In my son’s middle school, there was a girl with a great singing voice. Her parents generously invested in her talent, allowing her to record several songs in a professional studio, which turned out rather well. However, none of her classmates seemed to admire her accomplishments. Instead, they started teasing her and making fun of her efforts. Strangely, it seemed like they wanted her to abandon her ambitions.
But why? It wasn’t a matter of envy, as none of these children had shown any prior interest in singing or harbored dreams of becoming musicians themselves. Moreover, the girl never boasted that her song was a masterpiece nor did she expect immense success. She was fully aware that she had a long way to go before becoming a seasoned pro; she was merely taking her first steps toward her dream.
So, why did her classmates instinctively criticize her? Were they perhaps envious that someone among them dared to take decisive action? Not at all. It was a highly advanced school where hard work and success were the norms for everyone.
Their actions lacked logic, and, if anything, they were only harming themselves.
When a friend excels at something and begins a brilliant career, it means you have a valuable connection that can undoubtedly be advantageous in the future.
In theory, it’s in everyone’s best interest to help those around them succeed, but more often than not, this doesn’t happen. This holds true across various social groups: schoolchildren, military personnel, corporate employees, gang members, etc. It is evident that this behavior stems from an instinctual program that once served a purpose and had become deeply ingrained in our ways of dealing with others.
Leaders and Inspirers
Not every instance of personal development triggers irritation among people. If someone decides to delve into mathematics or develops an interest in psychology, they’re more likely to receive praise. The only individuals who might get annoyed are family members who deem such activities inappropriate or untimely. But friends and acquaintances will generally react with calm acceptance if someone wants to become an Expert or Sage.
Discontent with others’ ambitions only arises when someone aspires to be either a Leader or an Inspirer. (You can delve deeper into these personality types in my book, How to Unlock Your Potential.)
Do you aspire to be the class president? Do dreams of climbing the leadership ladder occupy your thoughts? Are you the one who takes charge during picnics or parent-teacher conferences? Expect scrutiny, judgment, and even ridicule. The same holds true if you seek the roles of a singer, actor, author, influencer, and so on.
A Hero Emerges
Every society needs Leaders and Inspirers, but we’re willing to accept them in these roles only under two conditions:
1) They gradually ascend to this status, proving their worth to others year after year.
2) They demonstrate that they possess the qualities of the “chosen ones,” i.e., heroes.
A hero cannot emerge from one’s immediate environment. They could hail from distant lands, be born into noble families, receive divine revelations, possess magical abilities, defeat monsters, and so on. In essence, a hero must initially possess unique, desirable, and unattainable qualities in the eyes of others.
Alternatively, an established hero may share their authority with a newbie and bestow upon them the coveted status.
If a person doesn’t have any commendations or signs of being the “chosen one,” people instinctively view them as a mere commoner attempting to wear the armor of a knight.
Why Are We Annoyed by Others’ Ambitions?
We can only speculate on how and why this subconscious program developed. I have three hypotheses:
1) If your friend becomes a hero while you do not, then they have a better chance of attracting a mate. Experts and Sages, on the other hand, do not elicit such resistance because their pursuits do not imply personal adoration. People admire their work and knowledge, not them as a person.
2) If your friend becomes a hero, you will likely lose them. They will outgrow their native village, and their powerful instincts will make them seek self-realization elsewhere. But you had counted on them! A strong, intelligent, and talented individual holds great value in a small community. If they do not stay, that means that they will take away their personal potential along with their precious genes.
3) It all stems from a very old instinct compelling primates to ostracize any young male who desires to be an alpha in the group. He typically matures in solitude or among other such outcasts, only to return to the pack later and challenge the old leader’s dominance.
In antiquity, this concept predominantly pertained to males, but in the modern era, this disposition extends to females as they have started to undertake roles once exclusively associated with men.
This third perspective was proposed by my friend Irina Chan. However, alternative explanations for this phenomenon may exist. If you have any thoughts, please share them.
What Should a Hero Do?
What should you do if you find yourself in the hero’s shoes, feeling like one but facing rejection from others?
The answer to this question has long been discovered: you need to develop something that others will consider “the sign of the chosen one.”
It’s not merely about talent; it’s about acquiring skills and knowledge through hard work. This involves meaningful, strenuous efforts directed toward your specific goal, something beyond the comprehension of ordinary individuals. They’d rather spend their lives on entertainment and work that brings income but no satisfaction. Even if they venture into something, they’ll quickly abandon it at the first sign of failure.
The hero, however, does not yield so easily, and that’s what makes them a hero.