How to avoid the curse of success

By Sarah Stowe | 29 Oct 2015 View comments

It would be fair to say we all seek growth, progress and success in life. But ironically, while we all want to experience success, it often comes with a hidden curse.

The truth is, success can be positively dangerous, especially if it leads to complacency, arrogance or a sense of entitlement. Jim Collins, who wrote the book, Good to Great, refers to this as "hubris born of success". 

Hubris is an ancient Greek concept describing the excessive pride that inevitably brings down heroes. This hubris trap is something we all need to watch out for.

For instance I have often been amazed at the number of franchisees and franchisors who win business awards and then end up in trouble a few years later.

The reason appears to be they start to believe their own PR. Instead of maintaining their discipline and planning carefully for the next step, they are either caught napping like seals on the beach, or they plunge ahead making reckless decisions under an illusion of invincibility.


So how do we avoid the curse of success and stay on the way up, rather than heading on the way down?

Here are a few thoughts based on Jim Collins' research, as cited in another book of his called How the Mighty Fall.

  1. Make decisions based on logic, evidence and good data rather than pride or ego.
  2. Be a good listener and relentlessly seek out fresh insights on what's going on in your market.
  3. Stay focused on supporting the greater purpose of the business, rather than trying to look good or further your own interests.
  4. Credit others for success and work hard to earn the confidence and respect of your peers.
  5. Stay unified behind decisions to make them work, even if you earlier disagreed with them.
  6. Whenever there is a set back, rigorously debrief as a team with the goal of achieving insights without blame.
  7. Encourage everyone to strive to achieve excellent results and to accept personal responsibility for set backs.

In summary, the next time you find yourself basking in succes, stay grounded, understand the factors that helped you get there and be careful your next steps are wise ones.

And remember, while success and achievement might feel good, it's often our difficulties and challenges that yield the most useful lessons, stretching our boundaries and giving us the gift of fresh, new perspectives.

Greg Nathan is the founder of the Franchise Relationships Institute