Harsh Truth About Support and Schadenfreude

As a child I spent every Sunday morning at First St. John’s Lutheran Church. It’s an old red brick church, located in the middle of rich farmland, on the northeast corner of a one-intersection, no stoplight hamlet called Seebach’s Hill.

My Sunday mornings as a 6-year old would start with cereal for breakfast, followed by a bath, and then the dreaded hair combing nightmare. My thick, brown locks are naturally curly, and get tangled easily. I hated every painful second of my mother trying to comb my mop into something presentable to go with my Sunday best.

At 9:40am, my uncle Lorne, our Sunday School leader, would drop by to pick up me and my sister.

“Off to ‘Honey Cool’,” my father would tease as he ruffled my hair on the way out the door. Dad never went to church, save for Christmas Eve and weddings. He and my mother could not have been more different. To this day I still can’t figure out how he convinced my mother to marry him.

By 10am I was in the church basement, sitting on cheap wooden chairs arranged neatly in rows, us kids separated by age. We’d spend the next hour with our teacher, learning the incredible stories from the Bible, like Daniel in the Lion’s Den, David and Goliath, and the Testing of Job. As I got older and reached confirmation age, we spent our time memorizing passages like John 3:16.

At 10:50am Sunday School let out. My sister and I would race upstairs to find our mother seated, as always, in the penultimate pew at the back of the church. We’d spend the next hour surrounded by over a dozen of my uncles, aunts, and cousins who took up the remainder of the back section.

It was also where, as a young child, I’d spend the entire church service trying to outlast my sister in a game of, “how long can I go before eating my church candy“. My mom brought us each a few rolls of Sweet Tarts so that we’d behave, and I always felt better when my sister ate all of hers before I did mine.

This game was my first introduction to the Power of Delayed Gratification, and little did I know that would be an important trait in my success in both fitness and business. But that’s another story for another day…

When the church bells rang at 11am, Sunday service would begin with the processional hymn. Ol’ CB isn’t much for singing. I’m tone deaf, sing off-key, and can hit neither high nor low notes. It’s better for everyone that I just hum along. Quietly.

My mother has the voice of an angel. Pure and true, she would sing each hymn with heartfelt praise. Not too loud, but not too soft, she belonged in the church choir. Often, while working around her new farmhouse, she sings along to her favorite classic country digital radio station featuring hits from the heydays of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, and Kenny Rogers. Ol’ Bally the Dog loves it.

One of her favorite hymns is called, “The Solid Rock“. I remember her singing the chorus with great joy:

“On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.”

That refrain has stuck in my head for over thirty years. Its message is applicable to every aspect of life.

Success, whether defined as an unwavering belief in God, losing thirty pounds, or saving one million dollars for retirement, requires support. You must build your foundation of faith and action upon the solid bedrock of a support system. No matter what your goal in life, you cannot go it alone. You need a mentor, a leader, a coach, a pastor, a team, or a friend to lean on when times get tough.

I know it would be nice if we could do it on our own. I understand how tempting it is. Going alone in your fat loss journey seems easier. It makes us feel powerful, even rebellious. We want to be the Lone Wolf. But it’s wishful thinking to believe we can succeed without support. Good luck if you try it that way. You’ll only end up like the Prodigal Son, returning for help with your tail between your legs.

I know for many readers, however, the task of trying to recruit social support seems like a lost cause. At home, there’s no one on your side. Your spouse, your kids, your friends, they all want you to keep eating junk, watching television, and remaining in the comfort zone that has brought you down all these years. How do you build solid rock of support in this environment of sinking sand?

At work, it’s even worse. Every day it feels like your co-workers are actively engaged in undermining your goals. They are professional saboteurs, with their constant leading you into temptation, buying of donuts, and organizing an endless parade of birthday parties, going away parties, and “hey it’s a day that ends in a ‘y’!” pizza parties.

The sad, harsh, but true fact is that they want to see you fail. Few people have the inner strength to let a friend succeed. They don’t want their fellow birds of a feather to leave the nest. It threatens them. So they sabotage you.

German language has a word for this, Schadenfreude, meaning to take pleasure in the failure of others. It’s all too common in society today. People might seem like they want to help, but most take greater pleasure in seeing you stumble and struggle than succeed.

Criticism is easy to hand out when they behind a computer screen and or when they gossip behind your back. Few critics will ever have the courage to say anything to your face. That makes it easier for you to ignore them, for they are cowards, and nothing more. Criticism is the simply the attacker’s only way of dealing with their insecurity.

