Bill Gates once said: “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
This is a gentle reminder for those of us who work day and night, trying to become successful in all areas of life. Today, if you turn on the news, you’ll probably see high-profile men dangerously playing roles they’re not suited for.
It’s enough to make you scratch your head and wonder: “How in the world did those guys get there?”
Here’s the thing: If you’re not careful, you might find yourself in that same position – and people will be wondering the exact same thing about you. How humiliating!
To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, let’s take a closer look a the little-known “dark side” of success.
The Good and Bad Sides of Success
The good side of success is the side we know: You get results, you get respect, and you establish leadership and authority in your space.
People start looking to you for guidance, and when you speak, they listen. You’re in a real position to make some positive change in the world.
What’s the bad side?
Just this: It lulls you into having an inflated sense of self. You start having thoughts like:
• “Hey, I’m a great employee – I’d definitely make a great entrepreneur.”
• “Hey, I’m a great cook – I should go into retail.”
• “Hey, I’m a great speaker – I’ll make a great singer.”
• “Hey, I’m the pastor of a megachurch – I can cheat on my wife and get away with it.”
• “Hey, I’m a superstar athlete – I can do drugs and get away with it.”
• “Hey, I’m a successful businessman – how hard can politics be?”
This is precisely what Bill Gates is trying to warn us about. You might be smart and successful, but if you let your success get to your head, you start thinking you can do anything.
That’s the “trap” of success, and the more successful you become, the easier it becomes to fall into it.
So how can you become successful without getting seduced into this crazy kind of thinking?
By knowing this:
The Three Zones of Success
There are basically three zones of success to be aware of:
(1) The comfort zone,
(2) The growth zone, and
(3) The crazy zone.
Most men are stuck in the comfort zone. They never become successful because they never take educated risks.
A few men are in the growth zone, which lies just outside the comfort zone. These men are all about getting the results they want. When they become reasonably successful, other people start seeing them as leaders. Hopefully, you’re in this zone, too.
What about the “crazy” zone? This is the zone beyond your growth zone, and it’s all about doing things outside your core competencies. And this is the zone where disaster happens.
History is littered with men who dared to venture into the crazy zone:
• Military leaders who recklessly sent thousands of soldiers to their deaths
• Companies who were doing so well that they decided to diversify outside their industry, failing catastrophically and closing down soon after
• Successful/popular people rising to political power, only to lead their countries into war, famine, and civil disorder
How to avoid becoming one of those men? Simple—stay in your growth zone. Stick to what you’re good at. If you want to diversify, do so in small scale first, and then grow.
The key word is control. Stay in control—both over your work AND your own soul—and you’ll do just fine.
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