Sally Ann Miller

The Problem With Today’s Success Culture

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Today’s episode is the first in a series that I’m calling the True Self Series.

If you prefer to hide from the world, it may be because you don’t resonate with today’s ‘success culture’. Perhaps you find it too loud. Or aggressive. Or it makes you uncomfortable, but you’re not sure why.

The demands and noise of the outside world can be overwhelming. We are told that we should want more… do more… be more. Yet deep down what we long for is peace, calm, and truth.

If this resonates then I invite you to turn inward and embrace what feels true to you. In the True Self Series, I will be showing you how to let go of what you ‘should’ do and instead build a business that feels true to you.

On this first episode in the series, I discuss what I mean by today’s ‘success culture’ and why it can lead to a constant striving and sense of failure.

What you’ll learn on today’s episode:

  • What I mean by today’s ‘success culture’ and why it influences all of us.
  • The tension between what you ‘should’ do and what your heart wants.
  • Why money goals and money awards are not necessarily a good thing.
  • How to escape the treadmill and find more peace in your business.

Featured on this episode:

Episode 18: Simple Selling – Part II

Download the free workbook that accompanies this episode HERE

Get more information about my group program, Business Growth Lab, here:


Welcome to Introverts Thriving in Business, the podcast for introverts who enjoy the comfort of her, hate the idea of selling, and want to create a thriving business on their terms. If you’re ready to go from overwhelmed and anxious, to feeling calm and accomplished in your business, then keep listening. I’m your host, Sally Miller.

Welcome back to the podcast. And today is the first in a brand new series that I’m going to be doing over the next few weeks on the podcast. And I’m calling it “The True Self” series. In a nutshell, what I hope to teach you over the next few weeks on the podcast is how to build a heart centered business, how to build a business that feels true to you. And on this first lesson, or this first episode in the series, I want to really dig into something which I’m calling the problem with today’s success culture. So we’re really going to just explore what I see is the problem that has led to my putting out of this podcast series.

So a little bit of background, where’s this all come from? It’s really come from a lot of realizations of my own and my business. I think these concepts that I’m going to attempt to lay out over the next few weeks have been embedded in my teaching, embedded in my books, my group programs, my podcast for a long time. But they’ve also been mixed in with something else. And it’s been confusing. And really, it just began to come to light for me over the last few months or so. So I’ve had a lot of personal realizations in my business. And these realizations that have also been reflected in messages that I’ve received from my audience, from my clients from my readers whenever I’ve touched on some of the ideas I’m going to be diving into deeper with you today and over the next few weeks. So that’s where it’s come from.

You may have heard me touch on this theme in last week’s episode. So last week’s episode was a follow up on simple selling. You can go back and listen to that. It’s going to give you even more context on what I’m going to be talking about today. And what I did in that episode, is I talked about some of my own struggles, especially in the area of selling. So I taught a few weeks back, this concept of simple selling, and then I realized that I still had struggles in this area. And in a nutshell, what I shared last week was how I struggled to stay in alignment, to be in integrity, to listen to that quieter inner voice, and then shut out the external noise.

So this series is going to be going deeper into what on earth do I mean by all that, because a lot of people are curious and have been asking me why I think this is important. And then how to go about building a business that is more aligned, more aligned with your true self, and not aligned with this something else that I’m going to be talking about, this false self, this sense of what your business should be.

Another area where I’ve talked about this is, inside my group program, Business Growth lab, I have four principles; four principles that I say these are the keys to getting the most from your experience in my program. And one of those principles is “Do you.” And this has always been central to my teaching, is really tapping into what is unique about you, what it is inside of you that wants to be expressed in the world, what is true to you and expressing that, versus what you’ve been told you should do?

So, bottom line is I help [inaudible 3:58] myself personally, but obviously, for all of you to help resolve this tension that I have observed in myself and in many people around me between what your business should look like versus what your true self wants, what would be true to you. I really want to help everyone start to resolve that conflict. Okay, so that’s the background of where this training has come from. Let’s dig in to today’s success culture. And this is what I think is that maybe not the source of the problem, but it definitely feeds into the problem.

