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3 Tough Lessons I’ve Learned About Success As a Human Being

[This post was inspired by a fantastic article a student sent to me recently on Business Insider. You can read it here.]

When my students start out on their proofreading journeys, quite literally every single one of them wants to be successful. I’ve never met or chatted with a student who didn’t want to be able to make money proofreading after they complete the course.

[I have met a couple folks who wanted success without working for it, but that’s a different post for another day!]

Tough Lessons I’ve Learned About Success

There are tons of resources all over the web about achieving success, the habits of successful people, but not so much about what happens once you achieve it — things like what you should do, not do, and how you can deal with other people’s reactions to your success.

So that is precisely today’s topic!

But first … what happens once we reach success?

For one, you change as an individual. Your beliefs about what you used to think was possible shatter into a million pieces. In many cases, you become a totally different person, having seen yourself achieve things you previously believed to be unachievable.

Maybe you thought you’d always be chained to a desk or a location-dependent job — and you took a leap of faith to learn something new. Now you’re a trained proofreader traveling abroad, doing your own thing, yet still perfectly capable to deliver top quality to your clients back in the States. And now you know you can literally do anything you want in life. 

I have some news for you: sometimes, people will HATE you for your success.

Some people won’t understand how you were able to skip all the guesswork and stumbling to achieve your successes — they’ll assume you didn’t need to do any work at all, because how else would you have achieved it? It couldn’t possibly be by being diligent and studious for several months or investing in proven training with an experienced industry professional. You simply must have cheated somehow.

Some people hate me, too. Other “professionals” in this industry — who don’t even know me in the slightest — have slammed me, my business (this website), and my success with it, to the point where I’ve considered taking legal action.

Why do they choose to slam me? My guess is they just don’t understand what I’m doing or how I’m doing it, so their knee-jerk reaction is that it’s unfair and I’m cheating somehow — and cheating other people.

It’s also easy to ridicule and slam someone when they feel they’re getting the short end of the stick. Perhaps the thought has crossed their minds: Why didn’t I think of that? No matter what they say, the truth is this: I’m doing something super positive with my life by not just doing work I love, but I’m also sharing it with others who want to learn. That positivity is having a ripple effect! Other people are starting their own businesses doing something they love — and they’re finding success, too.

It’s dealing with that newfound success that can sometimes throw us for a loop. So I’m going to share with you the three tough lessons I’ve learned about success (and my students are learning also)  — as a proofreader, a business owner, and my favorite: a human being.


Lesson 1: You gotta ignore the haters … and keep succeeding.

I’m not talking about ignoring the kind of people who take time to actually help you with constructive criticism, here. I’m talking about haters.

Be prepared to hear the meanest things about yourself imaginable. They’re coming.

But those haters? They’re totally powerless. Sure, they can spread nasty rumors. So what? The rumors that’ve been spread about me are just that, rumors. Any true professional worth their weight in salt will take the time to investigate those rumors and see just how off-base they are. People are naturally jealous and/or suspicious when you achieve success, whether you achieve it as a proofreader, a businessperson of some kind, or both.

These people will never admit it, but they’re not critics. They’re not voicing opinions. They’re internet trolls.

I firmly believe in standing up for yourself. But then — move on. Trust me, you’ll never get trolls to agree with you (there’s a reason trolls live under bridges). They’re never going to stop spewing garbage all of a sudden and apologize for being nasty. So don’t waste your energy. Trolls thrive on other people’s energy — they need it somehow. Instead, use that energy to continue succeeding.

Continue being positive. Continue living an excellent life — one you’re truly proud of.


Lesson 2:  Stay humble in your success.

Fight the urge to be cocky and arrogant. That urge will come, believe me — especially in the faces of folks who’ve grown to resent you for your achievements.

I’ve had the urge to raise my hand to those people and say something like, “Well, how many clients do you have?” as a reminder that financially, I am doing better than them, or say something you might find in one of those snarky Willy Wonka memes. But I don’t. Chances are they already know I’m doing better anyway, and that’s the whole reason they made their comment in the first place.

Everyone gets the urge. You’ll get the urge, too.

It might not come from a “classic” internet troll. Maybe a family member who still works a regular job they hate will make a snide remark about how lame it is you have to read for a living (Woe is me, I know :-)).

Maybe you put in your notice at a regular job and a coworker makes a comment in passing about how they knew someone who “did the same thing” and “ended up bankrupt” … those people are everywhere, and that urge will come where you just want to slam ’em just as hard as they’re slamming you.

