Who Are We Trying to Impress?

March 25, 2014 Spencer Thompson

In both our personal and professional lives, we are constantly striving to do better. Few people flat-line in life, happy with no growth at all. This is probably due to a combination of media and expectations. Is striving to do better a bad thing? No, of course not. But sometimes, the reason why we are striving to do better, is what can be a negative. And more often than not, it has to do with our influences.

Many people that we consider ‘unsuccessful’ are the ones that have had negative, or indifferent influences growing up. It is a psychological destroyer if a baby has no motherly contact or love from the time they are born. This lack of a connection leads to many problems growing up. But looking at successful individuals, (not rich necessarily, but people that have achieved a level of success in their field) we notice that many of them say that role models and mentors are a big reason behind their success. 

Mentors and role models can be a very positive thing, and sometimes they can be negative. The positives are obvious; you have someone that has ‘been there, done that’ and can help you avoid pitfalls, they have a network already and they can help you learn at a much faster pace. But we have to be careful who our mentors are. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, they can influence us in a way that is not conducive to our goals, but what they would have done if they were in our shoes. 

Of course, not all influences are ‘physical’ people we talk to, many role models come from books, music, TV and now, the Internet.

When you take a look at the number of people in your industry trying to succeed, ask yourself — what is their driving force? Is it to reach their personal goals? Or is it to impress others? Very often many of the decisions we make, whether we think so or not, are to impress the people around us, even if we don’t know who they are.

Realizing this can allow us to alter the way that we think about success. Success is not making other people see how much you have achieved. It is about making you happy with how much you have achieved. There is a profound difference. One scenario is done entirely for the wrong reasons. The other is what makes us intrinsically tick, which is the most important thing in life.

To put this in perspective, let’s take the example of an entrepreneur. We’ve all heard of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Richard Branson and Oprah. Their businesses are all totally different. Some are in technology, some are in natural resources, others media. But the common thread is that none of these people really ‘played by the rules’. Bill Gates started a company after dropping out of Harvard. Steve Jobs helped co-found Apple, and then left, and then came back. Not exactly the norm. Richard Branson has admitted to poor financial business skills, yet has built eight separate one billion dollar companies. Again, not normal. The point I am trying to make, is that if most of these entrepreneurs had allowed themselves to be influenced by people that took them away from what their gut told them to do, or were building their companies to “impress others”, they would not have been as successful. 

When it comes to careers, many people will offer their opinions on what you should do with your life. But if you are only trying to make yourself happy, and achieve your own goals, what others say should definitely be taken with a grain of salt. Many times people will have your best interest at heart, but remember that they are not you. Whatever you choose to do in life, take the advice that resonates with you, use it, and discard the rest. Your life, simply based on genetics, can never be the same as someone else’s. Everyone’s path is different, and that is what makes humans so unique.

We have many choices. We can choose to live our lives the way that makes us the happiest. Or we can choose to live our lives trying to impress others, many of whom we don’t know, just because we think that is the right thing to do. It’s totally up to you, since as with everything, it’s your choice.


Written by Spencer Thompson

About the Author

Spencer Thompson

Spencer Thompson is the founder and ceo of Sokanu. His mission is to help every person on the planet understand what makes them tick. He has spoken at Microsoft, SAP, and TiE, and sits on the board of VEF Momentum and other education startups. He is deeply interested in neuroscience, economics, culture, and design.

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