“A Rising Tide Raises All Boats…” and how that relates to our attitude to success

How’s your attitude to success?

In business, competition, and life generally, there are times where it is tempting to look at success as a zero-sum game.

That is, that when others win, I must lose. And in the smaller picture, perhaps there’s something to that. If you get the job and I don’t, yes, I’ve lost out. On THAT occasion. THAT opportunity…

…but there are other opportunities, and if the zero-sum gremlin can keep us focused on how we lost out to someone else, it keeps us from looking for, and seeing, other possibilities and opportunities that are out there.

Another problem I see with this zero-sum attitude in the BIGGER picture is that not only does it distract us from looking for future opportunities, it can spoil our attitude and raise the stakes every time we try something- if our identity, feeling of worth etc. is all based on the outcome of that one particular event, WOW that is a lot of pressure to carry before we even step up to begin!

Beyond that, it can also absolutely scupper our ability to respect and play nicely with others!

Here’s the real problem: in the bigger picture, success really doesn’t work like that. The old adage is right: “A rising tide raises all boats.”

A Rising Tide Raises All Boats

More competition is GOOD for us- it pushes us to get better. It’s one of the reasons I always encourage students to get out of their small local areas and test themselves in bigger arenas, in front of bigger audiences. ‘As iron sharpens iron’ so we need good people who push us and make us sharper- who make us think, innovate, push our limitations. As we improve, we push others to improve, who then in turn will improve and push us, and so on…

‘There be dragons’

There IS room for more than one of us to be great in our area- I know many of you reading this are trainers and it can be tempting to see your tribe as the only one worth being part of, to have a ‘there be dragons’ attitude to others. And often you’ll have reasons for that- whether first hand or courtesy of gossip. I wish I could say I’ve never fallen into that trap myself, but, you know, #human.

The zero-sum gremlin deserves more than a little credit for this attitude- where it can link our identity and self-worth with a specific outcome we want, it puts us in opposition to others in a much deeper way than if its our performance on the day v.s their performance on the day. The latter is about what we DO, the former is about who we ARE.

Where you find yourself having a ‘there be dragons’ attitude to others, just check in with yourself that there’s not a personal insecurity or identity piece fanning the flames of that attitude. And if there is, douse it quickly! It is not going to serve you well!

Whose cup of tea are you?

Whether we like it or not, we are NEVER going to be everyone’s cup of tea. You are NOT able to be all things to all people- maybe your skill is high performance, or maybe your passion is helping people who’re just starting out. Neither are better than the other- we need both.

Who are you best at serving? What kind of people do you actually want to attract? Who do you really not want to work with? There are perhaps people that you need to ‘release to other opportunities’ because there’s someone out there who they could work better with, who might be a better ‘fit’. That’s ok! In fact it takes a good dose of self-awareness to see where something isn’t a good fit and do something about it for the betterment of all concerned!

It’s not about you!

I KNOW it’s hard when people go buy elsewhere after working with you, but it’s not necessarily about you! You be the best you you can be, and please resist the gremlin temptation to get any of your identity/self-worth from how many students you have or who is in your tribe, because that is very vulnerable and subject to MANY factors beyond your control and that are also not about you.

People change and grow- just as most of us have different mentors and people we look up to than when we first started out, so people may move on from you. It’s ok. Similarly, people who previously didn’t want to work with you may join you. Again, it’s as much as timing as anything else.

Being on either side of this coin does not, in itself signal failure or success… though looking big picture, over time, it may give you clues about things you could tweak.

Broaden your attitude to success

Here’s a few strategies to save your sanity and enjoy the rising tide when it lifts not only your boat, but that of others…

  1. You’re not for everyone. Be you, attract your tribe, and be your best. Those are the bits you can control.
  2. Look beyond small ‘wins’ or even losses. Think big picture, how can you use others’ success to make you better, to push you forward. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  3. Delight for others and appreciation of their skills CAN be held in tension with frustration/disappointment at points on your own journey. Others’ success says nothing about you, don’t buy the zero-sum lie.
  4. Your self-worth is not the sum of your successes, followers, students or bank balance. Sorry, but it’s not. You have intrinsic worth whether you’re living out of your car or cashing in millions and riding a pile of gold medals. Beware getting your identity or worth from people or possessions. You have worth and you matter, regardless of who does/does not see it.
  5. Embracing competition is good for you. Look for the strengths in others and let them get on with improving themselves, while you focus on being your best version of you. Where you can collaborate- even on small things- you take a liberated stance whereby you can be less affected by petty disagreements. If you can’t, no worries, just stay classy.
  6. Know yourself and your goals. Who do you actually want to work with? When are you actually at your best? Attract your tribe and let others attract theirs.
  7. You’re not going to like everyone, and they’re not going to like you. It’s ok. Just stay classy 😉


Is this easy? Not always, and to be fair, I didn’t say it would be. What I *DO* know, from personal experience, and from almost a decade of teaching others, and consulting with businesses, is that the more you can release the idea of others’ success being to your detriment, the freer you will feel. The less anxious, stressed and defensive you will become. The less vulnerable to engaging in negative talk about those others.

Rising above is SO much more fun that buying into common attitudes of ‘us v.s them’. None of us are going to be perfect, but I can tell you that it is a buzz and feels AMAZING when you can acknowledge and accept that no-one else can be you, you can’t be that competitor and it’s ok. THAT is a great place to be!

You do you, you fabulous creature! And remember, a rising tide really does raise all boats… and that includes YOURS!

Over to you: let me know what stands out for you from this- what strikes you? What do you struggle with? Let’s keep the conversation going!


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