So where is the solid rock on which to stand? “There’s nothing here but sinking sand, Craig!” you want to scream at me.

What can you do about this?

First, consider this.

“Cut all ties with dishonest, negative or lazy people, and associate with people who share your values. You become who you associate with.” – Kekich Credo #51

It sounds harsh, but it’s true. Personal development mentors, like Jim Rohn and Zig Ziglar have been warning us for years that we are the average of the five people that we spend the most time with.

If you want to be a better Christian, don’t spend your Saturday nights in a saloon. If you want to be a better, more successful trainer, you must stop hanging around complaining co-workers and instead start seeking out the best in the industry. If you want to lose weight and have better health, you must choose your support team wisely.

Harvard researcher Dr Nicholas Christakis has proven this age-old wisdom to be true. His studies found that if we spend time with overweight friends, our risk of becoming overweight increases, and if you hang around someone that takes up smoking, you are 36% more likely to do the same.

There is no denying the fact that you become more like the people you spend your time with. If you spend your time with positive, supportive, action-taking people that are constantly moving towards your goals, then you can’t go wrong.

There are good people out there, I promise you. They are at your gym and in your church. They are online on Facebook, and in the TT member’s forums. They are there to support you, encourage you, hold you accountable, and even challenge you. They exist.

Seek and you shall find. Knock and the doors shall be opened onto you. You must have good people in your life because you will not achieve your goals without support and accountability.
Elite trainers around the world agree with me.

I’ve trained hundreds of people in my gym, and by far the number #1 most important factor for success has been accountability. Whether it be emails, Facebook, phone calls, or text messages, the rate of success skyrockets when people have accountability. Don’t ever try to do it alone. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, church members or whomever else about your specific goals and what it is you are trying to accomplish. And here’s the best part – there’s a STRONG chance that you will inspire others! Accountability is the key. This goes for fitness, nutrition, business, relationships and life in general. It’s such a powerful tool,” said Dani Woodrum, of Charleston, South Carolina, one of our top Certified Turbulence Trainers.

Dani is right on.

Support might not be easy to find, but if you stay in your comfort zone, surrounded by the naysayers and their bad habits, you’ll remain in your non-supportive rut forever.

Attract good people into your world. Be loud and proud of your decision to be positive. Start by helping others. Go where you see the other positive people going. Support them first. When you go out and give support to others, and support will flow back to you.

Be true to your authentic self, follow your dreams and work towards the vision you have for your life.

You can break free with a little push from the right people. When you do, you’ll see it’s so much better – and easier – than trying to go it on your own.
Never give up looking for good people. Never give up on what is important to you.

Here to help,

Craig Ballantyne, CTT
Certified Turbulence Trainer
PS – Here’s another article on finding good people…

=> How to Find Good People in Your Life

Let me know how it helps.

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  • Anne

    Thank you so much for such a powerful message, Craig. It really struck a chord with me today.
    Thank you for all you do and write and say to inspire us.
    Best wishes,
    Anne

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you Anne!

  • Billy

    Fantastic article! Can relate to it so well. The higher way is always the best.

  • Daniel Razowsky

    You’re the man Craig!

  • Kofi

    Inspiring

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you Kofi!

  • Tom Short

    I love reading Early to Rise. This particular article really connected with me, I think, because of all your references to Church, old hymns that stick with us forever, etc. Thanks for writing this one.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you Tom!

  • Richard Dawkins

    I don’t follow how you go from stories about Sunday school immediately to how all your friends and family want you to fail.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you, I’ll continue to improve my writing so that future articles are better. – Craig

  • I liked reading the story, It was beautifully written and interesting. I do agree that you are far more likely to succeed if you surround yourself with like-minded people and people who are more successful than you.

    But I can’t quite agree that most people want to undermine your goals and that they actually take pleasure in watching you fail. If I was in that kind of atmosphere, I’d say to get yourself out of there fast. Sure, there are a few small minded people here and there whose self-esteem is so low that they would do that. Beyond those few, I’d argue that most people are either neutral about other people’s goals or at worst they are wrapped up in their own thoughts and don’t even realize how important your goals are. I can’t even think of anyone in my corner of the world who actively practices schadenfreude. It’s certainly an interesting word, though, and I do like learning new words. Now if I only knew how to pronounce it!

    At any rate, I do respect your insights and experiences, Craig, and you make a good point that we all need support and coaching to help us reach our best potentials.