The Best Revenge Is to Prove Them Wrong
Top performers often remark that when people doubt them, it makes them work harder to prove them wrong. They feel a special responsibility to show doubters that they have made a massive misjudgment. And they’ll work diligently to prove the point.
In his memoir, legendary rock singer Roger Daltry, of the band The Who, credits much of his success to his south London headmaster, Mr. Kibblewhite. After expelling him from school for fighting, Kibblewhite told Daltry in no uncertain terms on the way out, “You’ll never make anything of your life.”
From that moment on, Daltry became committed to proving Mr. Kibblewhite wrong. The rest is history.
Proving those who doubt us wrong can be a powerful motivator. So many successful people share this narrative that it is almost an archetype of success.
A closer examination of these stories, however, reveals that rarely do such provocative remarks come from good intentions. In most cases, the leader, teacher, or parent suggesting future failure does so from a place of frustration, anger, ill-will, or all of the above.
Sadly, we don’t hear much about the stadiums of people who give up because they agree with the assessment, or at least do not believe they possess the skills or desire to disconfirm the prediction. When a leader proclaims another person will never amount to much, they take a tremendous gamble. And when such proclamations come from parents or prized mentors, such remarks can destroy lives.
Despite the benefit of reverse psychology now and again, good leaders don’t challenge people with the idea of imminent failure. Telling others they won’t succeed may light a fire, but it also may burn down the house.
Challenging others to work harder, smarter, and with higher purpose is something leaders do naturally. But making gloomy predictions about future success to turbo-charge motivation is a risk good leaders won’t take. There are plenty of doubters and haters in everyone’s world. Leaders never belong in that camp.