When success leads to failure…
If you want to climb up the ladder in your organisation and take on additional responsibilities, you should be ready to shed some of the present responsibilities and pass on the baton to your subordinates in line. There is a curious hunger about power, wh
Have you ever wondered why don't successful people and organisations automatically become very successful? One important explanation is what I call "success paradox", which can be summed up in four predictable phases: Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success. Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities. Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts. Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.
Curiously, and overstating the point in order to make it, success is a catalyst for failure. It is true for companies and it is true for careers.
Here's a more personal example: For years, Mr Balkrishan Gupta (name changed) was a professor of environmental studies at a prestigious educational institution. But he couldn't kick the feeling that the career path he was on was just a close counterfeit for the path he should really be on. So, he left academia and went to work for a TV channel. With that success came new and intriguing opportunities in Mumbai that again left him feeling he was close to the right career path, but not quite there yet. His success had distracted him. After a couple of years, he changed gears again in order to be what he really wanted: an explorer-in-residence with National Geographic, spending a significant portion of his time diving in the most remote locations, using his strengths in science and communications to influence policy on a global scale. The price of his dream job was saying no to the many good, parallel paths he encountered.
What can we do to avoid the success paradox and continue our upward momentum? Here are three suggestions:
Get rid of clutter
Think of what would happen if we keep on piling clothes in our closets without getting rid of our old clothes. If we ask, "Is there a chance that I will wear this someday in the future?" The closet becomes cluttered with clothes we rarely wear. If we ask, "Do I absolutely love this?" Then we will be able to eliminate the clutter and have space for something better. We can do the same with our career choices.
By applying advanced search, we can tap into our brain's sophisticated search engine. If we search for "a good opportunity", then we will find scores of opportunities for us to think about and work through. And you keep moving around in circles, why don’t I become a lawyer? Or an IAS or go in for an MBA.
Day in and day out we keep chewing this cud. Instead, we can conduct an advanced search and ask three questions: "What am I deeply passionate about?" and "What taps my talent?" and "What meets a significant need in the world?" Naturally there won't be as many pages to view, but that is the point of the exercise. We aren't looking for a plethora of good things to do. We are looking for our absolute highest point of contribution.
Next, if you look around, you will feel that all those who are not being flushed in and out of job portals are the ones who have landed there because of their own doing. Be the someone who is doing work that he loves, that taps his talent, and that serves an important need in the world.
Audit your life
Every year we file tax returns and if we are a part of an organisation, we brace ourselves for the financial audit. For all of you who are conscious about careers, have you ever conducted your own life’s audit? So busy are we aspiring for things year by year, piling them one on top of the other. We seldom realise that we need to prune our audit our thoughts and eliminate the non-essentials. More importantly, to let GO of something to get something else. We want to get new things while clinging to the old. If we are ready to let go, all at once, we have the key to unlock the next level of our lives.
All human systems tilt towards messiness. In the same way that our desks get cluttered without us ever trying to make them cluttered, so our lives get cluttered as well-intended ideas from the past pile up. Most of these efforts didn't come with an expiration date. Once adopted, they live on in perpetuity. Figure out which ideas from the past are important and pursue those. Throw out the rest. In case, you want to climb up the ladder in your organisation and take on additional responsibilities, you should be ready to shed some of the present responsibilities and pass on the baton to your subordinates in line. There is a curious hunger about power, when you get more of it, you want still more…
Stick to your knitting
Also known as the divestiture aversion, it refers to our tendency to value an item more once we own it. The mere fact of ownership makes you less willing to part with your own objects. As a simple illustration in your own life, think of how a book on your shelf that you haven't used in years seems to increase in value the moment you think about giving it away.
This is a perennial problem with successful persons. When they are successful, they get more opportunities, they keep grabbing those and become so hard pressed on time that they are not able to do anything efficiently merely because of the dilution of efforts and their falling in love with all that they own. Maybe when you joined a small company, you were managing all portfolios like HR, finance, operations and sales too, but as the company has grown, you need to step aside for other people to join in with their specific roles.
A cure for this malady of endowment that we can apply to career clarity: instead of asking, "How much do I value this item?" We should ask, "If I did not own this item, how much would I pay to obtain it?" And the same goes for career opportunities. We shouldn't ask, "How much do I value this opportunity?" but "If I did not have this opportunity, how much would I be willing to sacrifice in order to obtain it?"
If success is a catalyst for failure because it leads to the undisciplined pursuit of more, then one simple antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less. Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. Not just once a year as part of a planning meeting, but constantly reducing, focusing and simplifying. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well. Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, which may be why it differentiates successful people from the very successful ones. (The writer is a Punjab- based education counsellor with 12 years of experience. She can be contacted at gauri_nag[email protected]hoo.com )