Solution Saturday: How to Cope with Success

It’s “Solution Saturday.” Bob sent a private message asking about coping with success.

Failure might hurt, but success might be deadly.

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4 dangers of success:

Failure opens minds; success closes them.

  1. Self-deception. Success fools you into believing you’re better than others.
  2. Complacency. Success invites you to feel you’ve arrived. Innovation stops.
  3. Arrogance. Exaggerated self-importance is the reason leaders lose perspective. Successful leaders often excuse themselves from behaviors they expect from others, for example.
  4. Protectionism. Growth-thinking slips into protectionism when you succeed. Protecting gains is useful, as long as pressing forward drives daily behaviors. Organizations that don’t press forward always fall back.

Success hardens hearts; failure softens them.

7 ways to cope with success:

The only person who can humble you is you.

  1. Mention others when you talk about success. “We have a great team who….”
  2. When others talk about your success:
    • Be thankful. Gratitude answers arrogance.
    • Don’t make a big deal about it.
    • Don’t think they are asking you to explain how you succeeded.
  3. Find a brag buddy, someone who can celebrate your success with you, and not feel threatened. (Thanks Jon Acuff.)
  4. Keep a journal of lessons learned from personal failure.
  5. Confront yourself before confronting others. Are you letting yourself off the hook, while putting others on it?
  6. Open your hand to others. You know you’re heading in the wrong direction when you close your fist. Enjoy success by sharing it.
  7. Celebrate the success of those who are more successful than you.

Bonus: Keep asking, “How can I serve?”

Success is not who you are its what you do.

Coping with success is coping with a persistent bent toward arrogance. Humility doesn’t eliminate a puffy heart, closed mind, or elitism.

Humility is a practice that answers, but never eliminates arrogance.

How might leaders cope with success?


Every Saturday I invite you to join me in offering solutions to issues/problems leaders share with the Leadership Freak community. I’m sending a Leadership Freak coffee cup to Bob because his question was chosen. Thanks Bob.