Success breeds success, but it also breeds failure. The evidence is all around us. Look at your favorite celebrities, athletes, or businesspeople. They all seem to have succeeded at something, but many have gone from the top of the mountain down the to valley fairly quickly.
With success come power, influence, and … options.
For instance, why were kings typically known to be fat? I would suggest that it’s because they had money and access to a lot of good savory food…all while lacking self-control.
Here are three ways success can breed failure:
1) Losing Your Edge
When you are on the proverbial “road to success”, the grind can be hard. Then one day you finally feel like you’ve made it and suddenly stop paying close attention to the things that made you a success in the first place.
You forget why you started, what made you want it, and what got you there.
In order to stay on top, it’s important to keep your edge. This means staying true to who you are and what makes you unique.
When things are going well, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have to work as hard as before. After all, why would you jeopardize a successful career by doing something stupid? But the truth is that if you ever want to achieve great things, there is no room for complacency. Complacency is the thief of success.
It’s just too easy to lose your edge, get lazy, and stop doing the things that brought you success.
Another way that success can breed failure is that success brings options, and oftentimes those options are in direct opposition to future success.
For example, if you’re successful in your field, you may become eligible for a promotion. But if that promotion requires a move out from your current area of success, you may not be ready with the new skills required in the new position.
Even worse, these options can introduce you to new groups of people, and they may not share your values. You could find yourself with opportunities to be unfaithful to your spouse, or take drugs, or just start staying out late and partying…generally shifting to an unhealthy lifestyle.
3) Not Taking Risks
Chances are your current success involved taking some risks. When you start to succeed, it’s natural, and smart, to want to create a margin of safety. But playing it too safe is itself risky. It’s like saving a ton of cash and hiding it away in a box. It’s worth less and less each year because of inflation.
It’s also easy to believe that the game never changes and that doing the same things will virtually guarantee success. Ask Blockbuster how that went for them…
The saying goes “failure is not an option”. Well, sometimes it is…but only if we don’t take risks. When we are afraid to try new things or make mistakes, we limit our opportunities for success. Remember: failure is just a stepping stone on the road to success!
You’re successful in one area, and you feel the need to uphold your public image by being successful everywhere. This can prevent you from trying new things. I love to see it when successful people admit they are a novice at something and they step out by overcoming the fear of public failure. This is what a growth mindset looks likes. It’s been said that you must be a disaster before you can become a master.
You have to be a disaster before becoming a master.
Don’t be afraid to fail. The more times you try something new, the more likely you are to succeed. When you’re tentative and scared of making a mistake, it’s harder to take risks and discover new opportunities. Remember: failure is a key part of success…even your future success….even in other areas.
So maybe you should moderate your risks to protect your position, but remember that risk is a necessary element.
Here are four ways to avoid succumbing to the pitfalls of success:
1) Know the Pitfalls Above.
Just being aware of these pitfalls can help you avoid them. When you’re aware of them you’re more likely to notice the signs and internal attitudes that could lead to making these mistakes.
The road to success is paved with bricks of failure.
2) Create Feedback Loops
A key part of sustained success is to have feedback loops that will tell you when you are off track. Just like your map/GPS will tell you when you are off track on your travel route, you need these in other areas of your life as well.
These feedback loops can be numeric systems based on computer logic. They can also be systems that measure client satisfaction or employee engagement. They can also they can be people around you. We all need “trusted advisors” and “mighty men” around us who can see from a different perspective than us and give us objective feedback. We need smart people who care enough to speak the truth to us, even when that means telling us that we are off track… and we need the humility to receive it. Just remember to choose wisely the voices you listen to.
3) Guard Your Mind and Your Thinking
Avoid executive-itis and pride that will bring you down by reminding yourself that you became a success by adding value to others…that you are a servant. Serving others is what is all about. Keep doing it. Keep helping others get what they want and need. This one thing will almost guarantee future success.
4) Always a Student
Know that you will never know it all. Even if you were an expert yesterday, things are changing rapidly in our world and there will always be new things to learn. Determine to always be a student…for the rest of your life. The better you become, the more value you can add to others.
In conclusion, success breeds success, but it also breeds failure. The evidence is all around us. This is a cycle that we must break if we want to achieve true success. Knowing these pitfalls and how to avoid them will certainly increase your chances of sustained success.