A couple weeks ago, we talked about complacency. I said there were two types of complacency: One that stems from success and one that stems from a lack of success. You might have wondered, “How could success make me complacent?” I’ve heard it said that the greatest enemy to your future success is your past success. The thing you’ve accomplished are important, and you should be proud of what you’ve done. But you can’t allow those accomplishments to eliminate your desire for change, development, and innovation. (In comes complacency!) The Harvard Business Review did some of their own research on this area in their article “Why Leaders Don’t Learn From Success”. One of the main takeaways I got from this article was this: Sometimes our success keeps us from learning. If we aren’t learning, we aren’t growing. If we aren’t growing, we aren’t getting better! One of the suggestions they had was to celebrate success, but to also examine it. “There is nothing wrong with toasting your accomplishments. But if you stop with the clinking of the champagne glasses, you have missed a huge opportunity. When a win is achieved, the organization needs to investigate what led to it with the same rigor and scrutiny it might apply to understanding the causes of failure.” How are you investigating your success? What are your plans for getting better? I hate to break it to you, but as long as you’re breathing there is going to be room for improvement in some, if not all, aspects of your life. Here’s an exercise for you:  

  • List the last failure or mistake you made, whether it’s personally or professionally.
  • List everything you learned from this mistake, and ways you want to improve because of it.
  How long is that list? I don’t know about you, but when I mess up, it’s easy to create a laundry list of ways I can improve. Now, let’s do the same thing for our success.  
  • List the last accomplishment you’re most proud of.
  • List everything you learned from this accomplishment, and ways you want to improve because of it.
  Is this list shorter? Longer? Was it harder to think of ways to improve when you were talking about success versus failure? I challenge you — and myself — to look at success in the same scrutiny as if you were recovering from a mistake or failure. There is more to be done and more to accomplish. Be careful not to let what has happened in the past limit what could happen in the future! [bctt tweet="Be careful not to let what has happened in the past limit what could happen in the future!" username="dukematlock"]


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