I recently listened to a podcast by James Altucher where he interviewed Ted Leonsis (former president of AOL and current owner of several Washington DC professional sports franchises) who talked about his six secrets to achieving happiness and success. The first secret is to actively participate in multiple groups of interest. That is, a happy and successful person must be a contributing member of more than one organization involved with activities the person is actually interested in. Second, a happy and successful person makes an effort to listen to others and also experiences regular opportunities for self-expression where other people are listening. Third, a happy and successful person has empathy for others. Fourth, a happy and successful person gets out of the “I” and into the “we”. By this, I take Leonsis to mean that a happy and successful person is not looking for opportunities for self-aggrandizement and is motivated to be a team player. Fifth, a happy and successful person finds a higher calling in all pursuits. That is, his pursuits are motivated by goals that benefit the greater good and not just the bottom line. And sixth, a happy and successful person creates situations that give rise to a “double bottom line” (i.e., multiple beneficial outcomes).
I found the interview inspiring and I highly recommend giving it a listen. But while I was listening I kept thinking that shame actively works to undermine each one of these secrets to success and happiness. First, shame does not like to participating groups because shame feels judged by other people, jealous of other people’s success and ashamed of its own failures. Shame perceives the success of others as a personal failure in comparison. Group situations tend to exacerbate these feelings and as a result shame will avoid them. Even when shame operates within a group setting and receives acceptance the high is really high and then shame tends to sabotage it and turn it into something bad. Shame then becomes suspicious of success and avoids it (or becomes incapable of embracing success) when it arrives. Second, shame does not want to listen to others because it finds others annoying or it becomes jealous and ashamed when listening to other people’s success. Furthermore, shame is afraid to put itself out there and express itself because it is afraid of judgment and criticism. Third, shame does not have empathy for others or itself. Fourth, shame is dominated by the “I” both in desperately trying to look good in the eyes of others and in criticizing the self to appease others (in order to look good in the eyes of others). Fifth, shame has no higher calling but to look good in the eyes of others. Sixth, shame never gets to be in a position of creating situations that give rise to a double bottom line because shame undermines its endeavors in the manner already described.
The bottom line I take from this is to be happy and successful a person must overcome shame at all costs.