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In 2003, after trying for 22 years (mostly against a tide of reverse discrimination), I finally earned my BSIT. Yippie! Before graduation I had my first Web site contract. I had also, one year before graduation, been invited by Microsoft to take an intensive, two-day course in Visual Studio.NET. I was one of 5,000 IT people from around the country who was invited, and who attended. On top of that I had started, a year earlier, my own business as a portfolio manager, in which I was doing very well. I had also begun, a month after graduation, my MBA studies. My cup had truly runneth over!

Earlier I had gone back to the "old neighborhood" (actually, the old town where I grew up, Rush Limbaugh's "adopted home town") to visit my mother. At a shop I used to frequent, I ran into an individual whom I had known years before. We were not friends, but were on speaking terms. He filled me in on what he'd been doing (despite his alleged "high IQ," he worked and retired as a letter carrier). When I told him of my success (or at least, tried to), he merely snorted and gave me a dirty look. He did not want to hear more, and did not want to see me. The impudence!

I had read some years earlier that General Grant did not care for a full dress uniform after an incident when he was younger. After becoming a newly-minted second lieutenant, Grant wore his full dress uniform in his old hometown. In the middle of being full of himself he was confronted by a little boy in a torn shirt who shouted, "Soldier! Will you work? I'll give you my shirt." (Lloyd Lewis, "Captain Sam Grant.")

Some people will be more than happy to congradulate you on your success. Some will even use you as a role model for their children to follow. However, you are always going to have a bunch of jerks who are jealous of your success. Jealous for whatever reason. Like reflecting on opportunities they missed, or who will say "I'm not that smart" and not want to hear anymore, the "can you top this" crowd, and the instant experts (those who, upon reading a book or a paragraph, know more than you with your degree). Here's how I've learned to handle them.

To some I use personal example, or examples of other people.

The ones who think that they are too old, I use an individual I knew who was a retired college instructor, and who started a second life as a train engineer. "He got tired of sitting around," I'll say, "so he went to a specialized school that trained people in railroad work, and after two years he became an engineer. He's now happy as can be." Or I hold up another retiree who earned his BSBA and is now happily employed. "It's never too late. Life is a learning process. You can earn a degree anytime, but think of all the experience you'll be bringing with it as well. You'd be a great asset."

To the ones who don't think they are that smart: "Well, I was terrible at math in grade and high school. Got nothing but D's. But, when I hit college, I had some great instructors. Plus, I realized that math was a language all its own, and since I like learning languages, this one really put the hook in me. I was so fascinated I earned "A" after "A," even in statistics. In fact, I daily work with algebra and statistics, and think nothing of it." I also encourage them to at least try. "Hey, if you get stuck with your homework, give me a jingle." With a tutor in their corner pocket, how can they refuse.

The "can you top this" crowd is difficult, because no matter what you say, they will come up with something that will put them, in their own minds, in a superior position. For example, if you mention that you are in graduate school, they will top it with, "My nephew is a doctor." Usually this bunch is from the "life's passed me by" or "I'm not smart" crowds. They know they're a failure, so they try to live their lives by their more successful relatives. I usually answer with, "That's nice, but we're talking about you." The can-you-top-thiser will usually, when constantly pressed about themselves, will sooner or later answer with a) "I'm too old to learn," b) "I'm not smart," c) leave in a huff (or if that's too soon, a minute and huff), or d) threaten to hit you. With a and b you can use examples of why they should educate themselves, and leave them with the hope that they too can better themselves. With d, say hello to 911 on the cell phone!

Closely related to the "can you top this" is the "instant expert." What it takes you to learn in basic and advanced classes, the instant expert knows all after reading ONE book, an article, or a paragraph. Among their peers the instant expert is a resident Einstein, but among the educated or experienced he is a Barney Fyfe. The instant expert just loves to approach newly minted graduates with their tiny amount of knowledge, of everything animal, vegetable, or mineral. You cannot win with this bunch at all, so the best thing to do is to stump them, which is not too difficult. For example, some of the ones I love to use are: "How would you use Bayes' Theorum in a stocks past performance?", "Why would you want to invest in a company which lumps its receivables with cash?", "Why would you want to use Microsoft Access when you can use MySQL?," "Why use XML when you can use HTML 4.0?". However, my all-time favorite is: "Prove it." Those who have had math or science know that the only way a theory can be proved is if the experiment is repeatable. Usually, the instant expert has either NOT done it for himself, or if he did, was a miserable failure. For example, one instant expert years ago read Robert Allen's "Nothing Down," and fancied himself an expert in real estate. He promptly and pompously applied Allen's theories - and lost his shirt! He isn't the braggart he used to be.

Jealous people will always attempt to diminish your successes. I've found that, by fending them off the ways I have described, such mediocrities tend to melt in your glow.
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