UNIVERSAL MAN – EP 11 – TALL POPPY

 

“Your candle doesn’t glow brighter when you blow someone else’s out”

What is Tall Poppy?

The ‘tall poppy’ is a mentality that seeks to put the performance of another down in order to feel good within our own mediocrity. Tall Poppy thinking is at home in the herd. In the herd mentality the sheep flock to the pool of the lowest common denominator – of mediocrity to help them feel better in their own lack of courage to risk and dare and dream to become their best self. Tall Poppy thinking is not about the object of the criticism but more about the thrower of the mud, the cynic and the armchair critic. Rarely will you find tall poppy thinking come from those who have shed the blood and sweat of real battle.

Effects

The effect upon the person seeking to be their best self when confronted by mud-slingers can be devastating. At the recent Commonwealth Games, Emily Seebohm challenged many elements of the Australian media who appear never to be satisfied with anything less than a Gold medal from swimmers. At this Commonwealth Games, the Australian swim team was highly successful if you measure success in Gold Medals won. The accolades in the media were generous. But what if in those many ‘close calls’ – eg the final swim of the met where the Australia team of Larkin, Packard, Irvine and Chalmers touched the wall .09 seconds ahead of the English, we had come second or third and our overall medal tally had been significantly less. Would the media be howling for blood? In former Commonwealth and Olympic games despite thousands of hours of training and often putting in ‘personal bests’ sections of the media have been scathing of our swimmers’ performance.

So often those on the end of the tall poppy put down can lose confidence. When you are exhausted and given your all and often in a quite vulnerable place the ill-informed mud slung to create a headline can truly hurt and sap confidence. Tall Poppy putdowns can create a loss of perspective and those who have given their all can give credence to the armchair critic. At times this can lead to a diminishment of trust; in self, in the other, the team and the wider community that you have given your best to and for.

Most elite athletes have a more hardened shell the product of performing in the glare of public scrutiny. Many others who perform to their best in the sports venues of suburbia don’t have the luxury of a sports psychologist to help them weather the storm. The self-doubt can kick in, the teasing can become part of the bleating of the herd and the courage to ‘get back on the horse again’ may flicker and die.

The effect on the cynic, critic or mud-slinger is significant too. The easily flung insult or criticism, the bleating bahhhh often hidden among the herd, or the snide barb fired at the vulnerable can deepen the victim persona of the bully firing the arrow. Each barb digs the hole of fear and mediocrity and negativity deeper. Each bit of digging makes the effort to be YOUR best self-harder. Sadly there is a communal side to all of this and the negativity and cynicism can hook the same energy among others and this only reinforces the spiral that robs the individual or the community of the noble journey to be their best.

What do we know about the tall poppy mentality?

Putting the other down so as to feel good about yourself comes from a space of your insecurity. The energy is other focussed in a non-reflective way. The green eye of jealousy is not far below the surface and the pleasure one may feel in dumping on the other is always short-lived and ultimately self-defeating – you invariably end up feeling worse about yourself. Hidden in the ‘put down’ energy is the fear that WE are not good enough. The cynic and the critic are marching to many drums; the herd, the populist, but never their own.

One of the good things about being at the end of a tall poppy attack is that it can help you on your journey to an even greater personal freedom. We are not really free when we are constantly concerned and losing energy to what others say or think about us. When we go within and are clear about our own goals and expectations and choose to put our best efforts forward we slowly grow to know that that is all that matters. Our honest efforts when placed against our own expectations give us a freedom to be the ‘best me I can be!’ As the uninformed criticism or cynical tall poppy attack of the other comes our way, we slowly grow beyond and above its effects; we gain an ever deeper personal freedom and resilience. That does not mean that we are not open to true constructive criticism. But we are more ‘at home’ in our own skin.

We all fail, we all have feet of clay; no one of us is perfect. The journey of life is NOT about perfection. So when criticism comes our way, as it will, part of the journey is to acknowledge the element of that that we have personal control over and responsibility for. Then we reflect and learn from it and then make the choice to move on stronger and wiser. The Steve Smith ‘ball tampering’ incident is a classic example of this. Smith did the wrong thing and no-one, including Smith himself, has questioned this. The crucial thing is what he has done with the incident. He went inside (gain perspective), reframed the situation for himself and then in true humility came back out, apologised and named the learnings for himself from it. Steve Smith will be a stronger and wiser leader of men as a result.

