Be Happy About the Success of Others

Interpersonal competence is one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.  If you want to become interpersonally competent, you need to do three things: 1) get to know yourself; 2) Build strong, lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with the important people in your life; 3) Learn how to resolve conflict constructively.

A while back in a post I did on optimism and self confidence, I mentioned a quote in which Ambrose Bierce bashed optimism. 

“The doctrine that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong… It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.”

The other day, I came across another quote from Mr. Bierce,

“Calamities are of two kinds: misfortunes to ourselves, and good fortune to others.”

No wonder ole’ Ambrose was called “Bitter Bierce” by his contemporaries.  First he bashes optimism, then he suggests that human beings see the good fortune of others as a personal calamity. 

Ambrose Bierce is an interesting character.  He was born in 1842, and served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  No one knows for sure, but it is thought that he died in 1914.  In 1913, he traveled to Mexico to observe firsthand the revolution going on there. 

He joined up with Pancho Villa’s army in Juarez.  On December 26 1913, he posted a letter to a friend from the city of Chihuahua.  That was his last correspondence.  Wikipedia says, “Several writers have speculated that he headed north to the Grand Canyon, found a remote spot there and shot himself, though no evidence exists to support this view. All investigations into his fate have proved fruitless, and despite an abundance of theories his end remains shrouded in mystery. The date of his death is generally cited as ‘1914?’”.  His disappearance is one of the most famous in American literary history.

In 1906 he published “The Cynic’s Word Book”, later to become known as “The Devil’s Dictionary”.   It is a book of satirical definitions of English words.  Ambrose was clever, I’ll give him that.  I often see quotes from this book online, including the one that inspired today’s post, “Calamities are of two kinds: misfortunes to ourselves, and good fortune to others.”

But I digress.  I wish he were around today, because I would like to ask him where he got his bleak view of human nature.  He defines politeness as, “The most acceptable hypocrisy.”  In another quote, he defines perseverance as, “A lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success.”

Do you know any people like Ambrose Bierce?  If you do, hold them at arm’s length.  While you may find them to be witty and entertaining at first, they will drag you down in the long run.

I find Ambrose Bierce’s views to be incompatible with interpersonal competence.  Interpersonally competent people look for, and usually find, the best in others.  They are polite because it is the best way to build strong relationships.  They are willing to extend themselves to help others, even when they can see no immediate return to them for so doing.

If you read this blog regularly, you know I am a big fan of The Optimist Creed.  Point 6 says,

“Promise yourself to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are of your own.”

This is 180 degrees from the Ambrose Bierce quote that I cited at the beginning of this post and from his life view in general.  Interpersonally competent people aren’t jealous or upset by the success of others.  Interpersonally competent people are genuinely pleased when they see others succeed.  They see the success of others’ as an inspiration.  They use it to motivate themselves to achieve bigger and better successes.

If you would like a copy of The Optimist Creed that you can frame and hang in your workspace, please send an e mail to with the words “Optimist Creed” in the subject line.

The common sense point here is clear.  Successful people are interpersonally competent.  Interpersonally competent people build strong relationships with the people around them.  In part, they build these relationships by being genuinely pleased about the success of others.  They are not jealous, nor petty.  They are happy to see others succeed.  Interpersonally competent people use the success of others to motivate themselves to greater success.

That’s my take on interpersonal competence and how one reacts to the success of others.  What’s yours?  Please leave a quote sharing your thoughts on these ideas.  As always, thanks for reading – and writing.


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