While not often discussed, nothing dulls the senses like a taste of success. A chance encounter with success can often lead to a feeling of being indestructible, which in turn can lead to arrogance, and the belief that success itself will breed success in any situation. Once a leader starts to believe their own rhetoric, trouble is not far behind. The reality is that past success, in and of itself, does not necessarily serve as an indicator of future success.
Life is full of seemingly successful people who regularly fall from the ivory tower for no apparent reason. We’ve all witnessed the lottery winner who hit the big one only to have their new found wealth derail their life, as opposed to solve all their problems. We’ve seen the same thing happen to young politicians who dream of changing the world only to find themselves corrupted by their own ego once they arrive at the Parliament. How about the professional athletes who sign multi-million dollar contracts out of school? They all too frequently end-up running with the wrong crowd only to find themselves out of the league only a few years later with nothing left to show for their success. And finally, how about the executive or entrepreneur who rises to the top, gets the title and the paycheck to go along with it, only to later run their company into the ground and eventually lose their position and all the perks that went with it.
Are success and significance the same thing? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Sure, for those “who get it” success and significance are one in the same, but for most professionals success begins and ends with the achievement of a certain list of personal goals with little regard to the impact on others. These people confuse success with significance, and regardless of their wealth and professional accomplishments, they won’t accomplish the true greatness which only comes through making significant contributions to something other than one’s self. I don’t care how your resume reads or what your net worth is…what I care about is your motivation, and what you do with what you have.