Winner’s Syndrome: A Side-Effect Of Success.
Posted on October 10, 2015
We all have friends or family who have just done so well for themselves that they, well…rub it in our faces.
You might recognize the signs in some of the people you know and interact with on a daily basis. For example, “Uncle Fred” may have landed an entry-level job with a company and within months, he shot to the top. A typical conversation might go something like this:
YOU: “Hey, Uncle Fred. How’re things?”
FRED: “Great! Never been better. Just bought myself a new truck.”
YOU: “Yeah? Wow. Didn’t you just buy one last year? That’s amazing you can do that.”
FRED: “Don’t give me that. You could, too, if you actually tried. I mean, look at yourself. You’re in your thirties and you’re still working a 9-5 job.”
YOU: “Whoa. That escalated quickly.”
FRED: “When I was your age, younger than you even, I just went into that job and I did whatever it took. I worked my ass off. Within months, I was in a position to become what I am now. All you need to do is set your sights on something, actually GO for it, and it’ll be yours. If you don’t get what you want, you only have yourself to blame. Nobody else. You need to be DRIVEN.”
You get the idea. Uncle Fred is a very mixed-up individual. On the one hand, he wants you to succeed and the only way he knows how to help is to lecture you at every opportunity. In addition to the lecturing, he has also decided that you have not been trying to do anything. You’ve just been sitting home, listening to Prairie Home Companion, eating waffles. Who even knows what crazy things kids are up to these days, anyway, right?
On the other hand – there is a lot of posturing going on. Bragging. If nobody achieves the same results as Uncle Fred, then that means they’re doing it wrong or they are lazy. They haven’t tried, they haven’t thought of doing anything that Uncle Fred found to be successful.
The truth is, no matter how hard someone works for something – there is always the element of luck involved whether “winners” admit it or not. This doesn’t take away from any hard work actually done to get something, because the hard work still has to be done. However, there are many, many people out there who work hard every day and never get anywhere. It’s not for lack of trying, it’s not for lack of drive. It’s just that not everyone can be successful. If that were the case, we’d all be drinking booze with little gold flakes in it every day like it was as free as tap water. In the case of Mr. Dinklage, in the image above – he seems to be confusing his luck back then when he hadn’t hit it big with his luck now. He seems to think that because he wasn’t lucky back then, it would negate all of his hard work up until now. That’s simply not true. (Also, he used the word “fortunate” which means pretty much the same thing as “luck” in my book – but I’ll get back to Mr. Dinklage later on.)
Back when I was married, my wife seemed to only know successful people who could have magical work schedules. She herself had become a vet tech almost by accident. She was working menial jobs like her stint in a coffee shop, and she did work hard (even worked two jobs for a while) and when she started working at the vet clinic as a receptionist, she made sure to let them know she was interested in becoming a tech. After having had no formal training or education, they decided to let her slowly begin to train and become a tech. After a while, she became one and kept moving up in pay until the time I finally met her. Even then, she was making double what I made a year but toward the end of my time with her, she ended up making close to triple what I did and I had even landed a better job than when we first met. She couldn’t understand, because of her own trajectory and those trajectories of people in her personal sphere, how I couldn’t get a good job. She couldn’t understand, even though she hadn’t even done the work of going through tech school and had been given an opportunity – something that hadn’t (and still hasn’t) happened to me.
My own journey was less inspiring than hers. I had jumped around after college to middle-management jobs. Pizza Hut, Irving, Circle K, Starbucks. In Maine, opportunity is limited and I took what I could get. I went to school for English and the creative arts, not for something that could sustain me like nursing – which I may have gone for instead if I’d known. I wanted to be a writer, not a doctor. Still, no matter what happened – I never found an opportunity (not due to not looking) to move up, or to get into a job that promised the capability of doing so.
Even now, I am in my thirties and have recently acquired an MFA degree from one of the top MFA programs in the country. I am being held back in my current job by a vengeful boss, who will not let me advance, not for any other reason than that she doesn’t like me. I’ve been searching around for other jobs, and they just aren’t out there or are too hard to compete for. I recently applied to a great company a few times, and have had help on the inside trying to get me in – but it was all to no avail. Until then, I’m going to keep on writing – I’m going to keep on searching. But for now – the luck isn’t with me, though I’ve been working hard since the beginning of this summer – sending out resumes and making calls.
Peter Dinklage is lucky in lots of ways, even though he obviously put in some hard work. He’s lucky we live in a time when people are more conscious about being politically correct and are more willing to give him serious chances as an actor. In the not-so-recent past, the only roles available to him would’ve been circus freaks, leprechauns, or worse. He’s also lucky that Game Of Thrones became such a sensation. That alone has given him access to better roles. He’s lucky that the economy is still doing well enough that people are still watching movies, and tuning into pay-to-watch services like Netflix. He’s lucky in many ways, and to say that he’s not actually is like spitting on that “freezing guy back in Brooklyn”. What? Is that guy just not trying hard enough? Is he not working hard enough? Maybe not…but maybe he is. Maybe he’s working even harder but he can’t catch a break. They call it “making it big” and “catching a break” for a reason.
Most of the people I know in my own personal sphere are all struggling in some way just to get by. I know writers, artists, musicians, models, teachers, nurses, lawyers, vet techs, cashiers, baristas, etc. Nobody I know is particularly well-off, even some of the writers and artists I know who are actually being published or commissioned. It doesn’t mean they’re not trying. There are so many factors to consider – depreciation of the American dollar….stagnant job market…over-saturation of people who hold degrees and multiple degrees…geographic location…job politics…etc.
And this mindset doesn’t just apply to jobs, either – but life in general. People love to make the stance, proudly, that they have endured more hardships than you have and just “worked their butts off” to get where they were. But they don’t realize that they may be having help from a significant other, or that even though they went through a similar event as you that you are different people and thus handle things a lot differently.
So think about that the next time Uncle Fred or Peter Dinklage tell you that you’re just not trying. Realize that they are afflicted with “Winner’s Syndrome” and have probably lost touch with reality. Just keep doing your best, and remember not to fall into that same trap if you can. Because it’s really freakin’ annoying.