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Great success and the hidden lesson

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Great success and the hidden lesson

Scott Miker

Success often comes at a price that many of us are not willing to pay.  Most examples of extreme success come in the way of someone who had enormous sacrifice in order to reach the top.

While this may sound like a great example to follow, it isn’t.  Life requires balance.  Yet balance gets completely ignored when we are enamored by some glowing success story.  But the story behind the success often has a much different lesson. 

Years ago I was on a road trip with my brother and we were listening to Zig Ziglar.  This was before most of my study in systems and habits and the message was incredibly unique to me at the time. 

He said that he spoke to a young man who wanted more success.  He asked him if there is someone that he can look to who has already achieved this success.  The young man then spoke of his boss and the tremendous success within his industry. 

After a few minutes highlighting his boss’s incredible accomplishments, Zig asked him about the other aspects of his life.  The young man then started telling a story about a man with no friends, a shattered marriage, children who he doesn’t get along with, alcoholism, and unhappiness.  Then Zig asked him, “Why, again, do you want to be more like him?”

His point was that success in one area doesn’t automatically mean success in every aspect of our lives.  We find some great example of success in one area and then assume the rest of their life is just as incredible. 

But how many times do we hear of a celebrity or famous athlete whose life outside of their field is in shambles?  Or we find out that the athlete that beat everyone used steroids and cheated his way to the top. 

As a society we have to stop pointing to the extremes as an example of how to live our lives.  We have to realize that life isn’t about extreme, leveraged success. 

While obtaining my MBA I heard quite a bit about Henry Ford.  He seemed to be used as an example of success in many of my business operations classes.  Even reading business books in my free time he was pointed to again and again and praised for being such a great American success story. 

About a month ago I was watching TV and a documentary came on.  As the narrator began talking about Henry Ford she nonchalantly mentioned that Ford was an anti-Semite and supported Hitler and the Nazis.  It caught my attention because I never heard that before and thought, “she must be talking about a different Henry Ford.”

But as she went on it was clear whom she was referring to.  I was shocked.  So I did some research and found out that it is widely known these claims were true.  I thought to myself, “How can something so major get overlooked whenever someone refers to Ford?”

But we do this all the time.  We see Tiger Woods and think he has it all.  We see Lance Armstrong and use him to show overcoming adversity.  But then when a bigger picture emerges we are shocked to learn that their extreme success isn’t prevalent in the rest of the lives or they sacrificed honesty and character for winning. 

The truth is that there is often more to the story than what we are told.  Sacrificing for success may mean sacrificing things that should be more important to you.  This perspective has helped me better understand Chapter 9 in the Tao Te Ching, which says:

“Holding a cup and overfilling it
Cannot be as good as stopping short
Pounding a blade and sharpening it
Cannot be kept for long

Gold and jade fill a room
No one is able to protect them
Wealth and position bring arrogance
And leave disasters upon oneself

When achievement is completed, fame is attained
Withdraw oneself
The is the Tao of Heaven”