Falling Short as a Good Thing

When I think about my criticism of other people, I’m disappointed to see how much of it could be more honestly laid bare as “be more like me.” Or when I sit down to lay out a plan of action for someone, how conveniently the course aligns with my natural disposition. If I notice a flaw somewhere, I’m starting to think, and it happens to correspond with one of my own strengths maybe I ought to relinquish claims to judgment.

It’s not pleasant to root out rationalization and subjectivity. You rob yourself of the right to indignation, an intoxicating position. Every time I dig around, I watch as the boxes I’ve trapped people in just disappear along with my superiority. The reality is that the smear of low level mediocrity never shines brighter than on a person unknowingly reacting to something inside them. In fact, the truly impressive part of Gladwell’s New Yorker piece on artists is not his thesis but the fact that it has nothing to do with him. He transcends his own place in the discussion.

So the bold move when you encounter hypocrites may be ignoring the desire to dismiss them. The real question: would you really want to listen to someone whose moral philosophy was just as easily done as it was said?

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.