The Price of Success

Success is sweet! But too much success can go to your head, and before you know it, the fall is swift and painful. How do you avoid the fall?

“The moment you rest on your laurels is the moment your competition overtakes you.” — Richard Branson

Too much success leads to complacency.

I see this often in the athletic teams I coach. Crush your opponents too many times in a row and the feeling of invincibility settles like a fog, clouding both perception of the competition and your abilities.

As the head swells with self aggrandizement, the brain shrinks. Emotion elbows out objectivity. The entire system breaks down because there is no challenge left to conquer. Life is too easy, and easy makes us soft.

The curse of too much success is not exclusive to athletics. It’s part of the human condition. We require adversity to grow. It sometimes breaks us, but such is the risk of growth. A sedentary life is worse.

There is always someone out there who is better, faster, stronger or wealthier. Sometimes we need a reminder. A nice punch to the gut. A slap in the face. Life excels at such reminders, and before long, it cuts us down to size.

So how do you avoid harsh corrections in life? How do you keep your competitive edge when it seems there is no one left to challenge?

  1. Focus inward on what can be improved. Stop comparing yourself to others. You are now at the top, and others are gunning for you. Each of your skills can be improved a little bit more. Raise the bar. Compete with yourself.

  2. To paraphrase Carnegie, try your hand at the broom. Get reacquainted with fundamentals and menial tasks. There is much to learn from doing the smallest, noblest tasks to the best of your ability. They will keep you grounded.

  3. Find ways to fail. Innovate in your sport, profession or life. You were coached to greatness by others. You followed the path they provided. It’s time to cut your own path. In doing so, you will fail often as you experiment your way to new levels of achievement.

Success can be exhilarating. Too much success can bring a swift, merciless fall from heady heights. Keep your competitive edge and avoid the fall!

Resting on your laurels is not confined to dominating the competition or achieving what no other human being has done before. It can happen after even a few successes in your life. You begin to think...

“I’m killing it! I can rest easy now.”

Don’t fall for it! That is your internal resistance sabotaging what you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Keep improving each day. If it becomes too much, ease off the pedal... but keep improving.