Do People Really Want Me to Succeed?

"My startup is doing SO incredibly well right now, and I can't wait to tell the world about it! When people see my social media posts about how well I'm doing, they are all going to love me, right? I mean — they wouldn't want me to fail, would they? Um.. would they?"

May 1st, 2024   |    By: Wil Schroter

The sneaky secret of being a Founder is that very few people want to see us succeed.

That's kind of messed up, right? We'd think that building something new in the world, creating jobs, and pursuing our own success would be something everyone could get behind, with only "fans in the stands," as it were.

That does sound awesome, but the reality is way different. We try not to think about it and mostly don't talk about it, but the people in the stands, even when they are cheering us on, are also hoping we lose. It's an important dynamic to understand for Founders who are becoming successful for the first time, and how success can sometimes make people's view of us worsen.

Why People Want Us to Fail

I could get into some deep psychology here, but let's keep it simple — people feel better about themselves when the people around them do horribly. Conversely, they feel like crap when the people around them do better than they do. Frankly, it's natural that they would like to see us fail because who wants to feel crappy?!

Most of the rooting against us isn't even deliberate, and that's something we really need to understand. We all want to feel good about ourselves, and a great deal of that ego and security is driven by comparison to others. When we see a Founder do exponentially well, as some tend to do, that accomplishment vastly overshadows what most people do, and that's where the tension begins.

Of course, we want to counter that with "But I worked hard for this!" and while that's true, the hard work may earn some respect, it doesn't change how people feel about themselves by comparison, which is where this all stems from.

Who Wants Us to Fail?

We keep saying "they" want us to fail, but who are "they" exactly? Well, the answer here might surprise you. It starts with the people closest to us. That sounds odd, but there's a good reason. We tend to generate the most anxiety from people we relate with the most. It's why sibling rivalry is so common; both siblings compare each other to the same base.

The same comparison continues with our friend groups, our fellow school alumni, or even the kids we grew up with. All of them have a much stronger emotional tie to our success or failure because it feels like the same outcome they could have had — but didn't. Externally it's our peer groups, the media, and even, in some cases, our own investors (if we're doing things very wrong!).

That's simply because most people don't have a default incentive to root for our success; they have an incentive to make sure their own success doesn't feel threatened.

Who Wants Us to Succeed?

The people most likely to be happy for us tend to fall into two camps: those who benefit directly from our success and those who have had more success than us.

The first camp, those that benefit, tends to be our spouses and children, our parents, early employees, and ideally, our investors. Each of them can extract a bit of pride (and revenue!) from our success, despite how it may compare to their own.

The second camp is a bit more interesting — those that are more successful. Part of that has to do with the fact that those folks have likely been in our position and can appreciate what it means to be hated on. But the larger part I suspect is that they don't feel threatened by that same success, and thereby can appreciate the journey without damaging their ego. It's why rich people tend to isolate themselves from other rich people.

So it's not all bad — we will definitely have our fans. We just need to understand that with great success comes great anxiety. How we manage that anxiety is really what defines us.

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About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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