Don’t do it! Remember where you came from. I will never forget where I was — a struggling personal trainer who had no idea it was even possible to work as a full-time proofreader. Then I met my mentor, and well, it took a few years, but my life changed forever. Now it’s time to pay it forward.


Lesson 3: Keep working for your continued success.

It actually does take work to find success — a whole heck of a lot of it — and it never stops.

At least it shouldn’t.

A big mistake people make when they find success is they become stagnant. This can happen as a result of the thought arriving that you’ve “made it” and you can finally (finally!) kick back, relax, and sip martinis all day. And you know what? Sometimes I do that. When you achieve success — whatever that looks like for you — you should absolutely take some time to enjoy the fruits and martinis of your labor. All work and no play makes proofreaders frazzled, tired, boring people!

The problem arises when you kick back and sip martinis all day, every day. You can lose sight of why you sought your success in the first place. Your memory can fade as to who you were before you got to where you are now. Always remember that person you were before you became the “you” you are now.

Set new goals as you continue your journey. You’ll need more confidence, an even stronger motivation, and yep — you’ll need to do more work. 

Doing more work, after all, is the best way to keep succeeding.


Your Turn!

These are the tough lessons I’ve learned about success… Got a story to share? Post below!

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  1. Caitlin! Great post, just what I needed to read this morning! It’s been a struggle for me to keep working through the PT’s with all the other time constraints on my life right now, but believe me, each new post from you is encouragement for me to keep on going. Even if it takes longer than I think it should. Success is going to be sweet!!

  2. Thank you for the inspiration today. Been hit hard over the last few months. Health issues. Really knocked the wind out of my sails. Forward progress begins with a 1st step. Thank you Caitlin for your wise words today!

    1. Girl, I feel you … health issues are worse than haters, eh!? But you are right — that first step is everything (and the hardest one!).

  3. You seem to know exactly the right time to send out a pep talk. You are an inspiration and I thank you. I had become stagnant in a few things I needed to complete in my life before I could move on to this next venture. I am truly excited to take this course and start a new chapter in my life. Again, Thank You for being YOU!

  4. Thank you for the encouraging blog post. I am still trudging along with PTs. My confidence is up and down. Sometimes it feels overwhelming and impossible. Then, there are times I make a contribution in the FB group and I feel good about it. I know the particular answer or I know where to find it. This makes me feel that I am “getting it.” Those negative self-talk tapes play every now and then. Those, I must confront and turn off. Each success that I see posted inspires me to keep plugging. Someone has finished the course. Someone got their first CR. Someone got their first pay from proofreading. Someone made enough to pay for the course or quit a full-time job. It’s not all success, sometimes it’s a struggle that someone is going through. They post about it and there is a chorus of, “I’ve been there, hang in there.” It helps to know that everyone has their struggle and I am not alone. It makes the possibility of success more real to me. You are right, once the summit is reached, there is more to do. As long as we are human, the struggle is real and the struggle continues.

    1. I know how you feel 😉 It’s sooo ebb and flow w/ the confidence thing … it doesn’t stop, really, either! But learning how to handle it is really powerful.

  5. It’s really interesting you mention these traits in people that have been against you and those types of people in general. Someone I know of went through a similar roller coaster and simply for BEING SUCCESSFUL. It’s crazy! That was all they did. They set goals, worked SO hard, for a very long time, and then…succeeded. Magic. A few people reacted and vehemently smeared this person — internet trolls as well, are you surprised? You look at those people and it’s just confusing. I would imagine even miserable to be that way towards others. You understand them, the way you would understand a child that throws a tantrum for not getting the candy they wanted, but you’d never want to be like them, do things like them, or even expect them to be remorseful. (Ahhh, the day a child apologizes for their tantrum 😉 ). Like you said, you learn from it and move on.

    And that’s another point. You learn what it feels like to have all this negativity thrown at you, and you choose from then on to not be a source of that for other human beings. That’s pretty powerful.

    I like to think of it this way: you don’t succeed to get popular or for people to like you. You do it because, this way, you have a greater avenue to help others have a better life as well. You empower. I’ve seen this in your example and I hope you keep growing stronger. Keep those positive ripples flowing. Many of us who have benefited (or will, soon) from you sharing a path to success are very grateful.

    1. Thank you so much for the encouragement, Zorana!! I am so glad to know I’m not alone in my experiences, ha 😀 Your analogy to the tantrum is SPOT ON!!!!

  6. Thank you for publishing this article. You have just reminded me of why I decided to take your course. It’s not just because it is a legitimate training course that provides invaluable information of launching a proofreading business. I also took it because you include real world lessons that are not peaches and cream. I think that it’s just as important for students to learn how to conduct their businesses in the real world as learning the business itself.

