The High Price of Success

Estimated read time 5 min read

“What are you willing to give to achieve your dreams?” This simple, fundamental question is what I ask the people I mentor. Their responses often illustrate dreams of success that stem from wealth and power. They might point to a Silicon Valley tech billionaire, a professional athlete who has already reached their peak at 20 or even a social media icon making millions as their inspiration. This elite menu in life has become commonplace, yet no one is listing the price of these goals. No one sees the behind-the-scenes grind, sacrifice and impact this can have on a person. And people often forget to look at the bigger indicators of their own success.

While professional success comes with many benefits, there are also drawbacks.

At one point in my life, I looked up to the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. I wondered what it would be like to stand in their shoes and didn’t consider the downsides, only the upsides: I’d live comfortably and be able to support a family and not worry about money like I did in my childhood; I’d be able to see the world and experience adventures on my bucket list; I’d be able to give my children experiences I never had; I’d feel fulfilled building a business that I am passionate about. All those benefits were what got me up in the morning every single day as a young entrepreneur, and in many ways, continue to do so.

That said, striving for and achieving this dream didn’t come without a price. There was a time when I missed my kids’ birthdays and sporting events. My first marriage ended in divorce. I struggled with health issues due to the stress and demand put on my body from long hours and work stresses. I had mental health lapses and questioned if I could keep doing this.

My experience is not uncommon. Look at Tom Brady, considered the greatest quarterback of all time in the NFL. His relationship and personal life have been in the spotlight, with reports that he is “choosing football over family.” Think about A-list actors who are on set for months, sometimes years at a time. They are not at home, and if they have a family, they are certainly missing out on many of life’s most beautiful moments and milestones. That said, they may have the coveted Oscar to show for it.

Take time for a self-assessment—and be honest.

Over the past few years, as the pandemic has roared on, many people have been left with more opportunities to evaluate life, what’s important and what gives the most meaning. More people have reevaluated how they spend their time and who they want to spend their time with.

For many business owners and executive leaders, taking time to do this may not have been high on the list with the pressures of navigating a new economy, customer needs, staffing challenges and more. However, it’s never too late to take a step back and take stock of where you’re at physically, mentally and emotionally, and be honest with yourself. Going into another new year is the perfect opportunity for a brief self-assessment. You can begin to bring together your professional dreams with personal goals; I think about this as a personal report card for the most important areas of my life. I start by asking myself a few questions.

• How is my body physically?

• How are my relationships with my partner, family, friends?

• How is my spiritual life?

• Am I still enjoying life, finding time for fun?

Now 25 years since starting my own business and 35 since beginning my career, I have taken stock of these very things and made personal and professional adjustments to bring life more into balance without sacrificing my professional dreams or giving up the work I love. I have found a daily meditation practice. I remain dedicated to my work—and will continue to do so—but I also carve out time to be with my family and grandchildren. I allow myself a chance to step away and take a vacation, so I can come back to the office rejuvenated with renewed thinking and drive. I fuel my body—as best I can—with the right foods and aim for daily movement. That may mean my days can’t fit quite as many meetings in, but the ones I have on the books are that much more productive.

Turn your attention to your professional goals and capabilities as well.

As you continue to take stock, also consider the following.

• What elements of your business do you most need to be involved in? Let go and delegate the rest.

• What about your work do you love most? Do more of that.

• What do you excel at? What is best left to another expert? Hire those great people.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we must ask these tough questions early on. In younger years, we can often get by with less sleep, unhealthy habits and even spending less time at home, but I’ve found it will catch up with you. To ensure you are leading from a place of strength, don’t wait to recalibrate, and remember to ask: What are you really willing to give to achieve your dreams?

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