I know too many brilliant people who hold themselves back. I’ve been thinking a lot about tall poppy syndrome recently, wondering why it works. Why is it effective? What, exactly, are we scared of? It can’t be fear of what other people think (they likely admire your achievements).
This train of thought started a few nights ago during a chat with Jeffrey Tucker. He was recounting the story of his introduction to detachable shirt collars, the sum of which is:
The first detachable collar Jeffrey received came from a priest. He was reluctant to wear it at first, so he waited a few days. When he put it on he realised I look awesome. The next morning, looking at the collar Jeffrey decided he couldn’t be awesome every day, so he waited a few more days before wearing it again. By the third time he realised, wait, why can’t I just be awesome every day? So he threw out all his shirts and started buying collarless ones.
What was stopping Jeffrey wearing the collars wasn’t himself, of what others thought (I’m sure he received compliments). It was fear of being discouraged and reprimanded by peers for being different. And that is exactly what tall poppy syndrome is.
I always try not to let fear stop me from doing things. Fear of failure shouldn’t prevent you from trying to succeed. At worst it gives you an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.
A few days ago I realised I’d failed at this when a co-worker asked why I wasn’t wearing the fur coat (which, funnily enough, Jeffrey gave me). I hadn’t worn it because of what (I thought) others would think. Later, I realised I hadn’t actually learnt anything from Jeffrey’s story. If I was wary of wearing a(n admittedly over-the-top) coat to work, what else was I avoiding?
Jeffrey’s first thought every morning is how can I be awesome today? He accomplishes this by finding something different, one little thing extra he can do that day. That is how you become exceptional and achieve success.
It means telling yourself, I’ll enter one more line of data before getting lunch, and then adding ten more.
Or scanning through lists of 300 HS codes and summarising them into 20 items hit by tariffs (instead of copying the three same items listed by every news article: oranges, Harley-Davidsons and blue jeans).
Or five minutes spent formatting an excel sheet.
But it has to be something.