Great Minds are Always Feared by Lesser Minds

Published: 02nd December 2009
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The choice is ours: we can spend a weekend watching Prison Break, or we can spend the same time reading the great Dialogues of Plato. There are many choices that can be made; sleep late or get fit in the park, eat a brownie or an apple, drink a martini or a glass of water, go on holiday to the beach or travel to a country in need to volunteer your services, buy a new Porsche or invest the money on a new business. Life is full of choices; none of them are right or wrong. The only wrong thing, however, is to allow the green eyed monster inside of us, to feel envy of those who had made choices different than ours. What is even worst is to turn that envy into gossip, wanting to damage those who chose differently than us.

I used to work in a big corporation. On one occasion, I had a female subordinate who made my life hell. She was on a secretarial position, and as most of the women on my workplace were secretaries, she knew them all. I was her team leader, half her age and a hundred times her education. I was not perfect but I was kind and fair to her. She was accustomed to be told what to do by men, not by another woman. It was a very difficult experience. She used aspects of my private life to gossip about me and use them to damage my reputation at work, as if wanting to bring me down with her, to damage me, to show everyone that I was just another average human being like she was.

I used to go home and cry for hours. It was exhausting to deal with her. I spent hours reading the Harvard Business Review on how to deal with difficult subordinates, and I explored everything there was about female interaction in the workplace. Until one day, it was a friend of mine who explained to me the reason for the behavior of that woman.

She told me: first of all, you are half her age. When she was your age, she was on the exact same position that she is today. Years later, she is stuck in the same place, and you remind her every day of the life that she will never have. Second, you are a challenge to her paradigms. She believes that Latin American women are the waitresses in the restaurants of her continent and the maids at home. You have come to destroy her paradigm, because not only you are not her maid, but you are her boss. Third, you wear emeralds to work every day! You come from Colombia! Of course you wear emeralds to work. For her, on the contrary, emeralds are precious stones that she will never afford to buy, ever. Finally, you dare to live, hence you are meant to make mistakes. She has never taken a chance in her life, and most likely she has not made any big mistakes either. You have, and you have made big mistakes as well. She envies how lively you are, and she will use your mistakes to try to bring you down.

Easy! I did not need the HBR to teach me that. It is sadly a fact of life. Envy is a feeling that has the power to push us to excel, yet that motivates people to damage other people.

Envy is not exclusive to women. It is everywhere. It does not recognise a gender, nationality or religion. It is there to damage, to destroy.

If you are experiencing the envy of others, here are some things that you can do to analyse and improve the situation:

1. What is it that you are envied about? Whatever it is, nurture it more, do not try to conceal it or hide it or stop having it. Nurture it, improve it.

2. Approach whoever envies you and help him to obtain that, which he envies you about. If your colleague Patrick is envious of your perfect presentations at work, next time he has to stand in front of a crowd, offer your help, and help Patrick to excel at his work. This is a very powerful tool at work. When you offer your help, and teach that person to shine like you do, you have to be dealing with a very miserable human being for him to keep gossiping about you. Most of the times, he will just shut up out of dignity.

3. Never, ever, allow those who envy you to bring you down. It is tempting, believe me. When you walk in a corridor and people look at you and disapprove of you, your instinct to fit, to be part of a group, may lead you to try to fit the mould. However, if you fit the mould you are no longer special. You will be accepted, you will be liked. Those who gossiped about you will still gossip, trust me. So you have not accomplished anything, only the approval of those who keep talking about you when you are gone.

4. Great minds are always feared by lesser minds. Your greatness reminds others of what they could not accomplish. It scares people to have great people around. It is a scary feeling to be left behind. It is very scary to see someone living her dreams while you sit in a corner dreaming your life.

So keep moving forward and pay less attention to the lesser minds and more attention to the greater minds. Learn from both, there are powerful lessons about human behavior and human nature in every person we deal with. Do not, however, dwell too much with those who┬┤ve chosen to envy you and criticise you, after all, very soon, you will leave them behind.

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