Why Do We Discredit Other People’s Achievements?

Kid chasing pigeonsThere are two main ways of getting ahead. Do everything you can to improve your own situation or try and cut others down to come out with a stronger competitive advantage. The second way is obviously the loser way to get ahead. Anybody who employs this method will likely always be dissatisfied with what they have because they will be constantly envious of others. Everybody I’ve met who takes the second route are perpetual underperformers. I try to avoid them like the plague.

It’s probably impossible to get rid of envy. It’s also hard not to attribute our success to hard work and other people’s success to luck. As you know, the number one method to keep haters at bay is to attribute everything you’ve achieved due to luck!

It still perplexes me that in a land of cheap and easy transportation why not just take a Greyhound bus and go where life is better. The first settlers took three months to move cross country. We can do the move in a week. Perpetually complaining about the weather in the midwest isn’t going to solve the hollowing out of our great states.

We shouldn’t have to worry about other people’s finances, but sometimes I do wonder why someone would willingly drop a dumbbell on their toes and blame others for their pain.

SOME RECENT EXAMPLES OF DISSATISFATION

A friend the other day mentioned how lucky a high school classmate was for making lots of money, more money than him. My friend is a math genius who received a full college scholarship. The high school classmate on the other hand did poorly in school and took six years to graduate college with a 2.8 GPA. By anybody’s “most likely to succeed” forecasts, our high school classmate would never have made the list. Yet here he is, making six figures as a high level government clearance IT worker because he worked for his certifications.

One person who is really unsatisfied with his situation in a retort to Learning To Be Happy With What We Have mentioned that of course it’s easy to have a 70% savings rate given I made a high income. No arguments here despite many cases of people making millions going bankrupt. But what about my efforts to study 4-5 hours a day after 2.5 hours of tennis practice in order to get a good enough GPA to go to a decent university? What about the summer and winter internships to build relevant work experience in order to increase my chances of finding a job after college? Or what about deft career strategies and working 50-65 hours a week on average for 13 consecutive years in order to increase my income to exit the rat race early? None of that counts to him. Good thing I’ve got a Career & Employment category for those who think effort makes a difference.

Another person started bagging on how much doctors make. Give me a freaking break! It’s taken 12 years after undergrad for a good friend of mine to start making $250,000 a year. The kick in the nuts is that before the Obama administration started clamping down on insurance reimbursement rates, he would have started making $350,000 – $400,000 a year! I’ve seen his 6am to 1am shifts in fellowship training, not to mention all the studying and tuition he’s had to sacrifice. The criticizer didn’t even go to grad school and seems to give up as soon the going gets tough. The percentage of people with a medical doctorate degrees is less than 1%, largely because it’s so hard to become a doctor. They are way underpaid in my opinion.

Finally, the blogging community will have conflict because there’s little barriers to entry. You’ll always have someone who thinks they are smarter, funnier, and more helpful than others frustrated by their progress. Why them, not me? The internet is one of the best meritocracies. You see your results in real-time through the amount of traffic and/or revenue you receive every day. Instead of writing about how other sites are selling out or fake or whatever else that makes you feel better about your underperformance, write more content and establish new revenue streams.

WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?

There’s always going to be somebody better than you. You can either use other people’s successes as motivation to make your own success. Or you can just stay miserable. Your misery will probably carry over into your love life and everything else you do if you are not careful.

Every month I go for a jog around the mansions in Pacific Heights to get inspired. A lot of the new occupants are self made tycoons e.g. Levi’s, Oracle, Google, etc.. Those who come from old money continuously give back to The City as well. I’m not going to start egging their homes just because of what they’ve accomplished.

I’d like to hear from you why there is so much inflexibility in the way people think. Why not just work harder? Surely there can’t be people who only work 40 hours a week or less and complain why they can’t get ahead, can there be?

As we celebrate America’s independence, tell me readers why do we discredit other people’s efforts when it’s clear as day most success is due to individual effort? The best way to become independent is to focus on improving ourselves. Or, we can just kick back, let the most gung-ho people take the best opportunities and pay for the rest of us.

Photo: Kid terrorizing pigeons in Zuccotti Park, 2013.

