“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” -Oprah Winfrey
“That’s easy for Oprah to say!”
Those are the words I recently heard someone say in response to the above quote by Oprah Winfrey.
Here’s the rest of their rebuttal:
“…great advice from a billionaire. Of course she has enough.”
I guess that person was so busy bemoaning Oprah’s “easy” life that they didn’t have time to read about How Oprah Winfrey Literally Rose From Rags To Multi-Billion Dollar Riches.
Here’s another example:
I recently watched a TEDx talk by Mel Robbins entitled, How To Stop Screwing Yourself Over.
Here was one of the reaction comments by a fellow viewer:
A physically attractive white woman is a self-proclaimed expert at getting what she wants. it must be nice.
I don’t know anything about the person who wrote that comment nor do I appoint myself as judge over anything they do or say.
However, I do find those last four words very interesting: It must be nice.
Those words resonate with me because I believe that most of us (if not all of us) have thought something similar after hearing someone talk positively about the possibilities of life.
In an excellent post called “Success and the Shrug Effect,” Ramit Sethi underscores this tendency:
Isn’t it easy to point at someone really successful, listing the reasons why he’s so successful, but also the reasons he made it but you can’t? Pointing at someone successful, attributing it to external factors, and shrugging because you don’t have identical qualities. I call this “The Shrug Effect.” It’s easy to do The Shrug Effect and attribute others’ success to qualities you don’t have, shrugging because you can’t equal them. But that’s simplistic, and it’s an excuse to stay in your current state and do nothing differently.
Here are a few examples of how we quickly shrug off our possibilities for self-improvement:
No one takes me seriously because I’m ugly. No one takes me seriously because I’m pretty. That’s easy for him to say, but he’s young and I’m old. That’s easy for him to say, but he’s old and I’m young. Sure. If I had tons of money, I’m sure I’d be a success story too. If I had a bunch of kids, I’d be happy and fulfilled too. If I didn’t have a bunch of kids, I’d be happy and fulfilled too. If I had the help and support of a spouse, I’m sure I’d accomplish twice as much as I now do. If I wasn’t burdened with the pressures and responsibilities of a spouse, I’m sure I’d accomplish twice as much as I now do.
The “shrug effect” is dangerous because it can literally be applied to any insight no matter how helpful the information might be. If you don’t want to believe that happiness, success, well-being, and healthy relationships are possible for you, it’s extremely easy to find an excuse.
Just zoom in on the differences and emphasize the hell out of them.
That sounds great, but you don’t know MY spouse.
Advice dismissed. See how easy that is? I didn’t even have to work.
That sounds nice and all, but see I don’t have the same parents, educational background, or personality traits as the person who wrote that book.
Learning session done! No need to roll up my sleeves. I’m unique!
Advice on happiness?
I’m sure you mean well, but I have different genes than you and those genes don’t make it very easy for me to be happy.
That settles it!
Find me an expert with something worth listening to and I will find differences between them and I that could easily be used to negate their advice.
Is he the exact age as me? Is he from the exact place I’m from? Same skin color? Same weight? Did I mention height? Does he have my looks? Is it even a he? Has this person been bullied like me? If so, have they been bullied by the exact kinds of bullies I’ve had to face? Have they had to overcome my obstacles? Did they grow up with my parents and my pressures?
In “How to Conquer Self-sabotage,” Ramit Sethi writes:
We find one sliver of information that isn’t exactly tailored to our situation and say, “Aha! I knew this wasn’t for me. Have we truly lost the ability to take advice and apply the right parts to our situation? Should I kill myself right now? Here’s a common example from commenters on my site. I teach some technique about earning more. “RAMIT, THAT’S TOTAL NONSENSE AND YOU KNOW IT. That would NEVER work for me because I [live in Norway/have an overweight cousin/skipped college/have an apple tree but not an orange tree in my backyard].” It’s like they cannot pick and choose — and they don’t realize that good advice is mixed in with advice that may not be exactly applied to you.These people want everything spoon fed to them — advice perfectly tailored to their age, gender, location, social situation, even diet. And if it’s not — UGH! RIDICULOUS!
At this point, it may seem as if I’m making a mockery of the distinction between advantages and disadvantages. That is the exact opposite of my point.
Advantages and disadvantages do exists! Furthermore, every piece of advice you will ever receive from anyone is going to come from the perspective of a person that has at least one advantage that you don’t have.
You can focus on the seeming unfairness of that advantage or you can interpolate. You can count yourself out because you’re too ugly, too pretty, too educated, too uneducated, too rich, too poor, too young, too inexperienced, or too whatever…
You can learn a modicum of wisdom from everyone and you can get creative with how you apply those lessons to your own unique situation.
Of course, your significant other is different. Of course, your financial condition is different. Of course, your body is different. Of course, your life history is different. Of course, your parents are different. Of course, your goals are different. Of course, your fears are different. Of course, your questions are different. The details of your life will always be different from the generalized nature of the advice you receive from others because no one has ever lived your life before.
10% of self-help involves acquiring new information. The other 90% involves the hard work of translating information into a language that speaks to the specificity of your life situation.
When you’re confronted with the possibilities of what your life can become, will you look at others and say,
“That’s easy for them to say” and “it must be nice to be them”
will you look in the mirror and say,
“It would be nice to broaden my horizons. Today, I think I’ll give it a try”?
The choice is yours.
Don’t shrug it off.