The worst kind of success


Jay-z said once in an article that it was important for him to do things on his own terms, and be truthful to himself and his own vision of who he was an artist. And that he fought tooth and nail to keep from trying to do things the way that other people did. And to keep from being a copycat.

Because the worst kind of success is being successful at trying to be someone else.” Jay-Z

I knew that I’d “made it” as a creative person the second I started to suffer from Imposter Syndrome. Trying to study and learn from more successful freelance writers gave me an inferiority complex so bad that I started to hide from even trying to apply for jobs. I was convinced that no matter how hard I tried, I’d never manage to measure up from the clips they’d assembled or at the very least squeeze out the slick, professional looking websites they had.

So Imposter Syndrome set in in the worst way.

I knew deep down that no matter how much I tried, how much I queried that I would never manage to be as successful or prolific as the people Bob Bly spotlighted in The Well Fed Writer. I’d never get the career that they had. I’d never, ever be them.

And then I miracle occurred.

I realized that Imposter Syndrome wasn’t something that wasn’t some kind of mental gatekeeper trying to squash my efforts before they got off of the ground. It was a bright red fire truck screaming at me that I was about to make myself into a pale copy of someone else.

That voice in my head saying “Who do you think you are? You aren’t Bob Bly!” wasn’t putting me down. It was doing everything it could do to protect me from going in the wrong direction.

Imposter Syndrome isn’t some all knowing voice from the future, passing down judgement on my ability to do something, it’s my gut instinct telling me that I’m about to go down the wrong path in some misguided attempt to be “Me, too.”

Because there’s nothing worse than being a pale imitation of someone else.”–Jay Z.

As soon as I heard him say that, to be honest, I scoffed. Heck, I would’ve been happy being successful, no matter how it happened. Success is success, right? Money in the bank, regular clients come from following the rules, doing it in a professional way. Everybody has to pay her dues, right?

Then I had to be honest with myself and flash back to the last time I was “successful” and I “followed the rules.”

Yours truly spent 36 hours in grad school learning how to get a “real job,” which was followed by seven long miserable years in a “real job.” I had a steady paycheck, health insurance, and a couple of vacation days if they weren’t eaten up by the numerous sick days that I had to take due to stress induced illness. By most people’s definition, I was successful.

Despite being completely miserable, I kept listening to well meaning advice that I had to do things the “normal” way. I had to be responsible, keep that almighty salary with the health insurance. No, I couldn’t even think about applying for a job that was supposed to be above me because I had to pay my dues. I had to learn how to do things, and if I was a good girl I’d be a success after making all the moves and sacrifices everyone before me did.

But I was being successful being a third rate copy of someone else’s life.

Nicholas Cardot asked yesterday what’s keeping me from achieving success. In my case, there are several reasons, which I’m going to share in upcoming posts. Before I stumbled across the Jay-Z interview, I would’ve sworn that Imposter Syndrome was bullying me into not being successful in the first place. I resented the fear that it was instilling in my life.

Finally I got it into my head that Imposter Syndrome was saving my life, keeping me from making yet another mistake with my life by following someone else’s rules. I was careening towards making the same mistake, only this time it was worse because I’d be making it while pursuing my dream job of being a writer.

I was lucky that after I got that first “real job” that I landed in the midst of people who make their own rules and do things their own way.

So today I thank god for Imposter Syndrome cropping up and paralyzing me before I got very far. It convinced me that trying to be like everyone else was futile. That caution light was a life saver and a career saver.

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  1. Hello Laura,

    I’m a Boat Jumper too!! And today I am happier than I’ve ever been. One of the most shocking aspects of becoming a Boat Jumper, was being able to see that my choices in career and education, dictated the company I kept, the places I enjoyed… and once I made new choices, I was completely out of step with my old life. Law of attraction I guess! Regardless, it’s so good to be out of step with the masses, and wake up with a smile every day, no matter what.

    Thank you for a great post,
    Abi Harper recently posted..The Musician’s Purpose in 5 Steps

    • Hey there! Welcome to the club.

      I had to learn a hard truth about the company I was keeping, too. I realized that a lot of them were getting a sense of superiority seeing how miserable I was in my old job. As long as I was “the girl who hates her job and complains about it 24/7″ they had one up on me.

      And then when I started to stop complaining all the time and was a lot happier, they didn’t want me around them. So a lot of them started to get vicious when I’d talk to them, and try to scare me into thinking I’d fall flat on my face.

      Eh, whatever. They’re probably complaining about their lives to someone else who’s looking down on them now.


  1. [...] Hey, nobody wants to be, or to be perceived to be, a second rate version of someone else. [...]

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