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The Curious Nature of Success

By Todd Dewett, Andersen Alumnus, author and speaker

There are two main phases of success: before you’re successful and after you’re successful.

Before you make it, you’re successful in spite of what you don’t have. That’s the defining characteristic of life before success. You fake it until you make it. You stretch resources and get creative. You clock major hours. You take risks. You plan, strive, try, fail, recover and try again. It’s not being successful yet (however you might define success) that creates the hunger in your belly.

Once you’ve made it, things change. Old constraints no longer exist. Now, you’re only able to maintain success in spite of what you have. The trappings: more power, more money, more connections, etc. Great, but how exactly do you maintain success when the hunger subsides and you have lots of everything?

Your success can only be sustained if you create a version of what life was like before you made it. For example, consider these effective tactics.

Deny yourself the best perks. What? But I earned those things! True, but the more you indulge nice things, the less you enjoy them and the more you expect them. The trick is forcing yourself to really earn them. Don’t buy a car or new gadget or take that mind-blowing vacation until you truly deserve them. Make their consumption contingent on amazing goal achievement. That might be a service goal, revenue goal, a new client to be secured, a technical problem to be solved, who knows – just make it challenging.

Next, redefine success. You need new goals or reference points that prove you are nowhere near your potential. Stop resting on your laurels and get moving. It might be new skills, new achievements, new revenue or income, who knows. Get creative – if your metrics are looking good, pick something new against which to measure yourself. Consider other roles, other jobs, other companies, other industries, or other careers. Using new and different definitions of success, you might relight a fire.

Invest in the right friends. One of the strange things that happens to successful people is a shift in their friends. Who you hang around matters. During the climb, your friends and close confidants were hungry and chasing success just like you. Each year after you make it, there are more and more people who just want to tell you how great you are. Get rid of them. Go find real people who are still hungry. Help them and you just might get hungry too.

Finally, push hard enough to fail. Failure hurts whether you’ve been successful or not. The problem is that most successful people grow an odd aversion to failure. They don’t want to experience pain like they once did. Wrong answer – it’s exactly what you need. Pushing hard and working on audacious goals will inevitably lead to setbacks. Good – it gives you humility and drive. Stop playing it safe just because you’ve accomplished a few things.

In the end, the only thing harder than becoming successful, is staying successful. Remember the advice above, you and you just might have a shot.

Dr. Todd Dewett is one of the world’s most watched leadership personalities: a thought leader, an authenticity expert, best-selling author, top global instructor at LinkedIn Learning, a TEDx speaker, and an Inc. Magazine Top 100 leadership speaker. He has been quoted in the New York Times, TIME, Businessweek, Forbes, and many other outlets. After beginning his career with Andersen Consulting and Ernst & Young he completed his PhD in Organizational Behavior at Texas A&M University and enjoyed a career as an award-winning professor. Todd has delivered over 1,000 speeches to audiences at Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Pepsi, Boeing, General Electric, IBM, Kraft Heinz, Caterpillar, and hundreds more. His educational library at LinkedIn Learning has been enjoyed by over 30,000,000 professionals in more than one hundred countries in eight languages. Visit his home online at www.drdewett.com or connect with Todd on LinkedIn. He can be reached at todd@drdewett.com