Success May Bring Naysayers

Success May Bring Naysayers

There is a phenomenon that oftentimes happens when we step out and step up to the next challenge.

Naysayers appear. You know who I am talking about. People who think you are getting a little too big for your britches who are happy to help you be humble. More interestingly, naysayers can sometimes be the very same people who have been your mentors and guides all along your career path.

It works like this. Naysayers say, “As long as I was her mentor and I was in control, no problem. But then she broke through the invisible barrier and begin to rise without my help, and now I have an issue. I’m not going to get any credit or accolades for what she does from here on. No credit at all, maybe not even from her.”

And, that’s that. They’re done with you.

I’ve had this very thing happen to me.
I’ve written often of the many generous men who have opened doors for me throughout my career. And that support has helped me rise and excel again and again. But once upon a time a mentor turned his back on me.

While studying for my M.B.A. degree at the University of South Carolina, “Quantitative Methods” was a required statistics course. As an insecure first year student, I was both surprised and honored to be invited to join a study group lead by Bob, a Ph.D. candidate. I felt privileged to learn from these brainy men.

I studied this way: Together, the group with Bob as the head, would solve a load of statistical equations on the blackboard in the classroom where we met. I would ask plenty of questions, take copious notes and copy step by step how the equation got solved. Once the study session was over, I would thank all the guys for their help, and while the information was fresh, I would immediately find a small, quiet study room with a blackboard and then I would teach myself the steps and the reasoning behind each. It was a system that worked for me and it was built on practice, practice, practice, one problem after another. It didn’t come naturally for me, but I plowed through it and drilled myself for hours on how to solve these complicated statistical problems.

I took the first exam and felt pretty good about it…but you never know. A week later our professor handed out our graded papers. Ph.D. candidate Bob received a “B” and I received an “A.” When he realized our disparity in grades, right there in the classroom, he promptly told me I was not welcome back in his study group.
I shook my head, quietly said “okay” and walked away.

Here’s what I learned: Some people will be generous when they see you as an underdog, but when you start winning, they drop you like a hot potato.

These people live in a zero sum game world. If you win, then by definition, I lose. Simple as that. I cannot be happy for you and your success. I just can’t. And, I certainly am not crazy enough to continue contributing to it!

What a terrible way to live. It’s a scarcity mentality at its very worst. People who live like this believe there is not enough to go around, when in fact there’s plenty.

As you rise, be vigilant. You will most likely have naysayers as you go. Be careful how you respond to them and their actions (or inaction). Don’t let their narrow view of the world steal your joy in what you are accomplishing. You deserve to be there. Relish it!
And, if you are a naysayer out there who might be reading this, think long and hard about your attitudes. Your satisfaction with your career and life shouldn’t be tied one way or the other to how somebody else is doing. If it is, you’ll never be happy because, quite honestly, there is never enough success for scarcity thinkers.

Better still. Go a step further. Try always being happy for someone else’s success. And then, be diligent about going out and creating your own. Contributor

It is a true privilege to be a columnist at Forbes. Forbes is a community of talented people with deep knowledge in their genre.

Risk-taking is a necessary part of accelerating your climb to leadership.