Why sustaining success is harder than becoming successful

Long-term success in any endeavour requires two things — getting something and keeping it. Getting what you want in life and career is not easy. Maintaining what you’ve got is even harder — getting rich and staying rich. Getting fit and staying fit. Losing weight and maintaining that weight. Getting market share and keeping market share. Becoming a millionaire and staying a millionaire.

Research shows over 50% of Americans will find themselves in the top 10% of earners for at least one year of their lives. More than 11% will find themselves in the top 1% of income-earners at some point.

And here is an important fact — close to 99% of those who make it into the top 1% of earners will find themselves on the outside looking in within a decade.

Getting something often requires a lot of risks. Keeping it may often require contradictory skills, discipline, making room for error and even more risk-taking.

“The world is now changing far too fast to get over-attached to anything you’ve done or anyone you’ve been. Don’t ever be the former anything. Be willing to reinvent yourself over and over,” says Benjamin Hardy, an organizational psychologist and the author of Willpower Doesn’t Work.

Successful people do more to keep what they have. Sometimes they master both the skills needed to make maintain what they have– Warren Buffett is a great example. But it’s rare. Which is why downside reversion to the mean is such a repeating theme in history.

“Everything in the economy is cyclical. Nothing great or terrible is likely to stay that way for long, because the same forces that cause things to be great or terrible also plant the seeds to push them the other way” argues Morgan Housel, a partner at Collaborative Fund and a former columnist at The Motley Fool and The Wall Street Journal.

“People and companies, whose behaviours are changed by their own success, are vulnerable to the same cycles,” he adds.

Keeping success requires that you focus on daily growth or life long learning— the daily habit of acquiring knowledge. You must also, on a daily basis, hone your skills, perfecting them until you become an expert.

It also requires building rich relationships with other success-minded people — people open closed doors to even more opportunities. And most importantly sustaining success requires that you create multiple streams of income. In his book, Change Your Habits, Change Your Life: Strategies that Transformed 177 Average People into Self-Made Millionaires, Thomas Corley says about 65 percent of the millionaires in his study had at least three streams of income.

Becoming successful can be the biggest impediment to staying successful

Getting successful can be the biggest impediment to maintaining that success because the more successful you are at something, the more convinced you become that you’re doing it right.

If you don’t question your assumptions, mental models, success habits, principles and actions daily, your success can be your downfall.

The more convinced you are that you’re doing it right, the less open you are to change or embrace new ideas. The desire to keep things the same can be the beginning of your downfall. Success can be an expensive disease because it contains the seeds of its own destruction. It pays to be vigilant.

Staying successful involves a few other simple things — self-awareness, modesty, and the ability to delay gratification with a portion of your income.

Most people don’t focus on the “what-if’s” that could disrupt their lifestyle but planning for these uncertainties can literally save your career.

Successful people put themselves to the test, move the needle, challenge themselves, learn from their multiple mistakes, reinvent themselves and their skills, and iterate their breakthroughs in the process.

Success isn’t just what you have, or what you’ve accomplished — it also means that you are continually pushing new boundaries internally and externally.

Some people succeed to a certain degree, and then shift their minds to a fixed-mindset. They stop pushing themselves. They drift into complacency and a mind that was once sharp dulls into apathy.

Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach once said, “The moment you have arrived is the perfect time to start out again.” The world is continually changing.

Success requires growth and change. When you succeed big at something, don’t sit there for long. You can only be new once. Keep evolving.

One more thing…

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