Regards,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    Unfortunately, haters gonna hate brother. Lots of people always want the secret formula to success, like it is some magic pill. Unfortunately, the magic pill seems to be work harder than you’ve ever worked before. Sure there is some luck involved, but luck really is the meeting of hard work and taking advantage of the opportunities it provides.

    • David m says

      I absolutely agree with you – you create your own luck. The problem with many people is they slam the door in there own face, and then complain about not having any luck.

  2. says

    I like Holly’s comment. Haters gonna hate. I get the argument from teachers that im lucky that I’m interested in engineering, math, and finance. Like it wasnt a choice. My teacher friends disparrage my higher salary, but then don’t go out and make money during summer vacation. I would love to have a few.months off to earn money a different way each year!

    • Winston says

      If you worked 80 hours a week during the school year, you would want a couple months off in the summer, too. Do you work another job when you take vacation? All of the teachers I know work much longer, harder hours than the engineers I know. Oh, and by the way, many teachers I know DO work at another job for at least part of their summer vacation. The sad fact is that America severely undervalues and underpays its teachers. FYI, I’m an engineer in a family of teachers, so I know a lot of people in each camp. Oh, and you ARE lucky that your interest in engineering, math, and finance was developed and encouraged enough by your TEACHERS that you kept on that path.

      • says

        I don’t think his point was that teachers aren’t valuable, more that people shouldn’t complain about something and then not do anything about it when they have a chance. I’m an engineer myself and couldn’t be more thankful for the people who encouraged me, teachers being a big part of it.

        • Winston says

          I don’t think his comments are as innocent as you’re stating. Although teachers complaining about his higher salary isn’t the right way of going about it, neither is the attitude of “too bad you chose to be a teacher, stop whining about money and just go work during your vacation.” We should all be rallying behind teachers to support increases in compensation.

      • Roger says

        I’m a teacher too (high school) and no way are any of the teachers putting
        in 80 hour work weeks. Most of the lesson plans are recycled so minimal
        effort is put in to be honest. It’s a solid 40hr job per week at most.

      • moshennik says

        Give me a break. Teachers work 80 hours week makes me LOL. My sister is a teacher, i know exactly how much she works.
        Teachers are not “undervalued”, in fact if anything they are overvalued. Simple laws supply and demand say if there are 100s of qualified teachers applying every time a job on a public school opens up it means it pays too much in relation to their skill.

      • JayCeezy says

        @Winston, gotta call b.s. on the “80 hours a week” claim; that works out to 11 hours and 25 minutes a day, 7 days a week. I don’t think so. And once teachers get their lesson plans down, they just repeat it year after year after year. The school day starts at 7 and ends at 2:30. ’nuff said. In the US, teachers work 180 days a year, compared to 240 days for a full-time job (1.33 as many days). So a teacher making $100K is paid at a rate of $133K/yr. That is just salary, doesn’t include pension at age 55, full healthcare and benefits, plus union protection. Chicago teachers recently went on strike, for a deal that will take the average salary (no benefits or pension included, just salary) to $100,000. http://dailycaller.com/2012/09/19/chicago-teachers-test-scores-worse-than-illinois-students/ Here are the LAUSD payscales… http://www.teachinla.com/whyteach/salary.html The Administrator salaries are worth a look, too, most teachers attempt to ‘promote’ into admin.

        Teachers are not underpaid, and they are not heroes. Quite a few of them aren’t very smart, and the proof is in their certification scores. Only 70% of them pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (C-BEST) on the first try; for those unfamiliar with it, it tests reading, math, and writing proficiency and is equivalent to a 7th grade level. #c’mon,man

        And don’t get me started on Engineers, especially if you work for an agency.

        • Winston says

          Perhaps the number of hours corresponds to the type of teacher you are. My secondhand experience is that the good ones put in a LOT of extra time and don’t just recycle the same lesson plans year after year. I guarantee that those teachers put in far more than 40 hours per week, because I grew up with it (my mom) and live with it to this day (my wife). Is 80 hours an overestimate? Probably. Maybe it’s closer to 50 hours some weeks and 60 hours other weeks. The point is that they put in enough extra “unpaid” time to account for a 2-month vacation in the summer. If you or your loved ones are teachers that AREN’T doing that, you or they are probably just “phoning it in” year after year.

