"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Artistry // Creativity
May 11, 2018

The Aspect Of Success No-One Wants To Talk About

We dream of being more successful. But there’s a rule no-one wants to talk about, which follows success and the completion of big important projects.

A few weeks before my book came out I wrote to a friend, someone with a big following online, a social media influencer if you like. This person had once called me a “soul-mate.” I asked if they could say something nice about my book somewhere on social media. Not a lot; just a mention. The week the book came out, their timeline was full of praise, quotes and links. Not to my book, or to this blog. But to other blogs and writers on the same subject as my book.

I was invited to “coffee” with some people from a group looking to invest in big arts projects. My contact there, someone I’d always made time for whenever he wanted to “pick my brain,” someone I’d done some free work for on a previous project, someone who had enjoyed a big slice of my time, introduced me as “the guy who built a studio no-one wanted to use.”

The photos of me on this site are a few years old and I thought it would be nice to get some new ones made. I contacted a photographer whose photos I’d seen online, asking for a quote on the work, etc. They didn’t reply and instead spent the next few weeks trolling and criticising me on social media.

Success Changes The Dynamics Of Your Relationships

So here’s the thing no-one wants to talk about: not everyone in your life will welcome your success. Some will use it as an excuse to turn on you. Their refusal to congratulate you will hurt.

I’m not talking here about random, anonymous trolls. That’s a whole other conversation. This is people who are in your personal and professional orbit. People you might expect to be pleased about your success, if not actually championing it, because if it’s at all true that a rising tide floats all boats, then their association to you when things are going well would shine light on them as well.

There’s a saying I come back to again and again: we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with (discussed in this post on Kindness and this one working with a writing coach) When things are not going well it’s easy to find solace in people who also want to focus on the negative, hate on the circumstances of their life, complain and moan about their misfortune, blame the boss or their school or family. Misery loves company and all that.

Then things go well for us, or we finish some big thing we’ve dreamt of doing, and we assume our partners in misery will celebrate our success. Why?

Some will. Either because they’ve acquired a genuine love for us or because they too want their circumstances to change. But not all.

Success and achievement change the balance.

It’s like turning up to meet friends in a whole new set of clothes. Some might say, wow, how cool, and others might want to dismiss it as showing off.

We would hope that good friends, or people with some loyalty, would stop to ask “Why the new clothes?” with some sort of open, positive intent. But it’s not always like that, and there are always folks who’ll see any change as bad.

It Happens Even If We Don’t Feel Successful

I don’t have any advice here other than to be aware this happens to everyone. It says so much about how people view the success around them. It challenges their own reality and their own commitments.

When I wrote a book I just didn’t realise how troubling that would be for some folks who had always dreamt of doing the same but for whatever reason hadn’t done it. I tend to play down my studio, my collection of cameras or the following for my work, but for those who have artistic dreams they’ve not fully followed up on, it can trigger all sorts of emotions.

It’s a common saying that failure helps you find out who your friends are. So does success.

leonie 6 years ago

so true about how other people’s reality, or ideas, about success (or failure) can challenge them, or trigger emotions they perhaps don’t want to deal with.

i am sad this has happened to you; i find your successes and the way you live your life to be inspirational. i guess it shows you who your true friends are, but (imo) it isn’t a great way to find that out!

cheering you on from here.

Dane Cobain 6 years ago

I suppose the only good news is that success also helps you to weed out the so-called “friends” who aren’t worth the time of day. They say it’s lonely at the top, though. The disturbing thing is that at the same time as old “friends” showing their true colours and turning their backs on you because they’re jealous, you’re simultaneously being approached by new “friends” who just want to piggy back off your success. Like you said, I think it’s important to be super critical about who we want to spend our time with. If we get that right then hopefully it will be less of a problem. But I guess at the same time, sometimes you just have to invest some time in people and give them the benefit of the doubt. Otherwise we’d never make friends and end up alone!

fernando 6 years ago

Leonie – thank you. Jealous reactions can be positive if they motivate us to do something ourselves. I also feel pulled up and inspired by my friends achievements, like what I see with the way you craft your words and images, so it makes it even sadder to imagine some folks feel diminished by the achievements of others.

Toni 6 years ago

Interesting. I wonder if you thought that was what I was doing a few weeks back with some comments I left? That was never the intent, and I’m sorry if they came across that way.

fernando 6 years ago

Dane – yes, it’s always a risk and we are better off taking the risk. I’m very fond of the Twyla Tharp quote, “the best predictor of who we will become is the books we read and the people we meet.”

fernando 6 years ago

Toni – the piece is, as it implies, about the three real world experiences mentioned and other similar experiences with people I know in person who acted in the ways described in the article. It is isn’t about any comments I received here, or any other conversations online or on social media.

Susan 6 years ago

I have had this happen to me severally. ‘Friends’ I thought I would share and celebrate my success turning cold and jealous. It’s part of life I guess. The good thing is, every experience comes with a lesson. Like you said, it makes one more critical of the company they keep.

Moreover, It’s not all gloom as success also has a way of bringing new genuine people to connect, grow and share with…

fernando 6 years ago

Susan – I’m sorry to hear you’ve experienced this as well. And you are right, as it does bring new people into our lives as well, ones who are attracted to, rather than troubled by, our achievements.

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