  7. Sound advice that is greatly appreciated. Thanks for reminding us to keep things in the right perspective before, during, and after achieving success in any area of life.

  8. Love this! Sometimes I’m my on worst critic, and only have very few who truly believe in me. Hard to fight the haters, but makes it easier when I hear I’m not alone. Love your pep talks.

  9. Dear Caitlin,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences! Humility is truly necessary because of the strength it gives us in the midst of negativity and falsehood. Wishing you continued success!

  10. Thank you so very much for taking the time to articulate these thoughts!

  11. It amazes me that people can have such opposite reactions to others becoming successful. Some get jealous and waste energy trying to smear you and tear you down because they didn’t think of it first or don’t know how you’re doing it, while others become curious and want to learn from you. It astounds me that people will waste their lives hating you instead of just learning from you. I feel bad for people like that.

    1. Some people are just CRAZY!! Haha. We can only do our best all the time, and always choose to learn, learn, learn!

  12. What an enlightening post!
    I think a good way to keep succeeding (1 & 3) and stay humble (2) is to pay it forward. Not necessarily in money and time though. It can be creating a course to teach others how to achieve work in a particular field 😉
    Being able to connect with others is a great way to remain humble, and the success of those people can add to the success of the person who started it.

  13. Hi, Caitlin: What an awesome post and I admire your “guts” to remain being “you” throughout all that you’re undergoing. Yes, I first became aware of “trolls,” as you call them, via Facebook (FB). That is the negative part of being on FB: You get to see with your own eyes messages–totally negative–posted by trolls against people whom they’ve never ever met in their entire lives and probably never ever will. They totally cuss and swear and use the most disgusting remarks against those they’ve never met and never will. Initially, I thought: “What goes on here? Is this really happening?”
    Then I have no choice but to acknowledge that this has been, is happening, and–unfortunately–will continue to happen as long as those trolls exist. This is really disgusting to the max, but such is life–like it or not. This is “reality!” The best advice to deal with those “ding-blasted” (putting it mildly) trolls is to ignore them and continue doing what you are doing and strive to become even more successful by letting their ignorant remarks spur your creativity to reach higher levels in your quest for a better life. Also, don’t “fight fire with fire,” i.e., react to them with the same hatred and vengeance they “lay” on you, but to do the very opposite: Love them (? not that easy! LOL!) as best you can and say, “Lord, forgive these doggoned trolls for they know not what they do–that’s for sure!” and carry on with your own life as you see fit. Amen! You’re doing a great job and you have tons of courage to back you up–and also tons of your own students’ support, including mine. Best wishes in all of your endeavors.

  14. Hi Caitlin,

    I just read this and it really reaffirmed my resolve to continue my trek through the PTs. They are a lot of work, but as I complete each page, ten pages, half of the PT, and so on, I feel a sense of success and no one can take that away from me.

    I once read a quote that “success is no accident! It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all LOVE what you do!” And, the funny thing with this course is that it isn’t easy, but as I said earlier, it creates those little successes upon which you can found even greater successes.

    I really appreciate your positive outlook, as well as that of the student in the forums. If only the trolls and the haters would put their efforts into something so positive, it might make the world a better place.

    thanks again!

    1. You are so welcome!! Yeah, if only, right 🙂 Haters have been downgraded to pure entertainment. It makes it easier to focus on the positive — you know, like all the happy reporters and students!!

  15. Hi Caitlin: You are an old soul—definitely wise beyond your years. Thank you for this insightful article. The way that you express yourself is a gift, as your words really resonates with others. This article resonates with me. I have been surprised on many occasions having encountered people who truly enjoy undermining others and causing discord. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon.

    I appreciate you being generous, kind, and supportive of others—it’s refreshing. Continue to be true to yourself. My riding instructor would say, “Don’t allow the horse to change the way that you ride.”

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Phyllis! I am thrilled to hear this blog post affected you positively. You’re right; people undermining others sure isn’t uncommon these days… I can’t quite pinpoint WHY it’s like that, either. Life is rough, I know. People don’t want to look in the mirror when figuring out who’s responsible for success or lack of it, you know?

  16. “…how lame it is you have to read for a living”

    Ok, I had to stop reading when I saw this and immediately I just, like, swooned, I suppose. I just signed up for this course an hour ago thinking, “I’m gonna be a proofreader! This is gonna be tough, but I can do this!” But when I read this…

    Reading for a living. I love reading. But I just can’t believe that I’m on the journey to achieve my goal reading for a living. I’ve literally said to myself so many times over the years, “I wish I could just read for a living!” Holy cow, I’m actually headed in that direction!

