(Read time: 4 minutes)
“Moderation is they key” has always been my mothers saying to me. It’s a value she passed on to me and I’ve found that it applies to virtually everything. Try it – “Too much (insert subject here) is no good.”
But can too much success be bad for you?
Growing up in America, it’s hard to imagine that too much success can be bad for you.
But upon deeper reflection, I’m realizing that it is. I’m not talking about the more obvious ways success can ruin a person’s character. For example, we all know of and dislike people who let success get to their heads and become so egotistical, so arrogant, they are difficult to be around.
No, I’m talking about something entirely different. A while ago, I came across the quote: “Don’t let success get to your head, don’t let failure get to your heart.” The second half of this quote is very interesting. I believe people who are always successful do not learn how to deal with failure when they inevitably encounter it. This is tricky because they don’t learn how to cope and have trouble recovering from failure.
If you’ve read my last few posts, you are probably aware of the book I am currently reading called “Mindset”. I absolutely love it and it has so many useful gems when it comes to how to reach your full potential – which is probably why I’ve referenced it so much in my last few posts.
In the book, Dweck introduces famously successful people that hit a wall or plateau in their career when they encountered a set back because they didn’t know how to cope with it.
For example, Dweck tells the story of Billy Bean, a baseball player who was expected by many to be the next Babe Ruth. According to Dweck, “he lacked one thing – the mindset of a champion.” Beck describes Billy’s experience: “By the time Bean, was a sophmore in highschool he was the highest scorer on the basketball team, the quarterback of the football team, and the best hitter on the baseball team. Batting 500 in one of the toughest leagues of the country. His talent was real enough but the minute things went wrong, Bean searched for something to break. It wasn’t nearly that he didn’t like to fail it was as if he didn’t know how to fail.”
According to Dweck, Billy believed that he never should never make an out. Although he felt this way, he relied heavily on his talent, and did not put the necessary effort in to make this a reality. This made his experience moving up from the minor leagues into the major leagues very tough. Each time he went to bat, it was another opportunity for humiliation. Billy’s previous success was beginning to hurt him because he was stuck in the fixed mindset and his beliefs were holding him back.
Eventually Billy’s success as a baseball player plateaued. He relied so heavily on his talent that he didn’t try to work on his weaknesses in constructive ways.
Many successful people can experience beliefs that fall within this mindset. These beliefs include:
- “Natural talent should not need effort. Effort is for the others.”
- “Natural talent does not ask for help, it is an admission of weakness.”
- “The natural does not analyze his deficiencies and coach or practice them away. The very idea of deficiencies is terrifying.”
There are many more stories like Billy Bean’s.
So what does this mean? Am I saying that it’s bad to be too successful? No!!!
I am simply saying that this is a trap you can fall into if you have always experienced success AND have had a fixed mindset. So, how do you avoid the trap?
The best way to avoid the trap is to ensure you are in the growth mindset. Having the growth mindset means believing that your abilities are not fixed. It means believing that through effort you have the power to develop and change your circumstances.
That is, you recognize that while talent is something you should be thankful for, you must work hard to reach and maintain success.
You recognize that you must ask for help – no one is a “self-made” success. In reality, all of the people you believe to be self made have had support along the way, whether that has been a mentor or a team of people working with them to support their ideas.
One of my favorite quotes is “Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you wont. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.”
When Barack Obama said this, in essence, he was talking about avoiding the fixed mindset.
Which mindset are you in?