Reading instead of watching TV. Complimenting instead of criticizing. Embracing change instead of fearing it.
These are some of the things a popular social media graphic alleges to be characteristics of successful people. Regardless of how success is defined, I think the graphic provides an interesting list of points to consider.
Please jump into the conversation and tell me your thoughts too! For those who haven’t seen it pop up in their social media feeds, here’s the graphic in question:
The first time I scrolled past this in one of my feeds, I gave it a cursory glance, nodded in approval, and moved along. The next few times I saw it — each time posted by very different people in my life — I paused to give each of the points more thought. Did I agree with everything on here? Why or why not?
“Successful people read every day. Unsuccessful people watch TV every day.”
Gosh, why did the creator of this graphic have to start with the one I find hardest to grapple with? The first time I read this, I agreed wholeheartedly with this first statement. After all, reading stimulates the brain and builds vocabulary. It exercises the mind’s eye, forcing the imagination to stretch and visualize what is written on the page. Watching TV, on the other hand, just seems so passive in comparison.
So clearly, this point has a good argument, right?
Not necessarily, I would argue, even if it pains me as an avid reader and writer to say that. When I forced myself to examine further why I initially agreed with this statement, I realized part of my motivation was intellectual snobbery. Reading is viewed as inherently more academic, plus it requires literacy. I think there’s a reason the word “bookish” is used as a synonym for an academic nerd. Watching TV, on the other hand, is viewed by some as being a low-brow activity, one in which passive consumers lose brain cells to flashy images and canned laughter.
Confession: I can be quite guilty of regarding television with that kind of cultural disdain.
And if there’s one thing I really dislike, it’s snobbery. So whenever I detect it in myself, I do my best to reexamine its source and try to appreciate whatever it is I’ve found myself subconsciously judging.
In that spirit, I would argue that the graphic’s argument here is founded in wisdom, but grossly turns a grey area into crude black and white. I would argue that there is plenty of room for “success” in a lifestyle that balances moderation in all forms of media, whether it’s reading or watching TV or playing video games or viewing art or listening to music.
“Successful people compliment. Unsuccessful people criticize.”
I 100% agree with this one. Obviously, how “success” is defined will change the truth of this statement, but if it is loosely defined as leading a more fulfilling life while encourages others to do the same, then I think this statement rings true. Success, defined as such, isn’t a zero sum game. I like to think that building others up builds myself up too, and that it becomes a regenerating cycle.
“Successful people embrace change. Unsuccessful people fear change.”
Hmm, this is another one where I agree with the spirit of the statement, but the way it is bifurcated seems naively simplistic to me. I would probably reword it something like this: “It is natural to fear change, but embracing it in spite of the fear leads to healthier adaptation.”
“Successful people forgive others. Unsuccessful people hold a grudge.”
Oh gosh, I 100,000,000% agree with this one. Probably because it’s the only one on this list that I have really and truly struggled with throughout my life. I have learned the hard way that what they say is true: forgiveness isn’t just for the person who wronged you, it’s to set you free as well.
“Successful people talk about ideas. Unsuccessful people talk about people.”
If by “talk about people” they mean gossip, then I suppose in general this is probably something I agree with. While I definitely agree that talking about ideas breeds creativity and insight, I’m not so sure talking about people is inherently negative. If it’s petty, mean spirited gossip, then sure, that’s not good. But talking about our relationships and trying to understand one another can be healthy, I think.
“Successful people continuously learn. Unsuccessful people think they know it all.”
Right up there with my disdain for snobbery is my disdain for arrogance. So I’d definitely have to say I agree with this one. I think that knowing where blind spots in your knowledge are is one of the hardest things, but it can really be helpful with continually learning.
“Successful people accept responsibility for their failures. Unsuccessful people blame others for their failures.
As a general rule, I would agree. Taking responsibility for one’s actions is so crucial in virtually all aspects of life, from work to school to relationships. Pointing fingers at a scapegoat is almost never valid. Even with situations outside of our control, we always control how we react to them.
“Successful people have a sense of gratitude. Unsuccessful people have a sense of entitlement.”
Can I get an amen?! I think this is so darn true. I really don’t even feel the need to elaborate on my agreement with this statement. There’s not much more I can add. Gratitude cultivates peace and satisfaction.
“Successful people set goals and develop life plans. Unsuccessful people never set goals.”
While I’m generally not a fan of absolutes that aren’t preceded with qualifiers like “almost,” the spirit of this statement does resonate strongly with me. I wonder, though, how much of my agreement with it is biased due to my personality of being a super OCD list-making, goal-setting go-getter. For example, I would be interested to hear a counter argument about the freedom that may come with drifting where the winds may take you.
Tell me, now that I’ve opined on this alleged formula for “success” (again, whatever that means), I would love the comment section to become a dialogue of what you guys think!