I was having dinner with a friend the other night when he pulled out his phone to show me a New York-based life coach on Instagram. He’s 27, gay, has 125K followers, and is also a fashion model, personal trainer, writer, and self-described “influencer.” I scrolled through his feed of gorgeous photos, which led to binge-reading all of his blog posts. My initial reaction was: “Okay, I’m done, I quit. What’s the point in me trying to be a life coach when this dude beat me to it–and does it better?” It took me a few minutes to recover, but eventually I got over it, because, duh: there’s room for both of us. I am happy to offer an alternative to the overdone, I mean, classic #MotivationMonday and #FitnessFriday posts. We each have something unique to offer and there’s an audience for both of us. This is true for everybody in their respective fields.
Look at Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. They may both be pop stars, but they are extremely different in terms of look, sound, personality, and career. Both are amazing! Katy Perry could never be Lady Gaga, and Lady Gaga couldn’t be Katy Perry. It would be a shame if Katy Perry sat around sad that she couldn’t sing or dance as well as Gaga, when she herself has a larger collection of hit songs. And it would be a shame if Gaga sat around comparing her commercial success to Katy Perry’s, because she does it all herself without relying on a top-notch team of songwriters and producers. They both represent different ends of the pop spectrum, and both are essential. Their successes don’t cancel each other out. In fact, they share millions of the same fans. People like options. Variety is good! There’s a reason why Lays has literally hundreds of flavors. Bacon Mac & Cheese might sound absolutely disgusting to you, but somebody out there fucking loves it! Don’t suppress your unique flavor because you know that Classic Lays sells. You weren’t born to be basic, you were born to be bold!
The larger point is that there is room for all of us to be successful. As Steak (aka Rachel Anderson) frequently says on her advice column: “success is not finite.” Many of us believe, perhaps subconsciously, that there is a limited amount of fortune or fame that we are all fighting for. It’s in our biology; animals are conditioned to compete for scarce resources. But we have evolved, and we have an abundance of resources now. There is enough success to go around. Just because somebody else is successful does not mean you can’t be as well. Oprah knows this better than anyone. She always lifts other people up–she even gives them their own shows! She isn’t threatened by their success, but encourages it.
I graduated from Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts last year, among a couple thousand incredibly driven, focused, and ambitious individuals thirsty for success. Many of them know exactly what they want and are already crushing it–producing television pilots, anchoring news shows, becoming YouTube celebs, you name it. These people, my graduating class, are the next generation of the entertainment industry. It’s not always easy to witness peers my age earning so much money and headed for the top. It’s easy to feel jealous. I have friends confide in me all the time that they feel envious and filled with self-doubt and pity because they spend so much time looking at the highs of other people’s lives on social media. It’s normal, but it shouldn’t be. Someone else’s success should be a motivator, not be a deterrent, on your own journey of pursuing success. Be inspired; if they can do it, why can’t you?
There’s no reason to be jealous of where somebody else is now, because you could be heading there next. It doesn’t matter where you are starting off, or how long it takes you to get where you want to be. Obviously privilege plays a role in how quickly or easily you achieve success, but get over it. Don’t focus on that. The more time you spend complaining about the unfairness of it all, the less time spent hustling and creating something of yourself. You aren’t entitled to a victim mentality just because you weren’t born with privilege. Oprah is proof! You cannot use marginalization as an excuse, because everybody has the power to overcome their starting points and create their own ending.
Just because you see that someone is a producer on Vanderpump Rules, for instance, or a real estate agent selling million dollar homes, doesn’t give you any insight into their actual well being. There is a huge discrepency between what is depicted on social media and real life. I know a lot of people with enviable jobs who hate their lives. Is making $80,000 a year at age 23 a success, even if you’re living in a constant state of anxiety and depression? This happens commonly, because people are chasing after somebody else’s idea of success, and living a life that is inauthentic. So many people are driven by the egoic aspects of jobs–bragging rights, financial benefits–rather than their passion. Of course money is a great reason to get a job. You gotta do what you gotta do, boo! But once you’ve reached a certain point of comfort and stability, you hit a wall. You feel a void. You need to be motivated by more than money. You need to live in alignment with your core values.
You have need to be self-aware; know and accept your abilities and limitations. Dream a dream that is aligned with who you really are and what you’re capable of, one that makes use of your truest and best self. Create your own lane and stay in it. Become a success by capitalizing on what makes you unique. Don’t strive to be trending, strive to be interesting. Authenticity and vulnerability: they aren’t just current self-help buzzwords. They’re everything. By being your real self, you’re encouraging others to be their real selves. The world doesn’t need more hot, Instafamous #sponsored people in it. The world needs more people to say what they’re really thinking (even if it offends people), to be honest about what they’re feeling (even if it isn’t positive), and be brave enough to be all of who they really are (especially if it’s as bold as Bacon Mac & Cheese.) That’s a true success that other people would be jealous of.