If there’s one attribute organizations and leaders everywhere share in common, it’s the pursuit to achieve success in their collective efforts. Granted, there is quite a large variance in terms of how each organization chooses to define what success would look like for them. But there’s little question that – at the end of the day – all of us are driven by the need to know that we’ll one day achieve success through our contributions and efforts.
Of course, there’s another aspect to success that many of us share in common and that is what do we do once we achieve that success? And by this, I’m not referring to how we choose to acknowledge or celebrate this accomplishment. Rather, I’m referring to that moment when the dust settles and we look with pride at what we’ve attained and find ourselves stuck with that lingering question – so, what do we do now?
If you look at any successful organization, you can see the answer they share in common: the focus tends to be on how to replicate both the conditions and measures they took that allowed them to achieve this successful outcome.
In some cases, this manifests itself in incremental improvements over the current product or service, something that’s become a key tactic of every major smartphone manufacturer.
Others, though, might look at how their concept, product, or idea ‘disrupted’ a market or industry and then go about looking for how to graft that approach onto other industries, which is why there’s an ongoing search to discover what will no doubt be initially described as ‘the next Uber’.
Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these approaches in the short term, a recent conversation with one of my daughters helped to crystallize how we’re missing out on the important lessons to be learned from success in terms of the long view.
Last week, my daughter Malaika was among a select group of students at her high school who were recognized for their achievement of earning an year-round average of over 90%. This was her second year in a row where she earned an over 90% average, and I was curious to learn how she viewed achieving this level of success a second time around.
For example, does she believe she’s found the approach to achieve these high marks and all she has to do is to simply repeat these measures going forward? Or does she expect things to change and the need to adapt her approach to remain among the top students at her school?
Obviously, this quandary reflects similar questions leaders face when their organization finally succeeds in achieving its objectives. And after talking with Malaika to learn more about her perspective on this, I realized that her example sheds some light on three important lessons we can learn from success, lessons that go beyond where our next innovation or idea will come from to understanding what drives us over the long run to bring our best efforts to what we do.
1. Success teaches us to be persistent no matter what stands in our way
One of the biggest changes we’ve seen in Malaika’s outlook is how she views the inevitable obstacles and roadblocks she encounters in her studies. Since earning that first over-90% average two years ago, she’s become more driven when she faces a difficult challenge or obstacle. In many ways, she’s come to learn that the inevitable difficulties she’ll face are not a reason to give up, but simply a sign that she has to push herself even harder if she wants to continue to succeed in her efforts.
Similarly, after organizations achieve a success milestone, there is the tendency to avoid daunting obstacles or approaches that could rock the boat, and instead, focus on taking initiatives that serve more to solidify or reinforce their past successes.
Now, that’s not to say that we need to constantly disrupt what we do. Rather, it means that we need to be mindful in ensuring that our successes don’t result in our being complacent in challenging ourselves to figure out how we can do and be better going forward. Something that is especially true when organizations are facing obstacles that would require a substantial amount of time and resources to overcome in order to achieve a critical goal going forward.
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