The hardest part about being successful is hiding it.
When we are successful, we get tempted to flauntit, shove it down people’s throat that you’ve made it. We splurge in things that consumerism has taught us, which become status symbols and the signs of living a lavish life. Eventually we draw attention to ourselves and become victims of other’s jealousy.
There is a story about Wayne Rosing, the first VP of engineering at Google. He gave a speech to the engineers who had stocks before Google went public. It was about staying true to the company values, focusing on the user, and how an IPO is just another day.
He said “The next day, we’re going to come back to work and keep building cool stuff for users. People will be richer, some unfathomably so. But that ought not change who we are. To underscore his point, he concluded: “If after we go public I see any lamborghinis in our parking lot, you better buy two of them because I’m going to take a baseball bat to the windshield of any parked here.” Even though the IPO created many millionaires, many people for many years stayed relatively free of the affectations of conspicuous consumption. This ostentation aversion is as much a reflection of the historic engineering culture of Silicon Valley as anything special about Google.
New York Times journalist David Streitfeld traces it back to the “founding” of Silicon Valley in 1957, when Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, Eugene Kleiner, and five others started Fairchild Semiconductor and developed a way to mass-produce silicon transistors. Streitfeld describes it as a “new kind of company, one that was all about openness and risk. The rigid hierarchy of the East was eliminated. So was the conspicuous consumption.”
“The money doesn’t seem real,” Noyce would later tell his father. “It’s just a way of keeping score.” The ethos in the Valley has long been “Work hard, but don’t show off.”
The hardest part about success is keeping quiet about it.Tweet
When you show off to a wrong set of audience, you are calling for undue attention from your competitors as well. Remember, when you shout out that you are the number one in your industry, you will also be the most targeted.