What You’re REALLY Seeing When You See ‘Success’

Do you ever feel jealous when you see someone else being successful? Wonder what the secret to success is? If you fall down the comparison hole, click through to read this post. #success #secrettosuccess #envy #jealousy

Do you ever fall down an Internet envy hole?

You scroll through someone’s Instagram feed, green-eyeing their expensive vacations, ‘internet famous’ friends, and Pinterest-worthy home.

Or maybe your heart beats double time when they share their monthly income. Or your stomach rumbles with jealousy when they launch a course on a topic you’d always meant to write about …. but never quite did.

Sound familiar? Dude, I get it. I have been there.

I’m pretty much the captain of S.S. There’s Enough Success For Everyone. I’m leading the parade of A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.

And yet … I’ve sat in my best friend’s kitchen, moaning that I don’t earn multiple six figures. I’ve unfollowed perfectly lovely humans because knowing that they earn $32,000 a month through sponsor posts makes me want to eat my hat.

I’ve seen the vacations in Italian villas and glared sulkily at the walls of the Mexican beach house where I’m staying. WHY U NOT AN ITALIAN VILLA U DUMB BEACH HOUSE.

This is, of course, ridiculous and unproductive.

It’s also not a realistic way to view success.

When we see other people’s success what we’re really seeing is…

* Years and years of polishing, honing, and perfecting a craft
* Parties skipped and weekends worked
* Thousands of dollars invested in courses, tools, consultants
* A jillion emails, pitches, and comments sent
* Lots and lots of compromises and second thoughts
* A certain amount of right-place-right-timing

When we see 'success' what we're actually looking at it years of struggle, failure, rejection + luck. Click To Tweet

What it looks like: an Instagram-worthy trip to Mexico
What we’re really seeing: the results of 10-12 hour work days leading up to the trip, irate emails to the Airbnb host when the internet doesn’t work, turning on the out-of-office-auto-responder (and then still checking email)

What it looks like: a $28,000 launch
What we’re really seeing: five previous launches that flopped, $2,000 spent on a launch coach, fine tuning and fine tuning and fine tuning Facebook ads

What it looks like: a podcast that’s gone gangbusters in its first year
What we’re really seeing: two super talented women who’ve been working online + building connections for 5+ years launched a beautifully branded, super helpful podcast that features lots of interesting people with big audiences

What it looks like: a best-selling book
What we’re really seeing: one million rounds of edits, eight months of writing eight hours a day, interviewing + hiring + working with an editor, a designer, a photographer, and a typesetter.

So let’s make a pact. When the inevitable happens – when we just a little jealous of someone else’s success – let’s make an active decision to view that success through the lens of reality. Instead of the gorgeous, impressive endgame, let’s squint our eyes and see all the hard word they put into that success.

And know that if we work hard, we can probably do the same.

How do you cope when you find yourself envious of someone else’s success? And what does success look like for you

P.S. If you need help getting out of your way + finding your version of success, I help with that!

Photo by Shifaaz shamoon on Unsplash

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  1. Kate

    Oh gosh, this is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you!

    • sarahvon

      So glad it resonated with you, Kate! <3

  2. Morgan Gist MacDonald

    Sarah, I love this post, so much!!! The book behind-the-scenes rings so true because I work on the back-end of successful books, and (yes!) they’re a ton of work. Difference between first draft and published draft? Huge! But your point about the course launch behind-the-scenes hit home for me, right now, because I’m preparing for my second course launch. Trying to keep my eyes on my own work, not the person who just launched her course with 50 people. I don’t know her story, so gotta stick to mine. Thanks for the reminder!

    • sarahvon

      Yes! And best of luck with your launch! <3

  3. Katie

    Ohmyword, how I needed to read this today! Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Shelby

    Wow! This nails exactly how I feel 99.9% of the time. You work your butt off for hours and years, and for me at this point I often find myself feeling like my brain is melting out of my ears as I close my computer after spending 8 hours researching how to succeed and what to do next etc. etc. Making a career for yourself online is intimidating, exciting, exhausting, but (hopefully someday) rewarding. Sometimes you just wish someone would run up to you and push you in the right direction! But I am happy I stumbled across this post and your site in general today. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • sarahvon

      Oh, thanks so much Shelby! (And I know the feeling of the never-ending research!)

  5. Lisa Jordie @TheDriftingDesk

    Thanks Sarah, this was a perfect post. Sometimes (and we’re all guilty of it) we’re so fast to compare our beginnings to the middle of other people’s stories, and we lose touch of what and how they actually got there. I needed to look at logistics of the reality of some of these things, thank you!

    • sarahvon


  6. Rozanne

    I can’t say I gawk over things other people have that much — not holidays, houses and launches, anyway. To me it’s not about how expensive something was, but how much I liked it.

    For probably about three years now I’ve really wanted to start a successful blog. Not there yet, but definitely working towards that goal more constructively now than I have in the past by practising my writing skills and figuring out a way to support myself financially so I’m able to dedicate more time to doing what will get me where I want to go.

    That said, I envy pretty blogs. So many pretty blogs! I don’t have the skills to set up something quite as advanced as most of the more successful bloggers tend to have. I also envy the clear online presence these people tend to have and the fact that they have it “all figured out”. They know exactly what they want to say and the absolute best way to say it, too.

    When I see that, I often feel a tinge of disappointment in myself. Like, they’re so cool and I’m not that cool, or they know so much and I still have a ton to learn. Oh well! Then I just pick myself up again, remind myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day (not even for them) and that they were probably where I am now when they just started out; they probably envied other bloggers the same as I do.

    Thank you for this post Sarah! I really enjoy your writing. So glad I discovered you!

  7. Mike

    Damn fine reminder.

    And the people online that I admire the most are the ones who are relentlessly, frightening transparent about how they make their successes happen. Here’s a good example: how one guy sold 5000 copies of his new book (and made $35,000 from it) in one month with just 700 e-mail subscribers: http://taylorpearson.me/jesusmarketing/ My first thought when I saw that title was “oh sheesh, here we go again, it’s a mixture of shameless flannel and a plug for a course” but nope, he outlines EVERYTHING. Really great to see.

    • sarahvon

      Ooooh! I’ll have to check that out!

  8. Lane

    Thank you for writing this! Keep on doing it – the World needs to be filled with more articles like this! We all need encouragement, so thank you for providing that! 😀 Peace and Love!

  9. Daisy

    The rant at the beach house made me laugh! Thanks for the encouragement with this post.

    • sarahvon

      I can assure you, that ish is real. 😉

  10. Courtney

    This was so encouraging for me! Thank you so much! I feel revitalized!!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      So glad it resonated with you Courtney!

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