We know that in the tall poppy scenario that thrower of mud is invariably someone who has not risked to be their best self, has not gone out on the limb and who hides behind group thinking and the bleating of the sheep around them. As Adler says, “The place where people meet to seek the highest, this is holy ground!” The cynic and armchair critic ‘safely’ sets a standard and a level of scrutiny upon the other that they would never dare place upon themselves; there is a degree of hypocrisy there!!

How to respond to a tall poppy attack?

  1. The first thing to do when mud is slung at our best efforts is to stop, reflect and seek the wisdom that lays within the situation. Even physically stopping, taking a moment to regain perspective or stepping away from the noise surrounding criticism can be of great value. In this quiet space objectively look at your performance matched against YOUR expectations and criteria and hear again from within the beat of YOUR drum.
  2. Reframe the situation. Know that the attack is the other’s issue – not yours.
  3. If necessary work on a new narrative; your narrative – your story and effect and take on what has occurred. Sure in the midst of it you may be disappointed in your performance but it is a disappointment from within you and in the context of your goals and expectations.
  4. You perform to your yardstick; to your criteria – and you do not live comparing yourself with others.
  5. Refocus your goals and establish short, medium and long-term goals in the light of what you have learnt from the event and even the criticism.
  6. Seek out someone from your Wolfpack – someone that you trust – and check out if the ‘criticism’ is fair. The good friend can be honest and open with you and that is a great gift.

Your Challenge

On your own or with a few mates, answer the following:

  1. How do I respond to criticism?
  2. How do I differentiate between fair and healthy criticism and a tall poppy put-down? What are my criteria?
  3. Who in my life do I have a tendency to ‘put down’? Reflect on the root causes around this?

Stay legendary

Pricey and Grego

UNIVERSAL MAN – EP 6 – WOLFPACK

NTRODUCTION

The wolfpack is those people you spend the most time with and those that have a strong influence on your mindset, the events in your life and how you engage with them. We all have wolfpacks.

But the key questions are whether the pack is enhancing your sense of self? – leading you to become an even better you? OR is your wolfpack a compromising influence within your life – leading to the lowest common denominator?

A negative group think  lessens your true sense of self and, of course, as a member of the wolfpack, this influence is two way. Who are you influencing and how?

The wolfpack maybe two or three highly significant individuals (men and women) whom you trust and can share deeply with or it may be a larger group; those you surround yourself with who share your values and approaches to life.

WHY IS YOUR WOLFPACK SO IMPORTANT?

The wolfpack takes on many roles. Obviously, there is a key personal and professional support role. In the midst of life, it is great to know that we are not alone and that the questions and challenges we face – others share as well. The true wolfpack is those we can reach out to when we need to and know they will, as far as humanly possible, be there for us. They are not just “fair weather friends!”

The wolfpack will call us to be our best selves, to march to our own drum and for that drum to be the beat that only we can play. The wolfpack never becomes a herd of sheep blindly following the other into a meaningless existence. When the wolfpack challenges us we respond because we know that the other has our best interests at heart. These challenges can take many forms from the physical as they workout beside us in the gym encouraging us or having the credibility to ask us the difficult question that we avoid and so inviting us to a level of reflection and introspection from where our wisdom will emerge.

FLOW-ON EFFECTS OF YOUR WOLFPACK

The wolfpack will have a strong influence on who you meet, who you associate with, what you read and the challenges you set for yourself. A positive circle of influence all around you will open quality doors within your life, provide opportunities, influence how you spend your time, what your mindsets and heartsets are as you view the world.

But as we stated previously the wolfpack can be a negative group too and the flip side of each of the elements just named can compromise you and lead you down a path of a negative or victim or blame mentality that will rob you of ever being your best self.

Because your energy will be flowing in this supportive and challenging environment the effect on our physical and mental health is pervasive. The flow on to professional and financial success is obvious. Michael Jordan would often reflect that he would prefer a champion team to a team of champions. The wolfpack is the champion team that enables and ennobles each member to be their own champion individually and collectively.

