You Are So Damn Lucky – Stop Blaming Your Family, Your Friends, & Your Society & Get Off Your Ass

I’ve traveled the world. Well, quite a few parts of it, anyway. Enough to see a pattern, certainly. First of all, everybody, everywhere, is convinced that their countrymen are the worst drivers in the world. And…

Everybody, everywhere, is convinced that their country/city/family is the worst environment for creating a great business.

In Austria, people tell me how hard it is to create a business, and how terrible the taxes are. (Two things that I can tell you from first hand experience are, in fact, not so bad at all.)

In London, I’ve heard about how nobody will believe in you — and even investors will refuse to acknowledge your brilliance by giving you their money. I once read an essay that claimed that “only 1 in 10 business people ‘get it’” in London. Only.

In New Zealand, I’ve been told that folks daren’t do great things because of “Tall Poppy Syndrome” — that is to say, the tall poppy gets mowed. They say people in NZ resent and cut down anyone who strives to go above & beyond. You know, “Who do they think they are?”

And Tall Poppy Syndrome, of course, sounds remarkably like the “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down” — a Japanese proverb.

The Austrians believed that London and the US was better; the Londoners, New Zealanders thought the US was better.

Of course, the US is my home turf. I’ve lived most of my life in the US, and have more connections there than anywhere else. I’ve got enough material about the US for hundreds of essays:

People complaining about the system. About their jobs. About their families’ lack of support.

And, perhaps most brutally of all, complaining about the absolute hubris and gall of their compatriots.

How dare they.

Mike Lee & The Clattering Claws

You know that famous, experienced iApp developer guy who announced he would start charging $1,000 an hour?

Well the “community” full of alleged “entrepreneurs” — mostly American, it seems — couldn’t have piled on faster with:

  • Who does he think he is?
  • Ha! That’ll never happen in a month of Sundays!
  • HA HA

Yadda yadda yadda. Honkhonksnore.

Gee, This Sounds Familiar…

Could it be Tall Poppy at work? Or perhaps Stick-uppy Nail?

Call it what you like. I call it the Crab Bucket (after Terry Pratchett).

But… It’s Americans! The Land of Milk and Honey and Outsized Optimism and Supportive Parents and Embracing Failure and Money Money MONEY!

And yet…

An Intimate, Open Source Example

You probably know about OSCON, the mega-conf that O’Reilly Media puts on every year, all about Open Source. What you probably don’t know is that I was on the committee for several years running.

One year, I argued strongly against a certain talk proposal because it was badly written, without value for the audience… and I had bought the speaker’s book and found it to be positively dreadful.

My overall feeling was: Not On My Watch.

Later, when I was walking the halls during the conference, I happened upon a conversation. I happened to overhear that would-be speaker talking to a friend…

Railing about how her talk was “barred” because she was a woman.

It took all the self-control I had to keep my mouth shut.

Stop Lying To Yourself… And Everyone Else

That right there is the same principle at work, dear reader. The principle of the Big, Sexy Excuse.

It’s not my fault, it’s Society.

It’s not my fault, it’s my family.

It’s not my fault, it’s my vagina — and what other people think about it.

All lies.

All Big, Sexy Excuses that’ll get you a little righteous anger, a little clucking sympathy, and a fat lotta nothing done.

Successful People Struggle. End of Story.

Everywhere you find folks who buck the status quo, you find them drinking and moaning and blogging about why their family, their friends, and their society fails to support them. Why there aren’t more people like them. Why people don’t understand them.

Why they feel so damn alone.

This is a universal experience. It can’t be escaped.

And yet, there are those who kick ass anyway.

Those who don’t cuddle their excuses close like their favorite blankie. Who don’t hang their whining out in public like a white flag. Who don’t wait for some magical time when the stars align, for everything to be easy before they get to work.

Who show up, who do awesome shit, and who do it all bravely against the grain — because true success is always against the grain.

Because they know that their excuses don’t matter, only their efforts do. And they know that nobody will ever invite them to do great work. They have to invite themselves.

Choose to be one of them.

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  1. Richard

    This is very important, but those who need it most probably won’t listen. To the few who aren’t sure of themselves yet, when you see someone else do something that doesn’t seem possible you should thank them for showing you that it can be done and then study how they did it and decide if it’s worth doing what it takes to get there. If not, now you know why it’s so rare.

    • Amy

      Generally speaking, no matter what you do, the people who need it most won’t listen. So I don’t let that stop me :) I like the idea of thanking people.

  2. Michael


    Great article and I couldn’t agree more. I can think of quite a few people off the top of my head who need to read this post. There’s nothing productive about looking at a defeat and saying “Look, there was nothing I could do, it wasn’t my fault.”

    • Amy

      Agreed, Michael. Even if it’s true, there’s STILL nothing productive in thinking that way… and it’s rarely true.

  3. Amber Weinberg

    All too true. It’s sad to hear friends and family tell me “I cant” when they really mean “I won’t”. No one ever got anything done with excuses. All success comes with risk.

  4. Henning Glatter-Gotz

    But, uhm, but … never mind. Lifting ass off couch now.

    Ever thought of adding a motivational track to your education offerings? Very nicely put! I have to show this to a bunch of people.

  5. Teddy K. Nielsen

    Hear-Hear, Amy. Self-pity is a nonsensical way of subduing yourself and procrastinating action.

    In Denmark, where I live, we have an unwritten law called “The Jante Law”:

    I hate that way of thinking. A lot of people hold back initiatives and moderate their aspirations because of this mindset. Sometimes even I, unconsciously, am subject to this mindset.

    • Amy

      Teddy – that’s interesting, I hadn’t heard of Jante before. Just goes to show, it’s the same everywhere. Every country has it & every country thinks it’s special to them.

  6. Human

    I notice that you only wrote about people living in the developed-first-world-nations complaining. You should visit the third-world-under-developed-nations like India, Nepal, Srilanka where there are bomb blasts, terrorism, Maoist and Naxal wars and civil unrest is very common. Corruption is a part of daily life as is a severe lack of opportunity and poverty. Yet people complain less, and are more warm and friendly. It is amazing how people in the first world nations (mostly Americans) have a HUGE sense of entitlement about everything in life. Their world starts and ends with them.

  7. barer

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is needed to get set up? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% certain. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks


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