So what do I mean by today’s success culture? Here it is: when I googled the term success, and I was looking for definitions, one that kept popping up for me was for Merriam Webster dictionary, and it’s this: “Success is the attainment of wealth favor or eminence.” That is the culture that I’m talking about today that I see as a problem, and I believe it is mixed in. It’s everywhere in the world, we live in this constant teaching that we should be going after or desiring more money, more recognition, more fame, more stuff. We’re literally being taught that from the earliest moment in our lives, it’s in school. In school, we’re taught to obtain awards to get good wet grades and to receive recognition in our sports, in our academic work, in our arts and drama, whatever it is we’re interested in.

It’s in our work. In our work, we have this concept of performance appraisals, and we have these goals. And we’re rewarded or not rewarded, based on how we’re performing, according to these external typically material goals. Advertising, oh, my goodness, it’s everywhere in advertising. We are constantly being bombarded by messages that are teaching us to desire more: the car, the house, the fashion, the makeup, the fancy purse, the gorgeous vacations. We’re taught to desire and want to envy what our neighbor has, as it were. Even the news and the media does this. It’s literally everywhere. That’s all I can say.

And I’m not going to delve into where it’s come from, I’m kind of not interested in that. I am curious, I won’t lie, that does interest me. I don’t want to get distracted into pointing fingers or tracing back through history or politics or any of that and saying, “This is where it originated, this is where it’s coming from.” I’m just interested in the fact that if we all agree it’s there, this messaging around attaining wealth, chasing money, self-improvement, even, actually, I will add, I even think my own industry or one of the industries I’m involved in like coaching and self-improvement and personal development is also feeds into this. Because although it’s nicer, and it’s wrapped up in a prettier like package, it’s still a sense of attainment, it’s a sense of, we must keep improving ourselves because there’s something wrong with us. There was a little bit of that there as well.

So I just want to acknowledge that it’s there, this messaging, and explore how it makes us feel what it makes us do and what I think is pulling us away from, which is our true self. I think all of this messaging, this external noise is pulling us away from what’s true for us. Because here’s what I don’t see a lot of in the world, I don’t see a lot of people talking about and sharing stories of simple goodness in a quiet generosity, by which I mean, giving and being generous, but not singing about it, not doing it for recognition. I don’t see many people talking about it, or just living a simple, calm, peaceful life. And I definitely see no one talking about humility, being okay with where we might not be the greatest, we might not be the best, we might not be the number one. We can’t all be the number one, and being okay with that. I just don’t see a lot of people talking about that. Instead, we’re constantly taught to improve, improve, improve, strive, strive, strive.

So this is a problem. Here’s another area I see, by the way, and I’m going to call this one out, too. I see it a lot in the online business and coaching communities I’m part of, and it’s this constant talk of financial goals. And I’m going to put my hand up here, everyone, I’ve done this as well. And it’s going to take me time to pull out this from my own teaching, from my own messaging. Like I said, right at the beginning of this episode, I have become so aware of these two kind of separate polls that are pulling me. One is towards the direction of material wealth, finance, success, constant achievement, and then the other direction, which we’re going to start to explore which I’m going to be calling true self.

And I know it’s my own teaching. So hands up here. I’ve talked about this, I’ve taught this. But here’s how it shows up, is we’re taught to set financial goals or material goals. And then everybody online is sharing their stories of success. A lot of the online communities and coaching communities, they give out awards for achieving certain money goals. But what I believe this is doing is all of it is feeding in to this definition of what success is, which going back to that earlier definition from Merriam Webster, the attainment of wealth favor or eminence.

Now, I’m also going to pause here and say, if you like that, and if you desire that, then this series may not be for you. Of course, I invite you to keep listening to it. And I don’t even want to use words like right and wrong, or anything like that, I just want to talk to something that I’ve felt. And when I’ve talked about it, I’ve seen a lot of people resonating with it. And so I feel like it’s time for me to talk more about this. So if you like that, if you like having goals that are very success oriented, you like being in environments, where you’re going after financial goals, you’re getting rewarded for achieving them, and you’re talking about it a lot. I don’t want you to think I am saying anything that’s a judgment. What I am saying is I’ve realized that is not for me, and I’ve discovered this other way, and I want to do this podcast series, and just offer up an alternative.

