Why You Can’t Steal My Thunder and How to Create an Unlimited Supply

Steal My Thunder

Do you ever hear a figure of speech and think, “On what planet does that make sense?”

I do. All the time.

One of them is “steal my thunder.”

Originally uttered four centuries ago by the English playwright John Dennis, he was pissed off that his new method of simulating the sound of thunder in a theater was stolen.

As an unsuccessful critic and creator of his own plays, the story goes he found out a production of Macbeth was using his method and he shouted:

Damn them! They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder!

Now a days, “steal my thunder” is commonly meant to suggest a number of things like:

  • To upstage someone’s special event by having a special event of your own
  • To take attention from someone else’s accomplishments for your own advantage
  • To lessen the impact or authority of someone’s announcement

This figure of speech is symptomatic of people constantly trying to one-up each other or being terrified that their actions might one-up someone.

The drive to steal someone’s thunder or avoid stealing it is the opposite of the simplicity we seek.

Because of this, I’ve developed a foolproof system to guard against anyone stealing my thunder. And I’ve come up with a simple way for you to create an unlimited supply of your own thunder, impervious to anyone’s attempts to capture it.

Why You Can’t Steal My Thunder

First, I want to declare that thunder is really shorthand for words like happiness or achievement.

Most people believe these things are in short supply and the potential sources of them are limited.

This is not true!

The transfer of thunder from one person to another only exists in our heads. And the transfer only occurs if we mistakenly convince ourselves that thunder is restricted in some way. The basis for these statements comes from a friend and tremendous writer.

In Raam Dev’s free email series, he explains how we all can adopt an abundance mindset and combat the thunder-stealing mentality.

The reason it’s so important to develop an abundance mindset is because before we can be satisfied with less of anything, we need to understand the reason we don’t need to hoard it in the first place. The way you value things is based entirely on your perspective of what you already have, be it money, relationships, objects, experiences, knowledge or anything else. This is entirely a mental process and it applies universally to everyone.  If you’re a billionaire, it’s unlikely that a hundred dollars has the same value to you as it does to someone with an empty bank and thirty thousand dollars in debt.

Think about this for a moment: If the value of everything can be changed solely by changing your perspective, wouldn’t it make the most sense to focus on developing a perspective that maximizes the value of everything?  The abundance mindset does exactly that. You maximize the value of everything around you by recognizing that nothing is scarce; nothing is lacking, limited, or in short supply. Attempting to hoard or take possession of anything creates a sense of scarcity — it devalues everything around you.

Although I’ve used the words of someone wiser and more eloquent to prove my point, I don’t think Raam would mind. He’s the kind of guy who freely shares any thunder he has if it means people are helped in the process.

I’ve adopted this abundance mindset and it’s the primary reason why you can’t steal my thunder. You can’t swipe what I freely give away.

How to Create Your Own Unlimited Supply

There are other ways than an abundance mindset to create an unlimited supply of your own thunder. Eliminating competition with your co-workers is one. Stopping the comparison with everyone else between what you have and want is another.

But here’s a great way not to do it.

I have a friend who announced his engagement shortly after his sister announced hers. She was hurt by the timing on his announcement and thought it would detract from her planning, happiness, and enjoyment of the wedding itself.

As a result, she got mad, caused a big rift in their relationship, and took years to heal from this “injustice” she suffered at the hands of her own brother.

Pardon my rare judgment of someone else, but this is not the path to a simple life. When you’re always protecting your thunder and worrying about everyone else’s thunder, you create complicated emotions that shouldn’t exist.

We can simplify by acknowledging only each of us can determine the amount of thunder to be harnessed. And if someone wants to use it at the same time, wonderful! Competing for thunder is like competing for happiness. Only you get to determine if there is a cap and how much of it you have.

Life’s not a contest folks. Don’t blame someone else for taking something only you have the ability to give away.

Have Abundance

I want you to plan your wedding regardless of who else is planning theirs at when.

Launch your business product or service without worrying if your friend is launching theirs too.

Have a birthday party for your kid without fearing the timing is too close to the party of the kid down the block.

Tell people you’re pregnant without worrying about what special event they may have coming up as well.

If you’re looking for permission to do all these things and more, you have it. You can grant it for yourself.

Harness your own unlimited supply of thunder with a simple mindset shift. It’s there for the taking…and the sharing.

Did this make you vigorously nod your head? Or do you have examples of people who need to be convinced that thunder can’t be stolen? Leave a comment and let us know.

Photo credit: gr8dnes and incurable_hippie

23 Responses to Why You Can’t Steal My Thunder and How to Create an Unlimited Supply

  1. Joel,

    wonderful post, and I completely agree. Thunder = Happiness is stronger and better when shared. When you are around miserable people, they inevitably drag you down. However, when you are surrounded by happy people, they cheer you up with them.

    So why wouldn’t you be happy when someone else is happy to? If your thunder is important to you, brings you happiness….that’s all that matters.

