Let’s face it. We’re a world focused on failure. There’s a headline when a celebrity couple has a nasty divorce. When the top-seeded college basketball team loses, the headline reads “Great team shocked by lesser team.” The onus is put on the team that lost, not the team who overcame to succeed. And those negative headlines are what we choose and what we read. For whatever reason, that’s where we are drawn. The psychology of that is a different discussion that I am ill-equipped to dive into, but today, I want to explore the successes.
If you’re like me, it’s hard to celebrate successes. Even if I have a great triumph, my mind always goes to what I could have done better. What wasn’t quite there? Why did only 95% of people like it? What about the other 5%?
And that’s a double-edged sword. I know that I need to give myself some credit and celebrate the wins. I need to accept a victory as a victory. Otherwise, I’ll exhaust myself with worry, stress and never feeling like I’m doing well enough.
But I also don’t think I’m wrong in constantly asked the questions I mentioned above. It’s not wrong to always try to improve. I’m terrified of falling into the trap of success that Tom Connellan talks about in his study on Walt Disney World, Inside the Magic Kingdom:
“The two most common by-products of phenomenal success are arrogance and complacency.”
Arrogance and complacency even sound like nasty words. They feel like they always need to be said with a little bit of a snarl. Try to say “arrogance and complacency” with a big smile on your face. I can’t do it. The idea of becoming arrogant and complacent makes my skin crawl.
You see, when we become arrogant, we think we know it all. As a millennial, I’m already accused of this enough. As much as I would love for it to be true, I don’t know it all. I don’t even come close! I don’t know it all about one subject, let alone the infinite others that exist. But we can’t continue success if we think we have nothing left to learn. If we just sit with our one success and think we’ve conquered the world, someone who’s learning and hungry is going to pass us up.
Complacency might be a less nasty sounding word, but it’s worse for us to find after success. Because while arrogance means we think we know it all, complacency doesn’t care if we know it all or not. Complacency leaves us in a place of apathy. We might not know it all, but who cares because we have success. We say, “I’m good with the success I’ve had, and I’m going to just call it a day.” But what about the next 20 successes we’re going to miss out on because of our complacency with this idea? We’re not going to reach our full potential if we’re sitting back and letting our one success be good enough. That success will fade, and we’ll find ourselves stuck and behind the times.
The key to managing success is living as a constant learner. Find success? Learn what it was that made you successful and hang on to that. But I would bet that everything about that success wasn’t perfect. So learn what can be improved next time. Even better, look at other people who have had success. What can you learn from them? What are they doing that you aren’t?
Finding success doesn’t give you lasting power. Finding one thing doesn’t make you a Titan of Industry. Hitting gold in one spot doesn’t guarantee a deep, ever-lasting mine below. If you just find one nugget, you might enjoy a nice dinner or two from that little piece of gold. But keep searching and learning, you’ll find bigger and bigger chunks. Your ideas will get better and better and gain more and more traction. You want to have a successful career that’s lasting? Step one is accepting that you’ll never know it all.
If you want to read more about pushing through to your next idea after success, check out this article by Stephen Brewster: http://stephenbrewster.me/2014/08/13/the-cycle-that-will-destroy-you/