So let’s get back to why I think it’s a problem. So I’ve defined what that success culture is, what I believe today’s success culture, for the large part, now I’m generalizing, is made up of. Let’s talk a little bit about the problems that I believe can come from that. Not saying it’s wrong, but to me, I perceive these as problems. Well, first of all, is it can actually stifle creativity, especially when you think about school in the workplace, where we operate within quite tight parameters. And if we don’t kind of fit in the box, if we don’t kind of fit into those parameters, and obey the rules that are set around us, then in some way, we’re sort of judged, or we’re failing, or we are penalized in some way. I think that’s stifling creativity for humans. So that is one, what I would perceive as a problem with that kind of culture. But it goes a lot deeper, even than that is, here’s the bottom line: what I have observed very deeply, is this culture actually leads to the many, the majority of people feeling like a failure. Because the truth is, regardless of whether you’re in a coaching community, whether you’re in the workplace, whether you’re in art, sports, whatever it is, it’s the minority, the few, the 1% that actually attain these levels of success that we’re told we want to go after. And so the majority are left with a sense of failure, that somehow they’re not good enough. And what does that leads to? More of that emotion of shame.

Now, I’m not going to be talking that much more on shame today, but I will come back to it. And it’s something I’ve definitely talked about a lot in the past, but it’s that terrible, poisonous emotion every human being is familiar with, is somehow that you are wrong, you are bad, that in some way you are not good enough, you are falling short of some kind of sense of goal, or goodness or rightness or achievement, or whatever you want. So that is one of the really deep problems with this success culture, is, I believe it leads to the majority feeling like they’re not a success, like they are failures, which, do we all want to be feeling that way? I don’t. But it goes even deeper.

This desire for success—so even the few that we see achieving that first ladder, or that first goal, they don’t stay satisfied, what happens is, the desire keeps on increasing, and we end up stuck on a treadmill of constantly chasing. Again, I’ve talked about this before, but think about any time in your life, where you have achieved a certain goals, you’ve set a goal, you’ve gone after it, and you’ve achieved it. And then there’s some sense of satisfaction or achievement of that. There’s usually some positive feeling at that point that you do achieve it. But how long does that feeling last before you then set the next goal, and you’re chasing that?

So I believe this culture keeps us in this state of constant desire for more. The bottom line, we as humans are never satisfied. There’s an imagery in Buddhism called Hungry Ghosts, you may have seen it. And the idea behind the Hungry Ghost is these are beings who are tormented by desire, and that desire can never be satisfied. If you actually look up images, they’re horrible pitiful looking creatures that are often portrayed with tiny mouths and throats, so they literally can’t take anything in. But they have swollen bellies and they’re starving. Basically, this is an imagery that showing us that these hungry ghosts can never consume enough to ease the suffering of their hunger. And it’s not a great imagery, I know. But I’m sharing it with you if you’ve never heard it, or you can Google it and look at some of the images that go along with this idea of hungry ghosts. And it’s kind of a horrifying.

And this is what comes up for me…Like, people think of addiction when they go there. All right, some addiction to substances, for example. But I actually think we as humans, are versions of this hungry ghost, when we are constantly chasing after this arbitrary definition of success, and never feeling satisfied. Even when we do make those first six figures in our business or a million dollars or even more, we just keep wanting, wanting, wanting. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of feeling that way.

Now, before I conclude this episode, I know there’s a counter argument, and I want to talk to her just a little bit. So there’s a counter argument, and I shouldn’t have said argument, really, because I don’t want to argue. This episode and this entire series on true self is really for the people who this message resonates with. But I am going to offer, I do want to talk to the counter argument for setting money goals and talking about successes. And what that counter argument is, it’s inspirational. So for those of us who are, and I know I’ve talked about my six figure business, and that I have a business that I love, and it gives me the freedom and the time to do all the other things to be alone to have plenty of solitude, have time with my family do all the other things that they love. I talk about it, because I think I’m being inspirational.