    Too many people see competition where there is no competition, and plenty of possibilities for collaboration.

    • You summed up where I was going with this nicely Dolly. Thunder = Happiness is a fun equation I should throw around and see who likes it. I’ll give you credit if it catches on. :)

  2. “As a result, she got mad, caused a big rift in their relationship, and took years to heal from this “injustice” she suffered at the hands of her own brother.”


    I have seen this scenario many times. I think normally the person has a deep emotional scar that needs to be healed when this type of jealous behavior is displayed. Rarely can the person just “see” their mistake and fix it. It can be done, but rarely do people take the time to understand themselves to this level. Maybe your work, along with that of others, will help people to see the need. So many let emotions control their actions without examining the source of their emotions.



    • Those are some wise words Dan. Being able to “see” your mistakes and the reasons for feeling certain emotions is a gift. But one that you can only give yourself and that takes a while to develop. I’m not all the way there, but I’m much further along this path to seeing them than I was before my personal renaissance began. A lot of fantastic people online in the minimalist and simplicity communities are helping me get there. If I can pay that forward in some way I’ll feel really good.

  3. Denise says:

    Ok, I’ve dealt with a “thunder-stealer” my whole life, won’t name names though. It has never bothered me though, because I more feel bad for them because they feel a need to do that intentionally.

    And because I’ve always had that abundance attitude. I’ve never felt a need to hoard my knowledge or anything. In any job I’ve had, I’d be the first person teaching the rookies the secrets the pros knew, while everyone else was keeping their knowledge to themselves.

    I think when you worry about people stealing your thunder, it’s because you might think that if someone takes that, then you have nothing left that makes you special. And like you said in this article, we have an unlimited supply of “thunder”.

    Even when 2 people know the same thing or are working on similar projects, you’re still bringing something unique to yours. I’ve always felt that if you’re being yourself, then you have no competition.

    Really enjoyed the topic of this post, Joel!

    • We’re registering the same wavelength Denise. Your comment could have easily been written by me as part of this post.

      But have you really never felt the urge to show this thunder-stealer the benefits of adopting an abundance mindset? I’m not one to try to convince someone that my way of thinking is superior to theirs. But I admit I get urge from time to time.

  4. Ethan says:

    Totally nodding my head over here. I think abundance has a lot to do with letting go of the value you’ve attached to material possessions. Or in some ways, it’s about detaching monetary value from things. If there’s one thing that puts people in a bad mood, it’s when they feel that they have lost money, not made enough money, or spent too much money. But if you can look beyond financial value to the actual value you get from the things in your life, then you stop really caring.

    That’s what I’m trying to do at least.

    • True Ethan. Like few things in life, once money gets involved, look out! I’ve found people often frame thunder stealing as a money issue but then realize the core issue was something else like self-worth or confidence. For example, if I got passed up for a promotion at work because that thunder stealer took my idea or work and got credit for it, I might initially be pissed off about the loss of money that comes along with the promotion. But I might really be tweaked because I felt deprived of the recognition that comes along with the promotion, regardless of if it got me any additional dough.

      There are too many scenarios to keep track of. But sometimes it really is about money…and that makes me sad.

  5. Erin says:

    Can I just tell you how much I adore learning about the origins of idioms? Learning where “steal my thunder” came from totally made my morning.

    I don’t have any one particular thunder-stealer in my life, though I’ve certainly had the experience of feeling like it’s been stolen before. Not so much now, when I’m happier with what I’m doing and how I’m living my own life. But for me, there’s a major element of jealousy involved — someone steals thunder because she feels jealous, and then the person whose thunder is stolen is jealous because…well, it was stolen. At least, that’s been my experience.

    There’s also an element of comparison, of measuring what you have against what others have.

    Both of those things can be solved with the abundance mindset Raam describes so beautifully, I think, though I will certainly acknowledge that making such a mindset your default can be a long and difficult process.

    • You might think I’m kidding Erin, but I once seriously considered starting a website called “Origins Of” where it was a giant database of the origins of many things, idioms included. I’m fascinated by the roots of these things too!

      You hit some key words in your comment of jealousy and comparison. I try to help people understand it’s really freakin’ hard to be jealous when you stop comparing yourself to everyone else. But it takes a ridiculous amount of other people reinforcing it and you hitting yourself over the head with it until that really sinks in. Was that too many hanging “it”s in a sentence? I’m trying to watch out for “that”. :)

      • Erin says:

        Ha! Almost, maybe. I should pay more attention to “it” — I’m much more of a “this” stickler. I blame my awesome HS English teacher :)

  6. Raam Dev says:

    When you mentioned “figures of speech” in the opening, my figure-of-speech radar was activated (there’s a figure of speech right there (and another!)).

