In this day in age, it is easy to see what a complete and total stranger is doing on the internet. The rise of influencers (I’m thinking more along social media stars a la Instagram than influencers in any particular industry) is a major contributor to this. Social media makes it easy to follow total strangers, and even idolize them. Wow, look at those trips! Look at those private jets! Look at this! Look at that!
These feelings and thoughts can be common, even in the technology industry. Wow, look at their new job! Wow, look at that trade show they went to! Wow, look at that promotion! In a world of a constant social media onslaught, we are constantly exposed to the successes and triumphs of others. There’s one more though that often comes to mind…
Wow! They are so LUCKY! Why can’t I do that?
It is easy to envy someone over the Internet. A couple points I want to bring up…
Luck Has Nothing to Do with It
In most cases, I do not think luck has anything to do with successes in your career or business. Are there times when it feels like you were at the right place at the right time? Sure. But it is your hard work and experiences that got you to that place at that time, not some mystical force you had no input over.
Every choice we make in life, whether it be right or wrong, creates the path to our future, and even the most successful person will tell you they made wrong choices on the path of life. How you process and deal with the outcomes of those choices allows you to change and evolve as a person, each and every time.
Why Can’t I Do That?
Well, the truth is you can. I believe with hard work and focus you can really achieve whatever goals you set out for yourself. The catch is balancing your hopes and dreams with the rest of your life. Yes, you can achieve what you want, but the timing may not be right at the moment for any number of reasons, such as your health, family, or current job.
Success is not something you create over night. It often takes years and years of hard work to build the foundation of your success. Patience and constant work is what it will take to reach a goal, which is also allowed to evolve over time.
Success is Subjective
Your definition of success may not be the same as the other people you see on the Internet, and this is okay! It is important to understand what YOU need to feel successful at the end of the day. For each person, the answer can be different. It is easy to see something on social media and have the visceral gut reaction of “I want that!”, but do you really?
Our ideas of success also evolve over time. What I saw as successful today is not what I thought of as successful ten years ago. In another ten years I will probably have a completely different idea of success.
Envy Is a Waste of Energy
Envy is easy on social media. It is easy to covet the success of others, even if it does not quite match up with our definition of success, but there is one important thing to remember: the overreaching trend on social media is to post success over failure. The success you see may have taken ten failures to get to.
It is also easy for envy to evolve into something more sinister. Jealousy and even hatred can sometimes tempt us when seeing the successes of others.
Why do THEY get to do that? Wow, they have it so easy.
Guess what! They may not have it easy. Unless someone is broadcasting every aspect of their lives, you do not know what they are going through, or what they have gone through to get to where they are today. Another visceral reaction to the success of others can be jealousy, which can quickly spiral.
Instead of envy, I prefer to choose joy. You will feel better by being generally happy for someone than wasting energy on dissecting their accomplishments and why they do not deserve them.
A Word on “Struggle Porn”
When we head back to social media, there’s a trend of people posting about how hard they work, which is sometimes referred to as “struggle porn”. You can read a great article by Nat Eliason here about this phenomenon. Do I like a motivational quote every now and then? Absolutely. Do I like struggle porn? No.
While I think it is important to convey how much hard work is vital to success, this takes it to another extreme, and is not very humble. I do not like to brag, period. I never bragged about how much I worked or work ever in my life, nor do I care to see others do it. Struggle porn is a waste of valuable time you could be spending on you know, actually working.
That being said, there is nothing I respect more than the hustle, and effort. I would pick someone up off the ground and dust them off and help them a thousand times over, versus helping someone that has not even tried.
The Pendulum Swings the Other Way
On the other hand, it is also becoming cool to brag about how little time you spend on something. Let’s face it, there are 24 hours in a day, and everyone wants to optimize in a way that suits them. Does everyone need to take a step back sometimes and take a break? Of course. Burnout is real, and once you get there, it takes a while to recover from it. It just is not healthy to spend 24 hours a day working, no matter how much you love what you do.
The internet is full of articles bragging about getting things done in only five minutes, and get rich quick schemes. Sorry, but these just will not work. At the end of the day, there is no substitute for hard work, and nothing else will lead to your success. Anything you want to accomplish will take time and energy. This is the hard, simple truth. There are no shortcuts to success.
Your Path Belongs to You
At the end of the day, your path belongs to you. Do not let the paths of others influence yours, and do not be tempted to walk a different path that feels wrong, simply because everyone else is doing it.
At the end of the day, you answer to yourself, not the strangers on the Internet.
Melissa is an Independent Technology Analyst & Content Creator, focused on IT infrastructure and information security. She is a VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX-236) and has spent her career focused on the full IT infrastructure stack.