While on a call with my client today, she mentioned the term “tall poppy.” Popularized in Australia, “the tall poppy gets cut down” refers to a field of poppies in which the poppies all grow to the same height, but the tall poppy gets chopped. In the business world, it is a social phenomenon in which people who are successful, accomplished, and are kicking asses and taking names instead get criticized and hated on by insecure and jealous peers.
There are related sayings that speak to the same thought, such as the Japanese proverb, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” and the Russian proverb, “What a joy, a neighbour’s cow has died.”
I had seen this phenomenon in action many times and it felt very familiar, but today was the first time I heard the term “tall poppy” and I instantly related the visual. Remember in school when the kids who did well on tests or got good grades were ridiculed and called nerds? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.
You will find that as you grow in your business and become more successful, so will the target on your back. There will always be someone right there with a pair of scissors waiting to tall poppy your ass.
Soon after the phone call, I walked into the living room where my son was creating posters for the National Honor Society. (The posters had three big letters “NHS” in vertical format and he is putting the words “Nerds Have Swag” next to the letters.) My son is president of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society and is the head drum major in a class 4A marching band. I am SOOO glad that no one has come by to tall poppy him! I don’t think anyone has ever told him that he couldn’t do something, or that something was unattainable or impossible. Maybe they did and he just ignored them, I don’t know. I just love the fact that he surrounds himself with others who don’t get caught up in cutting others down to size, but instead lift each other up to do better.
I mean, I get it. We are competitive and it’s so much easier to cut someone else down rather than doing the hard work to rise above the fray. It’s easier to attribute someone else’s success to factors that (you believe) aren’t within your grasp than to sit down and reflect on how you could do things better.
And if someone is out to “tall poppy” you, you may want to run and hide and stop tooting your horn. Or you start putting it out to the universe that you want to be successful, but not TOO successful. I say NO WAY! Shine sister, shine!
Next time you feel the need to tall poppy someone, instead think about how a rising tide lifts all ships and that outstanding performers bring benefits to everyone else. And if you are the target of others’ criticism, realize that it’s not about YOU. The best thing to do is to surround yourself with those who love, support, and encourage you.
What would life have been like if all your friends or family never told you that you “couldn’t” do something?