          As for compensation, it’s pretty low here in Texas. Before my mom retired a few years back (after 30 years of teaching), she was making around $44k per year… and she was consistently marked very high on performance evaluations, so that figure wasn’t performance-based. She was capped out in her district, actually.

        • Matt says

          You lose all credibility when you originally start off with 80 hours a week, then when challenged acquiesce to 50 hours. Teachers where I live get 14 weeks off a year. Funny you didn’t mention that piece of the puzzle

    • says

      How convenient for Sam, this thread nicely wraps up many of the points he was making. Everybody worrying about what others are or aren’t getting.

      • Winston says

        @Matt

        Whether you find me credible or not makes no difference to me. My point remains the same. Good teachers are undervalued and underpaid for what they do — at least in Texas (no unions).

        • Barb says

          Good teachers work 80 hour weeks, yes! The National Board teacher at my school works from 5:45am to 4:00pm and then will grade at home at night and on the weekends.
          It is typical for me to put in a 7-4pm day at the school with little break. My breaks are grading, photocopying, creating lesson plans/curriculum, emails parents, collaborating with other teachers and not on my cell phone and I can eat lunch for 15-20 minutes. I work at home and on the weekends also writing IEPs that can take 4-5 hours each. When I coached a sport, I would get home at 7 or 9pm based on practice and games. So, that would be a 12 hour to 14 hour workday.
          However, my official work day is from 7:45-3pm. I rarely get to leave at 3pm and if I do, I am bringing a ton of work home or I am leaving at 3pm to go to a grad school class/meeting at another school.
          I do believe that good teachers work much more than their hours and people don’t realize this unless they live/know teachers. It does get easier year after year as you have the curriculum that you will still have to tweak, but then I have more time to tutor students after school to get the help that they need bc many of our inner city parents do not know Geometry or how to write a paper and cannot help them at home.

  3. says

    I think it’s often a way of self-justification. People don’t like to admit they didn’t work as hard to achieve something as somebody else, so instead of just admitting it they assume the other person must have gotten to their position through some less than reputable way. Politics aside, it’s part of what annoyed me about people criticizing Romney for having had so much business success (or Perot if you want to go back a few years). If you can’t join them, drag them down to your level.

    • says

      Not that I want to go too far down this road, but it wasn’t the fact that Romney was rich & successful that was criticized. It was that he was the perfect poster boy for the flaws and inequalities in the tax system that made him a target.

      • says

        You have a point. Also the fact that his camp was very homogenous and not a good reflection of the American population in general. One look at his concession speech crowd and one could tell he wasn’t going to win.

  4. nbsdmp says

    I have a favorite saying that I taped to my cubical wall at my first job out of college “It usually takes 15 years to make an overnight success”. Couldn’t have been more spot on, it is funny because I’ve been called “lucky” by people who didn’t see the working on average 100 hours a week to build a business and the sacrifice both physically and relationship wise. Getting up at 5am on Saturday morning after going out Friday night, I’d get laughed at…now 15 years later my investment income pays more in taxes than these guys make a year. 100% right, haters are going to hate, but you get out what you put in so quite bitching and go do it!

    • JayCeezy says

      *“It usually takes 15 years to make an overnight success”.*

      Reminds me of a great joke…

      “A lot of people don’t know this, but it takes exactly the same amount of time to make a bitter failure!” – Marc Maron

  5. says

    Haters will hate. I work hard, and have always worked hard. I know a lot of people say, “Oh you’re so young.” But the way I see it is I’m young because I worked hard, so maybe other people are just behind? Not sure on that one.

  6. Mike says

    I think society has notions about what we should be. Sometimes, when breaks the mold, it pisses off the people that had those notions.

  7. DV8 says

    The more unhappy you are with your situation, the more you want to discredit others for their achievements. I’ve been working for over 25 years now and see this phenomena all the time, especially from younger colleagues. They always get laid off or leave for supposed greener pastures. Actually most just stay bitter and non engaged. You see that study? 70% are non engaged at work!

  8. says

    “There’s always someone better than you” — so true. I think it’s VERY hard for peopel to truly truly truly comprehend that. But when they do, it makes life so much nicer becuase you stop comparing so often. Also, the second option for getting ahead, “cut others down to come out with a stronger competitive advantage”…. I feel like that’s the default for so many people. It’s hard sometimes to realize that that’s what you’re donig, but you’ve got to start paying attention to yourself and your motivations for sure, otherwise you continue cutting people down becuase its your default, but it doesnt’ actually help anything!

