We love a good success story as much as the next one, especially when they teach us how to become more courageous, to overcome our fears and turn our passions into a legit side hustle or full-time business. Stories that make us feel bad about ourselves or fail to teach us anything, though? They’re seriously the worst. Here are four times we think it’s best to ignore a success story — along with which types to take notes from instead.

A woman works on a tablet as she eats breakfast by a pool

1. When They’re Full of Emotion But They’re Not Realistic: Over-the-top tales that involve blood, sweat, tears, or lots of glitz and glamour are definitely fun to read or watch. However, any success story that’s bubbling with emotion but presents a far-fetched set of circumstances probably isn’t worth your time. These types of stories often feature subjects who started with an overwhelming amount of cash, overcame an unrealistic set of circumstances, or pulled off an epic journey — or came up during a time when they could do things that aren’t possible or allowed today. Must be nice, right?

What to Look For Instead: Still love a feel-good story? Make time to enjoy fictional reads or movies for fun, and turn your attention to emotional stories that are actually achievable — these exist too! Shark Tank is an inspiring show to watch if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, while talking with successful people you know in your community or social circles can help you uncover clever ways to keep working on your dream with whatever you have (from wherever you are) right now.

2. When They Don’t Focus on Happiness: Success isn’t just about money; it’s about living life as your happiest and healthiest self. Unfortunately, there are heaps of success stories that focus on people who created companies and earned a fortune while giving up all of the things that bring them joy.

What to Look for Instead: Since variety is the spice of life, and doing fun things with your friends and family is what helps make work totally worth it (in addition to the happiness you get from spending time doing what you’re good at or love), soak up stories that showcase the power of friends and family, knowledgeable mentors, creative hobbies, and passions. These things truly matter and can actually help you along your journey!

A tired woman reviews documents at her desk

3. When They Talk About Working Harder, Not Smarter: We bet you’ve read the stories about early employees or top executives at popular tech companies who spent every waking moment at their computer screen, barely able to step away to eat or shower — yikes. Though we admire dedication and a strong work ethic (both are critical to completing a goal), we’re also huge advocates of work-life balance and believe that it’s an essential component in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

What to Look for Instead: Since time is limited and each moment is truly valuable, spend your time familiarizing yourself with first-hand accounts or roundups that detail time-saving secrets and productivity tips. Bookmark stories that emphasize working efficiently (such as trying the Pomodoro technique or a four-day workweek), rather than those that required someone to clock a crazy number of hours. After all, those stories are never the ones you’ll want to try and replicate!

4. When They Make You Feel Bad About Yourself or Your Work: A good success story should inspire you to tap into your own potential or see your creativity, smarts, and skills in a powerful, positive light. Anything that makes you feel like your efforts and accomplishments don’t matter is never worth reading, watching, or listening to.

What to Look for Instead: Search for tales that offer actionable advice so you can take what you’re working on to the next level. Whether it’s tips that teach you how grow your side hustle, build a business with someone else, or crush your career as a new mom, these real-world accounts will provide clarity, ideas, and the steps you can take to achieve similar success.

What success stories inspire you? Share ’em with us on Twitter @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)