    Totally off-topic, I know! I apologize! But now I’m just so much more motivated with that framework in my mind. You should totally use that as part of your pitch for interested viewers. “Have a strong command of the English language? Like to spot mistakes and correct others’ writing? Don’t mind *reading for a living*?” That’s probably rubbish, but I’m really excited right now.

    Right now, I will make a vow. WHEN I successfully completely this entire course, book my first client, do my first official proofreading job, and get my first official paycheck from a happy CR, I’m going to make a t-shirt that says, “I READ FOR A LIVING!” 😀

    Thank you so much for making this blog! There’s so much good stuff here, and sometimes even a random hidden gem like this! The more I hear what you have to say, the more I think you’re an amazing person, Caitlin. Honored to be a part of this beautiful thing you’ve got going! 🙂 [Wow, this was long! Sorry!]

    1. I hope you are well on your way to wearing that t-shirt! I also have said many many times—I wish I could make a living reading! It seemed like a dream–too good to be true. I REALLY want this to be my future. I’m going to work as hard as I can to learn and grow.

  17. I used to be a dental assistant. We had, at the point in time for this story, recently gotten new 3-D scanners. There was a huge learning curve for everyone in the office. I was typically the one who picked stuff up the easiest and would then help teach the others. Well one day a doctor from a different office came in for a scan, to check out this awesome machine! I got the pleasure of scanning him. Well… everyone is human, and every human makes mistakes… I scanned the wrong area of his mouth. When I told MY doctor what happened he proceeded to rip into me like there was no tomorrow. After his rant and wiping away my tears, the only thing I could do was say to him… I hope you feel better, because nothing you say to me can make me feel any worse than what I do to myself when I make a mistake. And he just sat there in disbelief. He never apologized and I left not too long after that. I couldn’t take the psychological thrashings anymore.

    1. I am so sad that you had to go through that. I went through something similar when I was scrubbing in surgery. I was 2 years out of school and still learning when a surgeon (during the operation) yelled at me about how stupid I was(and so on). I told him that everyone has to learn at some time. His response? “At least I learned.” Lastly, I told him that if he weren’t so nasty that it would be easier to learn. That was my last day of work at that hospital. This was over 20 years ago and I still feel the sting. I’ve made it my mission to teach others with patience and compassion since then. The feeling of, warmth? or kindness? I’m not sure how to describe it-but that feeling is ah-may-zing!{when teaching others} I would not trade it for the world (to be unkind). Anyway, please know that you’re not alone.

  18. I am embarking on this journey with both excitement and fear. I have been an avid reader since I was 11 years old. I am now in my forties and wish I had been able to do this sooner. But, I am a strong believer that God puts in your path the things that are meant for you at the right time. Well this is the right time for me. I am determined to succeed.

    Thank you so much for sharing your gift with us!!

  19. Caitlin, thank you for this encouraging post. Although I am at the very beginning of this journey, I find this post very hopeful. I want to remember all the hard work it took to get there and to always be positive! I am nervous as my comfort level has been shaken, but reality is, I was getting stagnant. It took an elimination of my job to realize that! Now, even though my confidence is down, I also feel excitement in learning something new! I accept that there may be struggle, especially reading other comments on this post, but I look forward to putting in the hard work to accomplish my goal. Thank you again and keep being the force of encouragement for your students and others!

  20. Thanks for this post, it was perfect for me. I really enjoyed parts of being an attorney, other parts I hated. I couldn’t sleep at night, worrying about deadlines and the fact that all other “friend” attorneys were always trying to get a step ahead of me. Believe me, it is cutthroat when you are on different sides of a case and only one of you can win! When my husband and I moved to a different state, I faced the prospect of jumping all of the hurdles to get admitted in our new state, or just move on to something new. I have considered retiring, but I feel that I’m too young and I’m bored! Then, along came YOU. I have a new purpose in my life, a new reason to get out of bed! It’s like I’m starting over in a new life. It has been pretty easy for me so far…but that doesn’t mean I’m not working hard to be one of your star pupils! I cannot thank you enough for this program.

  21. Caittlin, thank you for this nice article! Yeah, we must always be thankful and grateful to those who have contributed to our achievements through their positive or negative actions. ‘Forget and forgive’ is the most important policy while living. And it’s true once you achieve your target 100%, it’s time to set new target and be at ‘zero’ again. You are truly a pure soul!

  22. Thank you for having faith in not only me but all the others wanting to start in a new career. Your positive messages are extremely valuable and clearly show that you care.

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