Can you be successful AND happy?
A new collection of Charles Schulz’s writings shows that the creator of “Peanuts” was always insecure, even as he drew and wrote the world’s most beloved comic strip. How much does success color one’s self-image? Does a job well done necessarily bring satisfaction?
What I’m getting ready to say might not be the feel-good realization of the summer!
I spent 10 years researching successful people and found that when phenomenally talented people speak anonymously and honestly, the most common recurring theme is low self-esteem. The truth is that if you have massively high self-esteem, you have a tendency to lack ambition. That’s why all those people you know who don’t need your approval do in fact need to borrow your money!
Most people who believe they are OK regardless of their actions or circumstances don’t need to achieve much. It’s why the average person makes a modest income and lives a so-called normal life. But the people who have something to prove because they feel a bit less than OK usually need to overcompensate. And they usually don’t need to live in their parents’ houses at age 29.
During our interviews with more than 5,000 successful people, we heard many statements like “I have a hard time enjoying life if I don’t finish first, drive an expensive car or live in a house that cost ‘Oprah-money.'” People who have something to prove are the most competitive. Often drive is fueled by compulsive behavior; it’s why the most talented people on earth drink too much, have out-of-control sexual behavior and often end up “graveyard dead” before their time from all those excesses.
But most people don’t admit this because another symptom of compulsive behavior is lying! People like Thomas Edison, who admitted way back when that low self-esteem fueled his success (he failed an exam to be a railroad engineer and said he spent his life proving his worth), and now Schulz, should be commended for their honesty. Frankly, the more appropriate question might be “How much does self-image color one’s success?”
During our research we had to get very personal and build a lot of trust to get real answers. People like to say they believed in themselves because it’s embarrassing to make statements like “I see a glass as half empty, which consistently motivates me to fill up the glass.” You can’t really pump people up, get on CNN or sell breakfast cereal with that sound bite. Our research showed that the most successful people were negative thinkers who were not blindsided by obstacles they never saw coming. Their lack of faith that everything was going to be OK pushed them into action. Let’s be real: A lack of satisfaction creates the continual improvements that move our civilization forward. And that creates the freedom and great life that allows the average person to feel contented. So if it were not for the slightly miserable overachievers, there would be a lot less joy in the world! Satisfaction may be the goal of the common man, but it is the enemy of greatness.