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The Other Side of Success


The recent suicide of a famous and successful young movie star from India raised many questions among his fans, colleagues, and the media. Because he didn’t leave a suicide note, there is a spate of assumptions and conspiracy theories doing the rounds, trying to find an answer to the mystery of why someone who seemed so successful, and being young had so much more to live for, would choose to end his life.

It set me thinking about the concept of handling success. We see, read, and hear a lot about how to handle failures. But there isn’t quite as much discussion on how to handle success. Success is seen as a destination so once reached, it is often viewed as the end of a journey and hence doesn’t deserve or warrant any more attention. Failure, on the other hand, is part of the journey and hence there is plenty of scope for advice and suggestions on how to handle failures on the path towards the goal. After all, it’s not often you think that someone successful in their chosen endeavor might need any help with what to do next, right?

The reality is that along with the feeling of euphoria that success brings, come a few mind gremlins that, if not addressed, could cause serious problems down the road. Let’s look at some of them –

1. Complacency – Having accomplished your mission, it can be easy to fall into complacency about your abilities. A dash of arrogance and over-confidence in your ability could set in, leading to eroding all gains pretty quickly. It’s a bit like a mountaineer who’s reached the summit becoming careless on the way down. Recipe for disaster!!

2. Loneliness – The expression “it’s lonely at the top” is pretty accurate. During the process of striving for success, you generally find yourself in a team or group situation where there tends to be camaraderie and togetherness. Once you achieve success, you might find yourself separating from the pack, and end up feeling like a lone wolf. For a person used to the social aspect of being in a team, this can be quite disconcerting.

3. Insecurity – Having achieved success, some people fall victim to the habit of constantly looking over their shoulder for anyone that might take over their position. Be it a top sportsperson, movie star, or just a regular manager in an organization, successful people can get obsessed about holding on to their position and staving off threats from competition, real or perceived.

4. Performance anxiety – Success often results from setting a standard that other people cannot easily reach. Having set the bar, high achievers can experience a sense of anxiety about having to maintain that standard. They feel they have something valuable that they’re afraid of losing and that can cause anxiety. Some people might also feel that because of their success they're now on the radar of being evaluated for everything they do. For instance, a sales rep who's become a sales manager might feel they're now playing the higher stakes game!

What are some strategies to handle success?

1. Stay focused – The best way to remain balanced and focused after success is to set new goals. After savoring your success, it is important to reset your goals so you can continue to have something to aspire to and help your mind get used to the new normal.

2. Remember your past – This may sound a bit strange as a strategy given how much focus is placed these days on living in the present. However, remembering your past is an excellent way of staying humble because you will feel gratitude for what you’ve managed to achieve through all the struggles and hard work of your past.

3. Don’t let success define you – Be the person who defines success rather than let success define you. Remind yourself that you are the same person you were before you achieved success. Being able to detach your identity from your success means that you can enjoy your success without feeling trapped by it.

4. Help others – Using your experience to help others achieve their success can prevent the feeling of loneliness or isolation. The joy of giving can eliminate the fear of having your success being usurped by a potential challenger, as the mind becomes comfortable with the idea of others’ success.

5. Stop seeking outside validation – The tendency to value your success only if others validate it can be an unending quest and it can leave your success feeling hollow. It is human nature to like being appreciated or applauded by others, but making it the focal point for enjoying your success can lead to frustration and disillusionment.

Having learned the strategies for handling success, all I need now is to be able to practice what I’ve learned. So come on Success, bring it on…I’m ready and waiting!!! 😊

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