“The toughest thing about success is you’ve got you keep on being a success.”
I thought about the burden of success … or maybe it is the seductiveness of success … when I read the following fabulous thought on success in a book < “I want my MTV” > my sister gave me …
“… when the show ended, ratings were still high.
But MTV had this philosophy of ‘we’ll die if we don’t keep changing.’
So after 3 years they took it off the air.
MTV just wanted to keep doing new things.
That thinking has changed.
Now the mindset is ‘if it’s working we’re not changing it.’
Jersey Shore will stay on the air until it stops getting ratings.”
If you want an executive summary of the mindset in today’s business world … mindset is ‘if it’s working we’re not changing it’ … is it.
Change, in itself, is difficult.
Change, when currently having some success, is even more difficult.
Success is seductive.
Success is a drug.
And we, in business, get attracted to it … and addicted to it.
The public <financial community, customers, opinion leaders, etc.> also gets addicted to our success.
I say that because even if we do want to pull a ‘crazy Ivan’ <Hunt for Red October reference> or an MTV type change move … the public shoves it up our business ass.
You are kind of damned if you and damned if you don’t.
Here is the thing about success.
Fresh success tastes better than almost anything else that occurs in business.
Success gets stale … really fast. Like maybe even faster than a loaf of bread sitting on your counter.
This means you need to keep success fresh.
This also means you cannot simply replicate what you did for the last success.
That sucks, huh?
Now … success is not dependent upon change for change sake … it is dependent on gaining some fresh insight … and changing <or adapting> with those insights.
This makes success … well … a frickin’ burden <as well as a royal pain in the ass>.
Because you gotta keep moving. And changing. And thinking. And, hopefully, be smart enough to have insights. And not resting on the fact you have had some success.
Think about it.
In the business world one of the saddest things you can hear when meeting someone is when they highlight some success they had … maybe 10 years ago … or maybe 20 years ago.
To be clear … I am sad not because I want to diminish their success <and their ‘moment’> … but rather because that was it.
That was their moment.
But the rest of the world moved on <because present moments trump past moments>.
And now they sit there staring at their stale success … but only see it as the pinnacle of some victory & glory.
I fully understand that moving on is difficult. Especially if it is success you want to move on from.
I will also admit.
Writing about this is easy.
Practicing this is really hard.
Fucking hard in fact.
And it gets even harder because we are notorious for being future blind.
We are future blind … not just from ignorance but also from success.
Success is not only a lousy teacher but it also pokes your eyes out so you can’t see shit.
You become blind to what could be if you actually moved on … as you gaze at the current success wondering how to breathe some fresh air into what is.
The problem with that ‘what is’ is that you are also blind to the fact that once you have had success … that success is already leaking out the other side. It looks like success but you are actually losing.
You just keep holding on to something that actually is getting smaller and smaller as time creates little leaks.
“Success is a lousy teacher.
It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
I imagine the bigger question is … how do we accept the burden of success … and shed the burden at the same time?
How can we avoid losing even when it looks like success at the moment?
This may sound odd but the answer resides in us … our character … or let’s say ‘strength of character.’
The ability to stand apart, to stand up, and say “okay … it’s time to move on.’
“What sets us apart can sometimes feel like a burden.
And it’s not.
A lot of the time, it’s what makes you great.”
Your character sets you apart in this case because you figure out how to leave success and seek something more or new and sometimes better.
It may sound silly to bring up strength of character but that is what I think avoiding the burden of success is all about. You gotta have some strength of self and some resilience and some confidence that the moment of success you had … can be found in a different version sometime in the future.
I know for a fact that success … well … success tastes sweet. The few times I have tasted it I have savored it. Once tasted, you will not only yearn for the taste again … but you will hesitate to put the current glass down.
Moving on from success is hard.
It is not only hard because of its taste … but the fear you may never taste it again.
We have a complicated relationship with success. Combine that with the fact we have a complicated relationship with our sense of ‘self.’
We carry both burdens … and most times … we carry the burden gladly <because the prize tastes so sweet>.
But here is the one relatively uncomplicated truth.
You can set yourself apart by placing success down … and leaving it behind.
That is a different burden to carry but instead of an ‘achievement’ type burden it is a ‘self’ type burden.
And if I had to choose between the two … give me self success, and the burden of leaving it behind, versus some accomplishment burden any day of the week.