The Problem with Success

Every person has some sort of desire to better themselves in some form or way. Being the social creatures that we are we almost always use social benchmarks to gauge our growth and development. I’m talking about awards, promotions, elections, friendships, fame, and love. Striving to become successful is important in personal and professional relationships. In order to get where we want to go we make goals for ourselves, and if everything works out in the end we reach our goals and hopefully become a success story. 

Success, however, is not what it seems. It’s been said that you can tell a lot about a man’s character by how he deals with hardships, but you can tell even more about a man’s character by how he deals with success. Success can take many forms and is the aspiration of many, but success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance will always lead you to failure that could have easily been avoided. Success is the kiss of death. Don’t believe me? Take these organizations for example: The Roman Empire, The Soviet Union, Enron, General Motors, Michael Jackson, and the list goes on. I believe that we have to fundamentally change our view of success in this country so that we can weather the storms of success that the future may bring. To do this we’re going backtrack and take a look at goal setting.

 The American Nightmare

In a recent survey of 18-25 year olds conducted by The Pew Research Center that focused on “the American Dream”, 81% said their dream was the become rich, and 51% said their dream was to become famous. This is a far cry from the American dreams of our parents and grandparents. They once dreamed of owning a house of their own and providing for their family. Here we are some 40-50 years later and our dreams have been stretched to absurd wealth and fame. Alarmed? You should be Generation Y is our future. I’m nervous and I’m only 24. I’m in the thick of this mess, but alas I have not yet been perverted by dreams of wealth and paparazzi. 

 

success can lead to this...

success can lead to this...

 

Whenever I work with college classes I always talk about this survey, because when you hear it sounds really absurd.  What I try to explain to the students is that it’s okay to want to be successful but you have to understand that just wanting to be successful isn’t enough to actually make you successful. Many people believe that attributes like wealth, fame and success are goals themselves when in fact they are actually byproducts of hard work, growth and development.

Michael Jordan was famous because he was the best at basketball, Dave Matthews is famous because he’s a dedicated and talented musician, and Gandhi was known the world over because he was a person who strove to be the pinnacle of morality and righteousness. Their fame was secondary to their talent and hard work.

Goals and Objectives

Goals and success are just concepts. Objectives, however, are very real. The only true way to reach the level of success you desire is to set obtainable objectives in your life. If your goal is to get an A in a college course then make your objective to read every chapter. If your goal is to become a better baseball player make your objective to take 100 ground balls after every practice. Are you getting the idea? Objectives are what bridges the gap between where you’re at now and where you want to be. Objectives put you in motion; they ensure you’re moving towards your goal by breaking it down in to manageable chunks. Set goals in your life, but more importantly set objectives and stick to them. Objectives will get you where you want to go in life.

Most people who reach success have done a great job a sticking to their objectives to get them to that point in their life. However, one of the most difficult things is to stick to your objectives once you’ve reached your goal. Most people welcome in the arrogance and forget what got them to that point in their life. Never forget your objectives.

 The Great Ones

 

 

these two sport giants understand the true meaning of success

these two sport giants understand the true meaning of success

 

 The great ones are the people who have continual consistent success. Michael Jordan won his first three NBA Championships by working hard to become one of the most explosive players in the game. His second three championships were won late in his career after he’d lost a step in his speed. He reset his objectives and focused his game around a new shot, the “fade-away jumper” and dominated the competition in a completely new way.

 Tiger Woods is another prime example of continual success. After winning more major tournaments in his young career than most golfers win in their life times he decided to set a new objective to correct his swing. This wasn’t easy because Tiger struggled for a few tournaments, but all the while he remained committed to swinging his clubs the correct way knowing that it would make him a more consistent golfer in future tournaments. The end result was more major tournament wins including winning the US Open with an injured leg. Most people would be happy with a single major victory but Tiger knew that to keep winning majors he needs to set objectives to develop all aspects of his game.

 Success is Dynamic

Many people have the misconception that success and leadership are the end result of our objectives, but that’s simply not true. With each success in your life you’re stepping through the door for another challenge. Success is dynamic and like you it’s always changing. Understand your talents, identify your weaknesses, create your goals, and follow through with your objectives that will lead to success. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Always repeat.

Advertisements

Embracing Failure… Becoming The First Penguin

You’re Going to Fail

 

You are going to fail. It’s that simple. You are going to fail. Now it might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, but at some point down the line you’re going to mess up.  And it’s not going to be some little screw up either. It’s going be really bad. For some of you, you’re going to see it coming. For others you’re going to get blindsided. Some of you, bless your hearts, are going to do everything right and then guess what, you’re still going to fail. Some of you probably all ready failed. Have you gotten the hint yet? Everyone fails in some form or way in their lives, be it professional or personal. But one thing is for certain, there’s no getting around it. So you might as well embrace it, because failing isn’t as bad as you think.