You will know when you are part of a lifegiving wolfpack. There will be a positive energy around it, there will be a sense of brotherhood, of true welcome and acceptance, of freedom to be yourself and of seeking the highest in every form that it takes. The wolfpack will be drawing the best out of you and you will find yourself growing more and more into who you truly want to be. You do NOT lose yourself in the midst of the pack; rather – in a seemingly contradictory, paradoxical way – you find your best self.

The lone wolf will surround themselves with sheep and ultimately this mindset will lead to a win-lose dynamic (in reality lose-lose), to negative competition and to a focus on external goals and criteria that ultimately undermine true inner growth and courage.

 

BUILDING YOUR WOLFPACK

This topic of the wolfpack invites us to some really healthy but difficult personal reflection. We invite you to explore some of the following questions and suggestions;

  1. Reflect who is your wolfpack – what makes them a wolfpack member for you? Map this and remember the relationship is reciprocal.
  2. Reflect on who (and how) is having a positive and negative effect upon you – leading you to your best self OR leading you to that uneasy sense that you are spending your life marching to someone else’s drum?
  3. The reflection above may lead you to a point where you need to make the difficult decision to ‘move on’ from a relationship in your life, to remove someone from your wolfpack. After a possible initial unease, if this decision has come from deeper reflection you will notice an increased inner freedom and sense of ‘yes’!
  4. You may need to deliberately seek new members for your wolfpack – those whom you know will challenge you, will lead you into good areas of personal and professional risk and growth that no one in your life at present can gift you with. Who is someone you are drawn to from a deep values – professional wisdom point of view? Deliberately seek them out and very likely there will be something in the integrity of your journey that they find appealing to; they will seek to have you in their wolfpack as well.
  5. Perhaps once a year – gift yourself with some time away for personal reflection and reassess the power and influence of your wolfpack

In the wolfpack there are no shoulds. The pack leads us to march to our best drum as we do them. There is something special in the midst of battle to know you are not alone; that someone has your back emotionally, psychologically even physically. There is a true and deep sense of belonging within a Wolfpack; a belonging that leads us individually and collectively to seek our highest.

 

“The Law of the Wolves”

“NOW this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,

And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back;

For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

Wash daily from nose tip to tail tip; drink deeply, but never too deep;

And remember the night is for hunting and forget not the day is for sleep.

The jackal may follow the tiger, but, cub, when thy whiskers are grown,

Remember the wolf is a hunter—go forth and get food of thy own.

 

Keep peace with the lords of the jungle, the tiger, the panther, the bear;

And trouble not Hathi the Silent, and mock not the boar in his lair.

When pack meets with pack in the jungle, and neither will go from the trail,

Lie down till the leaders have spoken; it may be fair words shall prevail.

When ye fight with a wolf of the pack ye must fight him alone and afar,

Lest others take part in the quarrel and the pack is diminished by war.

 

The lair of the wolf is his refuge, and where he has made him his home,

Not even the head wolf may enter, not even the council may come.

The lair of the wolf is his refuge, but where he has digged it too plain,

The council shall send him a message, and so he shall change it again.

If ye kill before midnight be silent and wake not the woods with your bay,

Lest ye frighten the deer from the crop and thy brothers go empty away.

Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates, and your cubs as they need and ye can;

But kill not for pleasure of killing, and seven times never kill man.

If ye plunder his kill from a weaker, devour not all in thy pride,

Pack-right is the right of the meanest; so leave him the head and the hide.

The kill of the pack is the meat of the pack. Ye must eat where it lies;

And no one may carry away of that meat to his lair, or he dies.

The kill of the wolf is the meat of the wolf. He may do what he will,

But, till he has given permission, the pack may not eat of that kill.

Lair right is the right of the mother. From all of her years she may claim

One haunch of each kill for her litter, and none may deny her the same.

Cub right is the right of the yearling. From all of his pack he may claim

Full gorge when the killer has eaten; and none may refuse him the same.

Cave right is the right of the father, to hunt by himself for his own;

He is freed from all calls to the pack. He is judged by the council alone.

Because of his age and his cunning, because of his gripe and his paw,

In all that the law leaveth open the word of the head wolf is law.

Now these are the laws of the jungle, and many and mighty are they;

But the head and the hoof of the law and the haunch and the hump is—Obey!”

– Rudyard Kipling