One of the most counter-intuitive truths I’ve ever learned (unfortunately, the hard way) is that the most dangerous place to be in life is in the throes of success.
You might think I’m crazy but hear me out.
In my experience, success is extremely dangerous to the future of organizations and companies. In fact, the list of successful corporations that are no longer in business is endless.
I believe success is the most dangerous place to be because it breeds…
1. A belief that it will always be this way.
When you are in the throes of success, it’s easy to believe that what you are experiencing will continue for the foreseeable future. You are more likely to make one of the most basic mistakes in business and in life, and that is to presume on the future.
One of the most fundamental truths of business (and life) is that it goes in cycles. That’s why we refer to “business cycles”, those seasons of economic expansion and contraction every business experiences.
Business (and again, life) is never linear but always cyclical.
That means when you experience success, wisdom would dictate that it won’t last. Therefore, you need to consider what you need to do in this moment to ensure a future of success… or at least managed contraction. You need to constantly be looking over the horizon to see what’s coming and how you must pivot in order to counter any downturn coming your way.
2. A tendency to lose focus.
We’ve all experienced times of crisis, whether in our personal lives or in business. And one thing that is absolutely true of every crisis – the one common denominator – is that each one screams for attention.
The result is that it focuses your thinking in very intentional ways. And because of that focused thinking, there is clarity and intense attention on what needs to be done to avert a disaster and hopefully move back towards success.
By contrast, success demands no attention and as a result, rarely receives any at all. As a result, you are unprepared for the inevitable change which is unexpected and for which you have not planned.
So in the midst of success, stay focused. And one way to stay focused is to operate like you’re in the midst of a crisis!
3. A drift away from discipline.
When you are working hard to reach the level of success you desire, there is naturally a discipline in place to do what is necessary to achieve that success. That’s true of any successful business or organization.
The challenge comes when you finally achieve that success. Why? Because you begin to lose the discipline that got you there. You begin to relax, and slowly (usually imperceptibly) the discipline that used to define the rigor of your efforts starts to wane.
Before you know it, your foregone conclusion that success would just continue has exploded and you begin an unwanted downward cycle.
That’s why when you are in the throes of success you need to double down on the rigor and discipline that should typify your organization even when you’re not in crisis.
Success really is the most dangerous place to be for any organization or for any person. The antidote is to recognize this reality and don’t allow yourself to be lulled into complacency.
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