People have a strange habit of discouraging others anytime they try to improve themselves. This applies to everything from finances to health to careers. I constantly encounter this when people discover that I’ve never bought a new car. I’ve always known that a high quality used car is a far better deal than a new one that loses 25 percent of its value the day it’s driven home. My lifelong philosophy on this was confirmed when Tom Stanley and William Danko reported in The Millionaire Next Door that the average millionaire never buys new cars and later by financial guru Dave Ramsey. Yet the people who mock me for this the most are those who are drowning in a sea of debt including huge car payments.
I also encountered this when I went on a low carbohydrate diet. I was amazed at how quick people were to tell me the diet was unhealthy and that I should get off it immediately. Many were graphic in describing how all the red meat would block my arteries and kill me. None of those critics ever cared enough to learn that I actually ate more fish and chicken once I started the diet, and far less red meat than I ate before I started it. My cholesterol dropped dramatically and I lost 52 pounds, which I have kept off for seven years. I find it ironic that none of those critics ever said, “Glenn, you’re fat and it’s bad for your health. You need to lose weight” before I went on the diet. Their criticism only came once I tried to improve my situation.
The same will happen to you when you try to improve your career. There will be people in your life that will discourage you from working harder. They’ll purport to be concerned about your well-being but their concerns could be far less noble. If they were really concerned about you they would inquire about your financial situation or goals and offer you encouragement. Their real concern may be that they look lazy if you work too hard. They’ll say things such as “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life” or “Don’t forget to smell the flowers along the way.” Look closely and you’ll notice most of them can’t afford any flowers to smell.
This habit of pulling people down when they try to improve themselves isn’t limited to humans. John Maxwell tells a story of a study done on how animals can pull each other down. Four monkeys were locked inside a room with a pole in the middle. A bunch of bananas hung from the top of the pole and one monkey tried to climb the pole to get them. The experimenters hit him with a blast of water that knocked him off the pole just as he reached the bananas. Each of the other three monkeys tried to reach the bananas and each was knocked off the pole by a blast of water. Eventually they all quit trying. The experimenters then replaced one monkey with a new one who didn’t know about the water hose. He immediately tried to climb the pole but was pulled down by the others. The experimenters replaced each monkey one by one. Each new monkey tried to climb the pole and was pulled down. Eventually there were four monkeys who had never been hit with the blast of water. None of them would climb the pole but none knew why. Don’t let the monkeys in your life pull you down while you’re trying to climb the ladder of success.