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

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Guide - - FRONT PAGE - Gauri Ch­habra

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 )

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