Did someone change the dictionary and not bother to tell me? Methinks so, because “success” seems to have become a four-letter word overnight.

When I was growing up (you know, back in the day when we had to walk 20 miles to school, uphill both ways), success was something to be admired, something to strive for. But now, success seems to be something to view with contempt and scorn, as though someone else’s success must have happened at the expense of your good fortune (or someone else’s).

Sure, there are some bad apples out there, but the good outweigh the bad by far. Success should be celebrated, admired, honored.

Why? Glad you asked. Let me share my take with a look back at a blog I did a little over a year ago . . .

Let the Success of Others Motivate You to Do More
(Originally posted on February 8, 2012)

When someone gets a bonus at work, or some other form of recognition, are you happy for him or her—even when you get no such recognition? Or do you become overwhelmed with the feeling of sour grapes (or bananas), wishing it was you in the spotlight?

What about when a family member or friend is the center of attention at your latest gathering? Admit it. Like most, you probably get a little peeved.

Competitiveness and drive are all hallmarks of achievers in our society, without which we wouldn’t live the lifestyles we do, nor enjoy our techno-gadgets, high performance vehicles, 24×7 entertainment, or benefit from various medicines and cures. It’s simply human nature to want to do good, to achieve, and to get that proverbial pat on the back, whether it’s for a job well done or simple acknowledgement that you’re important to somebody else.

Yet when others get recognition for their efforts, it’s often met with contempt by colleagues and even friends and family . . . as though the recognition somehow occurs at the expense of others.

Most times—if not all times—someone else’s good fortune does not detract from your own performance or worthiness. You, too, can be rewarded, recognized, acknowledged, admired, and praised—all you need to do is go for it and earn it. (To paraphrase Yoda, “Without try, there is no do.”) And I can guarantee you won’t win many accolades or get too far in life by always whining over the victories of others or constantly raining on their parades.

Case in point: the New York Giants just won the Superbowl. They are at the peak of the sports world and have gotten about as much attention lately as anyone could possibly want. Granted, the New England Patriots players wish they could have been victorious—it’s human nature after all—but instead of complaining, “Why not me?” or “What about me?” they were quick to congratulate the Giants and are already talking about NEXT year’s run. They understand that they can achieve what they want only through hard work, effort, and stick-to-itiveness—not through whining.

In the old days, we called this “sportsmanship”—where the losers in a contest would genuinely wish the victors well and use the opportunity as a life lesson to improve and come back better and stronger than before—and we encouraged it in all aspects of our lives. Competition and respect for high-performers and high-achievers is what drove individual athletes, players, and teams to get bigger, better, stronger, faster.

While, much of what sportsmanship represented has been overshadowed (at least at the pro level) by big money, even bigger endorsements, and everyone wanting their 15-minutes of fame, we can still apply its lessons to our everyday lives.

  • Next time your co-worker gets a bonus or “employee of the month” award, genuinely celebrate with him or her . . . and instead of feeling slighted, look inward and ask yourself, “What can I do so that’s ME next time?” Use the experience to motivate yourself to do more, to be more.
  • Ditto when you are gathering with friends and family. Now, I’m not suggesting you put on a lampshade and tap dance on your favorite uncle’s pool table, but take a moment to consider what you can do, how you can be, so that you are more engaged in the action and conversation (no one likes a gloomy monkey!).
  • Apply this same thinking in your community. Admire those who give freely of their time and themselves to help others. Revel in their selflessness, and challenge yourself to do more.

Think about how much better a place this world could be if, instead of envying the success of others, we chose to ENJOY their success, knowing there’s plenty more success to spread around. Connect with these people. Find out what makes them tick, why they’re successful, and use their accomplishments as a way to motivate you to achieve some goals of your own. We can’t all be top dogs (or monkeys), but we can at least be part of the solution, rather than just naysayers nipping at others’ heels.

What examples of success at work, at play, or in your community can you emulate? How have you used the success of another (competitor, colleague, family member) to motivate you to do more? Share it here!