So again, I’ve fallen into this too. And this idea, to some extent is true. It can inspire. I won’t deny, I have been inspired by other people’s success stories. But I think the inspiration is temporary. And at the end, we’re just left with the desire that may or may not get satisfied. And even if it is, we’re like those hungry ghosts, we just desire more, and can never get enough. So I see that. I see that messaging that it is inspirational. And I think inspiration can be really useful.

Here’s where inspiration is helpful. It gets us going, it gets us started. That’s how we kick off new projects, we first step out of our comfort zone and start our businesses, is often because we’re feeling inspiration. So I don’t want to take away completely, like go from…There’s a danger with these ideas that we see the world in black and white, we go to one extreme or the other. I don’t want to take away from the fact that we can be inspired by other so-called “successes”. And I’m doing quote marks, you can’t see me, of course, because it’s a podcast. Let’s by all means, be inspired. Let’s all cheer each others on and enjoy each other’s so-called successes. And when people feel good, and are happy in their lives, I want to celebrate with them. But I am going to be exploring this idea of if we hold this up as the definition of success, this is where you need to be and we keep going down that road, then for many of us, for anyone who is like me, it’s going to leave us in a state of not feeling satisfied. And even more than that, moving away from our true self, becoming something we are not.

And this is what I’m going to be exploring next week’s lesson. What does this culture create in us? It’s something that I’m going to call false self. And next week I’m going to talk about what is the false self, versus what is the true self. But the false self often gets fed by this success culture. Here’s what I want to conclude with today is, I believe there’s a reason most introverts want to shy away from the world. We have this need to hide, we prefer our own company, and the company of just a small number of other trusted souls. It’s not because we don’t enjoy people, we don’t enjoy companionship, of course, it’s not. All humans enjoy being in communion with each other. I think it’s because we find the noise and the messaging, even the aggression of it—to me, it can feel aggressive—of the world, the outside world, to be draining, to be exhausting. We all know as introverts that definition of when we’ve been in very noisy or crowded situations, our energy is depleted and we need to be in solitude to tap up our energy again.

I think it’s because of if we…Here’s a way of putting it, have you ever been surrounded by people and not felt drained? Because I have. And I spend a lot of time thinking about what is the difference between those scenarios where I’m surrounded by people, and I feel great, I actually feel energized even. And when I’m in those situations, and I go away feeling drained, because I am an introvert, but I promise you, I don’t always feel drained. And one of them is, it depends on the nature and the culture and the environment that I am surrounded by. If it is aggressive, if it is demanding, if it is full of this messaging that’s so pervasive in the world that we live in today, that does drain me. But when I’m surrounded by people who value the same things as me, and are interested in the same things as I am, I actually go away energized, I really enjoy my group coaching sessions, I am never drained at the end of one of those, for example, basically, it happens when I’m surrounded by like-minded people.

So this series is really an invitation to you—that if you resonate with this message, to experiment with letting go of the noise. I’m going to be showing some ways to do that over the coming weeks. And when you do that, when you let it go, when you step out of it, when you start to see what you do find noisy and distracting and draining and step out of it, then you can allow your truth to emerge. Because I think we all crave truth. Yet are seduced by these false desires, these other desires of the world. They’re very seductive.

I know that this is what I’m on. It’s a constant struggle, like I said, at the beginning, between truth at one end of the scale, as it were, my true self. And then this other false self, which is desiring and hungry and always wanting. I feel that struggle. So in this series, we’re going to be exploring how to build a more heart centered business, one that is aligned with your true self, and find more peace and calm and let go of the constant striving. I’ll see you next week.

If you’re ready to thrive in business, I want to invite you to join Business Growth Lab. This is my group program where I teach you the exact process I and my students have used to grow profitable businesses we love. When you join the lab, you get lifetime access to everything you need to grow a six-figure business, the training, expert coaching, accountability, and community. The approach we take is scientific. We don’t dabble in business, and we don’t waste time. You’ll create your business on a solid foundation, using proven methods. To join, go to We’ll see you inside.


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