“Success is a catalyst for failure.”

I am always a sucker for articles that share quotes because they stop and give me food for thought. I shared this article recently and the following quote on success leading to failure, as well as the write-up, gave me pause:

“Success is a catalyst for failure.” — Greg McKeown

Success becomes a catalyst for failure because “success” isn’t something you’ve accomplished. It’s something you create. And the only way you can create something of true value is by being a deep student.

Most people stop being true students after they’ve succeeded, even in small degrees. They begin to ‘rest on their laurels’ — being so satisfied with what one has already achieved that one makes no further effort.

Additionally, with increased success often follows over-confidence and lack of focus. You stop putting in the time. You stop taking risks. You over-attach yourself and look more and more to the past and what you’ve achieved. You stop focusing on the future and what you want to achieve. You start listening to other people’s ideas and comments and stop listening to your own voice.

Success is a suppressant to creativity, if you attach to it rather than use it as a vehicle to push your boundaries even further.

This quote stuck with me both on a personal and organizational level.  When one sees success in pursuit of their own goals, it can often lead to further progress.  Personally, when I feel that I am getting healthier and in all honesty, other people comment, it pushes me to work harder.  But sometimes the routine that leads you to success becomes “routine,” and we can stagnate.  What led us to the success in the first place was developing new habits, and sometimes those habits are great for maintenance but become harmful to future growth.  Maintenance is not always the worst thing, but if we want to grow in an area, changing our routines, or what we do in those routines, becomes essential.

On the organizational level, I have seen that the groups that become the quickest to move backward are the ones most satisfied with their success.  But as the world moves forward, if you are standing still, you are falling behind.  The thing with success is that it is much harder to challenge than failure. People can become complacent and judge what they have done solely based on the past, without looking at what is happening now or what they are creating for the future.  This William Pollard quote sums it up beautifully:

Take time to celebrate your the successes you have accomplished, but be wary of becoming comfortable with them.


Source: George Couros