  9. says

    Like Holly said, haters are going to hate. I think for many it’s easy to discredit because they become envious of what others have accomplished and do not want to put in the hard work to reach a certain level of success. It’s much easier for many to throw stones as opposed to put the time and effort to get ahead.

  10. says

    Yeap, the harder you work, the luckier you get. Over the long run, hard work trumps all. At least that’s what I tell myself.
    People don’t see all the hard work that you put into blogging. Successful bloggers took a long time to get there and they work hard on their content.

  11. says

    People who knock others down are immature and have low self esteem. They try to make themselves feel better by hurting others, it’s lame. The harder one works the more rewards one can achieve and enjoy. Those who put in effort and are supportive of others leas much happier lives!

  12. says

    Some people find it easier to focus on other people to hate rather than focusing on their lack of self worth. Truth is, we are all successful in our own ways and should consider ourselves worthy of being called successful, but some of us focus too much on what other people have and hating them for it, instead of focusing on what we have and making the best of it.

  13. says

    I really, honestly don’t think that hard work gets discredited. Noone bemoans how much money the Waltons, Jobs, or Gates have. In fact it’s quite the opposite…those types of people are revered because they worked hard, built something from nothing and created their wealth.

    The snide comments and ill feelings start when someone is viewed as NOT having worked for what they have. People don’t hate the doctor that put himself through med school, they do hate the salesman who was given a big book of clients by his retiring father.

    • says

      Not in these examples I’ve stated in my post. And the bigger and more successful you get, the more people will try and knock you down. Yes, inheriting millions seems unfair, but no need to hate unless the person is causing you grief. Think instead that person had good karma!

  14. says

    These people, which I might refer to as spectators have always been around. The only difference is thanks to technology, we are more aware of them. Spectators can kick back and knock everyone and everything! They choose not to participate, but knock everyone who does. You have to dismiss them for what they are, just spectators!

  15. says

    I have to jump on the doctor part. My wife is a resident physician and will join a practice next year. You are right, anyone that says doctors are underpaid is ridiculous for the amount of money and school the have to put in. Luckily, she is in dermatology, so healthcare reform may not affect her salary as much. In the spirit of working to get ahead and creating your own luck, she is now considering doing some cosmetics because of the coming changes. So that means less time for medical consults, but you always have to stay one step ahead!

    • nbsdmp says

      Could not agree more on the Doctor situation looming in this country. It is crazy that we want to take the incentive away from our best and brightest to go into medicine. My friend is in her final year before becoming a cardiologist and yeah will she make a lot of money, but if you do the math on how long it takes to get there, no way I’d want to do that…terrible ROI, now you get to the end of the tunnel, and bam Obamacare lops $200k off of what you’ll make. I want to choose the best person possible to operate on me if possible…let the free market economy determine what people get paid. If you think universal health care is a good idea, take a trip to Canada and have to go to the hospital, you will immediately be calling your senator to get this repealed, trust me!

  16. says

    Every one of us is presented with “lucky” opportunities at some point in our lives. I think what allows some people to be more fortunate than others in those situations is simply hard work.

    Hard work not only leads to coming across more opportunities, but it also provides you with the proper preparation needed to take full advantage of those opportunities.

    And for those haters out there, I like to refer back to a quote that Danny Meyer said in his book: “People will say a lot of great things about your business, and a lot of nasty things as well. Just remember: you’re never as good as the best things they’ll say, and never as bad as the negative ones. Just keep centered, know what you stand for, strive for new goals, and always be decent.”

  17. says

    Sam,

    This topic was apropos. I’m going through some stuff at work right now and I just need to stop worrying about what others do and worry about what I do. If I think I am worth more, prove it.

    Thanks!

  18. says

    In Canada teachers are a group that is hated by many. Good pay, all summer off and a great pension. No mention of having to spend every working day with an overcrowded room full of children many who haven’t bothered to do their homework because the parents don’t participate in their own children’s education.

    I am not a teacher. I am not related to any teachers but both of my sons are on successful career paths because of the time and interest or years of amazing teachers.

