to the consequences they are willing to meet with in order to achieve what they want to achieve. What price are you willing to pay? People who don’t draw a line relative to a sense or rightness/goodness anywhere, run the risk of ending up across the finish line with blood all over their hands. People who draw that line too quickly, will never achieve anything except to be seen as right and good by others. But there are consequences for this as well. In truth, some people decide that to be seen as good and right by others is worth any consequence or any price.
I will tell you that this particular element of success is much harder for women than for men. So, if you are a woman, expect this. In society, females are expected to be the embodiment of rightness and goodness and are socialized for these qualities much more aggressively than males. There is an unconscious bias against women who choose to do what others may see as bad and wrong for the sake of success. Where a driven man is seen as ambitious, a driven woman is seen as a bitch. As a woman, your electric fences both internally and externally, run at a higher voltage.
Everyone who wants to achieve anything great will have to reckon with the price they are willing to pay and the pressure they are willing to endure for the reward that they are after. The reality is that most people are not actually willing to pay the price or endure the pressure that it takes to achieve certain things. Many people are also simply not in reality about what it takes. Everyone who wants to achieve something great, must make decisions and do things that cause others to see them as the bad guy. Just look at Martin Luther King. If he had been unwilling to be seen as the bad guy, where might we be today relative to racial justice? And don’t think that success is really about that one time that you were tested in that you had to do something in order to succeed that caused you to feel shame. Or that one time you had to do something that another person you deeply cared about thought was bad and wrong. The reality is that if you are on the road to success, you will run into these decision/action points all the time. They are a bit like tollbooths on the road to success.
Some people will always stay small, limited and imprisoned by their need to see themselves as good and right; as well as their need to be seen by others as good and right. You are never going to be able to stop wanting people to like you. You are never going to be able to stop caring what other people think of you. The question is: To what degree are you willing to let it limit you? To what degree will you let your commitment to seeing yourself as good and right; as well as to be seen by others as good and right get in the way of whatever you are wanting? To what degree will you let it limit your success?