Triumphing the Tall Poppy

Tall Poppy
Tall Poppy

There is a national epidemic in Australia known as “The Tall Poppy Syndrome”. For those who may not know exactly what this means; it is defined by Wikipedia as:

“A social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.”

It’s bred into us. We learn it from our parents, they learn it from their parents and now the question is will we teach it to our children? I hope not. I’m trying not to.

Personal Implications

As biological organisms we are competitive by nature. We want to survive. We want to pass on our genes. In short we want to be the best. And this manifests uniquely… For some it’s being the best at sport, others at making money, others at being compassionate. For some it’s being as independent and insular as possible. Showing the world that you can survive on your own. Whatever your groove… I believe it all comes down to our inherent will to survive.

So given that it’s part of our fundamental code, how does the Tall Poppy Syndrome fit into this? In short, not well. It’s the antithesis of our natural inclination. We want to be good at stuff, we want to be recognised, we want to be successful.

We grow up competing because we want to survive, we’re encouraged by our parents and teachers to be the best, but then our peers tell us not to be too good.

So we end up simultaneously striving to succeed but trying not to stand up too high above the rest. The result is confusion. Imagine if a plant did this. Wanted to grow high up to the sun but didn’t want to grow higher than the other plants? It would become a mutated mess.

And I think this is exactly what happens to us. Our self esteem gets effected, our satisfaction in life is diminished since we’re not allowing ourselves to grow to our fullest potential and the instincts of survival and self preservation pull our psyches in opposing directions which causes stress.

Business Implications

The Tall Poppy Syndrome is rife in the business world. We may admire successful business people, but at the same time we love to hate them.

The general message is, be successful but not too successful. Overall it’s confusing and the stress that starts on a personal level flows over into our business lives. Especially for those of us with our own businesses. How do we promote ourselves within the confines of the Tall Poppy?

What a big fat waste of time and energy it is. What ends up happening is, you get to a certain age and have to re-educate yourself that it is in fact ok to be the best you can be. Then you set about trying to unlock your own personal greatness which has been hidden for fear of ridicule and bring it out into the light so that other’s can benefit from it.

Really, what can be more powerful than being clear about who you are, what you’re passionate about, and who your passion can help (in a business sense). Being able to do this opens you up to being in the flow, finding your purpose, accessing professional and personal satisfaction and the happy flow on from this of course is income.

How to Triumph the Tall Poppy

You may think it’s arrogant to “blow your own whistle” and “toot your own horn”. But the thing is you have to. It’s actually arrogant not to share your unique gifts with the world. Give this a business reframe and you’ve literally got what others want and need. There will be a combination of dynamic factors that make up your unique selling proposition. And this translates into the reason people want to do business with you and not your competition.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself which will help you to locate your inner light and show you where to shine it:

  1. What are you good at
  2. Where do you apply this
  3. Why are you good at this
  4. How do you know
  5. What if you didn’t know (what do you have that other’s don’t have)
  6. Who needs what you’ve got
…Have fun Tall Poppy! 😉
This is Day 17 of my 30 day writing challenge
inspired by Matt Cutts on TED Talks
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