    I thought you might enjoy seeing a list of figures of speech that I picked up on (there’s another one) in this post:

    “All the time.”
    “Now a days”
    “to one-up each other”
    “a foolproof system”
    “at the hands of her own brother”
    “Life’s not a contest”

    It’s amazing how often we use them!


    Thank you for sharing that quote from my email series. I’m right there with you (figure-of-speech) on how an abundance mindset allows us to discover an unlimited supply of anything we want. And I think that giving away what we want is the first step to realizing we actually have it, because we can’t give something away that we don’t already have.

    Love is another good example: If we don’t first learn to love ourselves — to be at peace and truly happy with who we are — then how can we possibly expect to give love to someone else?

    • I had no idea that people could possess a figure-of-speech radar Raam. But clearly from the list of ones I wrote that you rattled off, such a thing exists. Wouldn’t you say it’s impossible to avoid them completely? I do find it funny though how some people just love certain phrases and other people cringe when they hear the same thing. It’s always a subject of curiosity for me.

      Thanks for inspiring this essay and appreciating me sharing your words. I knew you wouldn’t mind!

  7. Shanna Mann says:

    I remember the first time you brought this up — I was asking whether it was going to be a problem, you and I both launching products within a week of each other, simply because our audiences somewhat overlap.

    I didn’t really think of it as “stealing thunder” but your article helped me clarify my thoughts– I thought of it as overwhelming people, and that’s because in my family, a big deal is made about *everything*. So if you announce your pregnancy at the same time that someone else announces their engagement, the women in my family will bend over backward (figure of speech!) to make sure that everyone gets their due attention paid to them. I didn’t really see it as thunder-stealing, but I find it so tiring!

    I suppose I’m lucky my family doesn’t react like your friend’s sister. :) Who has the energy to plot to steal thunder? The very idea makes me want to go to bed and shut the world out.

    • Seriously! It seems like it would take far too much effort to plan to steal someone’s thunder than it could possibly be worth. You know what else I think? I might be ranking in Google for the term figure of speech if the commenting continues like this.

  8. Joel,
    Thanks for sharing where the phrase selling your thunder originated. I love words and always enjoy learning how words and phrases originated.

    It is unfortunate that your friend’s sister’s first response was negative. She could have viewed the engagement of her brother at the same time as her engagement as an opportunity to share an exciting and transformative life event together. I don’t mean a double wedding but the joy of planning, sharing time with family and exploring the kind of marriage they were going to create with their beloved. Sadly it sounds like a missed opportunity.

    • Hi Christine. I thought something similar when I first heard my friend’s story. It seemed like such a great opportunity to collaborate with a sibling on a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime event! Imagine all the work they could save each other if they joined forces on certain tasks, reducing the amount of work for everyone and increasing the enjoyment. And I could just imagine them feeding off of each others excitement and being there for each other when things got stressful. Yep, it sounds like a missed opportunity to me too.

  9. The Universe is large enough and powerful enough to provide ALL abundance to every person. When you think in the mindset of scarcity you hold too tightly to idea that there is never enough and you must fight for every once for yourself. When you open your life to abundance to celebrate other’s victories, happiness and events. Live and celebrate others as well.

  10. Clare says:

    What do you do, when it just can not be ignored? If a person appears to be disrupting every day happiness and creating a war with thunder? Being rude, obnoxious and going out of their way to find out what you are doing in your life and mimic or do it in an awful way and displayed to all of the family, so it feels as though every accomplishment is no longer a passion but part of their game. :(

    We’ve even tried disconnecting ourselves from these people, bit they are family and so keep popping up. it has ruined family as my mother in law, promotes them and funds them, so it becomes a big chain of cutting off.but it feels like they can’t stop stealing others aspirations, dreams, hobbies and they are really materialistic too. For instance if I decided to do a motocross experience day, they would then go out and buy the most expensive bike and rant and rave about how much the have been into bikes forever, take loads of photos and get loads of attention, the mother in law will then take their hobby further by buying them a flight to the world championships to meet a vip. Now my motocross day really isn’t that important, it was just something to do for s bit of fin, but when this type of thing happens every month, it feels like they are draining my energy. Even in my job, I got a new job, and this person immediately went and took a course in my job and started collecting qualifications?

    It’s insane but even when my partner and I announced our baby news, they made a thing and said they couldn’t have babies, so we had to hush down our news for their grief, she then said I’m just a gold digger after their families money ( which is insane as i’ve always had my own money!?)and that i won’t cope with motherhood. Then just after giving birth to my baby,they announced they were having a baby. Strangely, their baby was born a few days before my child’s birth the next year. How to i shake them off me?

    • Wow, Clare. This is an awfully rough situation. It sounds like part of the problem is consistent “stealing of thunder,” but a bigger problem is your family’s urge to compete. What if you told them that you were no longer interested in competing with anyone (family included) and wanted to stop comparing yourself to the people around you? Would they eventually stop playing their game because they saw that you opted out of the game all together?

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