      • says

        I am sure that the 5 years of university and the fact that you have to work as a supply teacher for a few years to establish yourself before you get hired full time with a board puts people off. There are more teachers than jobs right now.

        Not to mention the fact that you have to spend days in a room full of other peoples children.

        If your heart isn’t in it and you don’t love children and teaching then you just shouldn’t be there. You can tell who loves children and who is just there for the vacation and pensions.

  19. says

    I’ve had plenty of people write off what success I do have with the idea of luck. I worked really, really hard to be in the position that I am in, so when people tell me I’m lucky to have the job I have or even the relationship that I have, it makes me feel a little frustrated. I don’t think that others are trying to discredit, I think they are coming from a good place, though.

  20. Geek says

    As a couple, mr geek and I are very lucky:
    -Born to middle class households with the means to help us through college (nothing we had influence over as kids)
    -Came from towns with good school systems (nothing we had influence over as kids)
    -High IQ (genetic)
    -Not super fat (fat people get paid less) partly genetic, partly environmental
    -Forced to do homework by parents until we developed the habit ourselves

    But we are partly responsible for our own lot:
    -Chose lucrative majors for University
    -Got good grades in University
    -Moved to where the $$ jobs are and did not settle for low paying jobs
    -Continue to follow environmental practices for eating, saving, etc, that we were raised on

    And our combined salary is putting us in the top 2%.

    If you make it into school and major in liberal arts (or teaching which pays ok but not great), you know what you’re getting into. I guess there are people who genuinely don’t know that it’s a bad idea financially, but no one going into college should be included in that bunch. 18 is old enough to vote and fight in a war, it’s certainly old enough not to pick a stupid major.

  21. says

    I guess your comments say it all Sam! People think that everyone should be on there level or below. Not everyone but there are so many people that think any one who makes more money is either more LUCKY or GOT THE HOOK UP some how. No one wants to put in the work and effort or more over think about the choices they can or should have made to get ahead. The conform to what others are doing and in some cases are just lazy. If you are happy with your career choice and make $40k it should not bother you is someone is into real estate and making $250k even if they put in less hours.

  22. says

    I’ve found myself getting jealous at others success in my own life. Not because they make more money than me, but because I could have done exactly what they did but didn’t due to my own laziness. Such a kick in the pants when you get that feeling. If I simply got off the couch and started doing something, then I could be on this other persons level. It really all comes down to being responsible for your own actions. You are the only one that controls your destiny and money making potential, not someone else.

  23. says

    Our daughter did very well in school. She got a full ride for her undergrad as well as her grad school. While in high school she worked very hard, staying up late every night on her studies. Kids at school would say, “Oh, she’s smart, she doesn’t have to work very hard. Of course she get’s good grades.” If I said she stayed up late studying they’d say, “Well she’s not very smart if she needs to work so hard.” You can’t win!

    I’ve always told our kids that they need to work hard to reach their goals. Why wouldn’t you?

  24. tori says

    I do think doctors make too much. In other countries they are salaried and not highly. When I go to a doctor, especially a specialist, I feel most of them went into the profession for wealth, not at all out of caring for others. They become (or already were) narcissists and are out of touch with patients. Few go into general medicine because there aren’t zillions in it. High compensation for doctors drives up health care costs. Fees for services increase overtreatment and encourage greed. Pharma companies bribe doctors to shill. Doctors just follow what they have learned, few are geniuses. Google has been shown to be better at diagnosing than most doctors. Try having a chronic illness in this system, you’re just a cash cow. They don’t make money off of curing you. This is not to say I hate doctors, I just do think they make too much, that yes it was hard for them but the payoff more than makes up for it and that people in other fields work hard too.

  25. Maria says

    Maybe the “haters” aren’t haters. Maybe they’re people who have been cut down, beat up and screwed over. Ever consider that? People who have gotten downsized again and again, have lost their 401Ks, have gone from making $80K or more to having to subsist on jobs making $10 an hour, or people who work their asses off and still can’t get a break and in fact wind up with a pay cut with no way to get it back (and did I mention most of us are OVER 50 and would be considered overqualified and are discriminated against?)…yeah, one could understand bitterness. Yet some of you judgmental jerks who haven’t gone through hard times sit there and kick them while they are down. Bite me

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