 

Why We Fear Failure

dep385_270984a

A student fearing failure is a student handicapped by outdated educational ideals.

 

Now as you read that first paragraph your stomach probably turned a little bit and some thoughts started flowing through your head about things that could fail in your life right now. Maybe is that deal waiting to close? Maybe it’s that first date?  We as a society fear failure. We are terrified of it. Through our educational development we’ve been conditioned to fear being wrong. Failure is stigmatized in our educational systems. It is the reason why when a teacher asks a question in a kindergarten class all the hands go up and when a professor asks a question in a college course only a handful of hands go up. At some point along the way we as learners begin to think that being wrong is the worst possible outcome, and we run our business like this too.

 

Think about it this way. All of us spent the first 18-22 years of our lives being told that failing is wrong. The truth is that academic life is geared around your success. In most cases if you get a C in a course that is the pretty bad, when in reality its average. Failure in the real world is much different because anything goes and you need to take chances to succeed. If you consistently got a 4/10 on your college quizzes you would probably get an F in that class. However, if you were a professional baseball player and 4/10 at bats you got a hit you would be going to the All-Star Game.

 

 

The Other Side of Failure

 

Hypothetically failure is horrible, but in retrospect failure is often essential to success.  So why is failure essential to success? Well there are two main reasons that I can think of: The first is because only through our mistakes and failures we can truly begin to learn and develop. The other reason is that failing over time begins to make us resilient to aversive conditions.

 

Michael Jordan said it best. He said, “I can accept failure. What I can’t accept is not trying.” That is what I am getting at. If you try, if you really give it all you got you’re going to get something out of the process of your attempt. So the end result is that you goofed or things didn’t go according to plan. The odds are that if you truly gave your best effort you’re going to walk away knowing something that you didn’t before.  That is what matters most.  Ask any great champion or stand out in their field and they will tell you the same thing. Failure leads to success.

 

What Juggling Can Teach Us about Failure

 

In my senior year of college I heard Curtis Zimmerman give a speech. Curtis is a tall large framed man who slicked his brown hair back and wears thin wire framed glasses. Curtis is a world renowned entertainer and circus performer. He can swallow swords, eat fire and juggle like it’s nobody’s business. The culmination of his speech is to have a person come on stage who can’t juggle and learn how to juggle in front of the entire audience, and best of all he guarantees they will learn to juggle, and the person, nervous as they always are gets it every time. Curtis then puts on a juggling show where he’s juggling three, four, and five balls in different patterns and ways that people have never even seen before and he’s getting really into it he says, “Do you know why I am able to do this so well?… Because I’m not afraid to do this.” And he lets all of the balls fall on the floor. “The reason I can juggle so well is because I have dropped the balls more than any other person in this room. My past failures are the reason for my current success.”

 

The First Penguin

 

The late Randy Pausch PhD, author of The Last Lecture and former professor at Carnegie Melon, gave out a First Penguin award each year when he was teaching to the biggest failure in trying something big and new because he thought this should be celebrated. The idea came to him because First Penguins are the ones that risk their lives to jump into water first even though it might be filled wih predators.

penguin08

Behold the glorious First Penguin. This penguin is the first to dive into the water. That water might be filled with predators or that penguin might get first dibbs on all the tasty fish in the ocean. Take the risk.

 

My best advice is if you’re not the first penguin find someone who will make you the first penguin, find someone who will push you into the frigid waters below. When I first started my job right out of college I was fortunate enough to have a boss who embraced failure and taking chances. Believe it or not I was scared to make phone calls to clients because I was scared I might mess up and fumble my words on the phone and sounds dumb. So my boss sat at my desk with me and made me make some calls. I was so nervous I messed up a lot at first, but then I realized that this wasn’t so bad at all. After while my initial fear wore off and I became quite good at the phones. Now I start off every phone block session with a random call to a business in a phone book just to get my goof up out of the way. I used to be that little penguin on the edge of the iceberg looking into the water, scared to jump. Today I’m still that little penguin, but now I’m doing back flips into the water and give it my best effort every time I jump.

 

Be that first penguin. Celebrate your attempt even if it ends up in failure, because odds are you’ve learned something important along the way. Good luck.

 

Some quotes and media on failing that you might like.

 

“Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

                                                            – Batman’s Dad

 

“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.”

– Carl Jung, Psychologist

 

“My reputation grows with every failure.”

                                                            – George Bernard Shaw

 

“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”

                                                            – John Dewey