Correcting Our Shadowy View of Success


Two fallacies shape many people's view of success and keep them from improving.

Have you ever watched a dog chase its shadow? It can be a comical sight. Mistaking the shadow for something concrete and catchable, the dog yaps at it and tries to chase it down. Time after time, the dog dramatically pounces on the shadow, expecting to pin it to the ground. Yet, no matter how hard the dog tries, the shadow always eludes its grasp.

We laugh at the silliness of a dog's futile attempt to catch a shadow, but it's not nearly as funny to watch a person try the same routine. Unfortunately, that's just what many leaders do in life. They chase after a shadow of success, not realizing that what they're pursuing lacks depth and substance. They're running after an illusion of success rather than tracking down the real thing.

I've found that there are two core fallacies that cause us to have a shadowy view of success. Let's take a moment to look at each one in greater detail.

Fallacy #1: We see success as a place instead of a process.

Most people have destination disease. They see success as a far-off place where they hopefully will end up in the future.  In the meanwhile, they float through life without a sense of urgency. Lacking a plan to get where they want to go and eschewing the hard work needed to get there, people with destination disease rarely arrive at their vision of success.

People with a proper understanding of success know that it is determined by their daily agenda. They're aware that success has two main ingredients: decisions and discipline. Decisions pave the way to goal setting while discipline fuels goal getting. The two traits cannot be separated; one is worthless with out the other.

Good Decisions - Daily Discipline = A Plan without a Payoff

Daily Discipline - Good Decisions = Regimentation without Reward

Good Decisions + Daily Discipline = A Masterpiece of Potential

Successful people know where they want to go. They don't drift; they drive. Along the way, they pay the price of daily discipline in order to achieve their goals.

Fallacy #2:  We measure success by the magnitude of our accomplishments rather than by the richness of our relationships.

Many people envision success as attaining a powerful position, commanding a high salary, or obtaining luxurious possessions. None of these goals are inherently wrong.  However, distortion comes when, in striving for success, leaders elevate getting above giving. Rather than connecting with and serving their teammates, they slip into self-absorption and start to treat their followers like pawns.

People who live solely for themselves end up by themselves-alone and disconnected. Albert Einstein hit the mark when he said, a only a life lived for others is worth living." An unselfish life of service never ceases to be filled with the pleasant company of friends and loved ones. If you desire true success, then put a high value on people, make the effort to form relationships, and invest in those relationships regularly.

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