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What is the Tall Poppy Syndrome & How It May Be Impacting YOU

Doug Garland
Doug Garland
2 min read
What is the Tall Poppy Syndrome & How It May Be Impacting YOU
Holiday time on the central coast of California. Photo by Dave Tilton. 

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Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4

The "Simply Fit Podcast" with Elliot Hasoon is London-based and was my last guest podcast of 2023 (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/what-is-tall-poppy-syndrome-how-it-may-be-impacting/id1537952030?i=1000638421030).

Elliot is a delightful host and informed podcaster. His podcast has reached the number-one spot in Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Iceland, Ghana and Kenya. It's also reached the TOP 10 in the following 9 countries: Great Britain, Denmark, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Nigeria, and the Philippines.

Enjoy!

When reading the Bible or quoting it, there are general interpretations that should be included: What does it say about God? What is the meaning in its context? What is the meaning for the present-day reader? Of course, we will default to present-day, specifically by viewing it through the TPS lens.


The author reflects on the nature of human labor and skill, suggesting that the motivation behind much of our toil and hard work is rooted in envy of our neighbors. The author could initially be describing good envy or emulation. I am happy that 3000 years ago good envy was recognized as a method of self-improvement.

However, the author suggests that this specific envy is a false prophet or is drifting towards bad envy. The phrase "all toil and all skill in work" implies that the efforts and expertise the person invested in his work were driven by a desire to outdo or surpass others.

The passage from Ecclesiastes cautions against a specific mindset where all toil and skill in work are solely driven by envy of one's neighbor and besting them. This is not about growing tall and self-improvement but about competition, rivalry, feuding, and perhaps cutting down.  

The conclusion drawn by the author is that this pursuit based on envy is ultimately futile and empty, described as "vanity", pride, or hubris, and "a striving after wind." This suggests that the relentless pursuit of success by surpassing others is akin to chasing something insubstantial and fleeting, like trying to catch the wind.

The passage encourages reflection on the true motives behind one's labor and emphasizes the emptiness of a life driven solely by comparison and competition which may be a means but not an end.

Happy New Year!

good-bad envypridecompetitiontall poppy syndrome

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Douglas Garland, M.D. practiced orthopedic surgery for 37 years in Southern California. Doug was also a Clinical Professor of Orthopedics at the University of Southern California.

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