His parents got divorced when he was nine.
He didn’t do so hot in school.
And his middle school teacher told him that he’d never be successful.
Everybody seems to have their own definition of success, but I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone to dispute that winning 14 Olympic gold medals is a pretty good indicator of success. Admirably, Michael Phelps didn’t use his teacher’s inaccurate opinion as an excuse to shrink back and settle for a life of mediocrity. Instead, he used the words as fuel to drive him, posting them in his locker so he’d see them before and after every practice.
Many similarly inspiring people have summoned the strength to rise above the pain and doubt resulting from abusive put-downs from parents, teachers, and friends to achieve great success.
The desire to prove someone wrong is very powerful indeed.
It can also cloud our judgement lead us down a dark path.
A son of poor immigrants is ridiculed by classmates for wearing second-hand clothing. The hurtful comments propel him to graduate with honors from Harvard and achieve great financial success. But the memories of the sarcastic remarks make him fearful of ever being poor again, so he works long hours and says yes to every project that promises to pad his bottom line, at the expense of spending time with his wife and children.
A woman spends her whole life trying to prove to her deceased father that she has what is takes to be an excellent lawyer, when her skills and passion are better suited to running a bakery.
Insults from so-called friends lead an overweight guy to make some lifestyle changes in order to get down to a healthy weight. But the euphoria of success drives him to take extreme and dangerous measures to stay thin — no matter what the cost.
Who are YOU trying to prove wrong?
I suspect that every single one of us is motivated to some extent by the moments when we’ve been wronged or doubted. Like a thistle from a thorn bush, those words of discouragement sting when they’re delivered, and they can stick with us for a very long time.
The danger comes when we fail to step back to identify our motivation and examine how it has driven our actions. Pressing forward might lead us down a dead end road where the only prize is a rusty bucket of regret.
May you always rise above the haters who disregard the remarkable potential within you. They don’t see the full picture, and only you can determine how your story ends. But don’t let your desire to prove someone wrong rob you of your health, happiness, or true purpose in life.
It’s not worth it.
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