How Do You Handle Success? (I Suck At It)

by Nate St. Pierre on August 20, 2011

The coach of a pro football team has one goal: to win the Superbowl. He works diligently and tirelessly, for months on end, to accomplish this. From offseason (there is no offseason), to preseason, to regular season, to playoffs, all the way to Superbowl Sunday, he takes care of business. He worries about absolutely everything on the team – that’s his job, and he does it well.

Let’s say he does it so well that his team does win the Superbowl. The final whistle blows, confetti rains down, thousands of fans scream, hundreds of players and press swarm the field. After the trophy presentation, the team retires to the locker room, where the coach sums of the entire year in a congratulatory speech. For the team, nine months of gut-wrenching work at an elite level come to an end, and they finish as the best of the best. Champagne flows, players shout and smile and cry and hug and celebrate long into the night. The coach celebrates with them, victorious with his team on the final Sunday of the season.

He takes Monday off, a welcome and well-earned day of complete rest. He enjoys time with his family. He has a nice dinner with his wife. He goes to bed happy, but with nagging thoughts beginning to cloud his mind.

Tuesday morning he’s back to work, designing his strategy to win the Superbowl again next season, which for him starts . . . now. There is no offseason. He wants the rest of the team to take their long vacations, to enjoy their time away, to give their minds and bodies a rest. They deserve it. But he has a job to do, and he does it well. A brief moment of celebration is all he’ll allow, and then it’s back to business.

We’ve seen this story unfold time and time again in pro sports, haven’t we? It’s so prevalent with coaches that it’s become a cliché. We demonize the game that drives men to such levels of competitiveness that they would focus so intently on their work without leaving time for anything else, even their own physical health or mental well-being.

But maybe the game isn’t the problem. Maybe the game isn’t demanding people with these qualities, but rather, people with these natural characteristics are the ones who excel (assuming the same underlying level of talent as their counterparts), and are therefore the ones that rise to prominence and the national spotlight.

Maybe it’s the same in business. Or life.

And maybe I’m one of those people.

I think I’m learning this the hard way, and I’m not sure how much I like it. I’ve been building out large projects for a couple of years now, and by any measure you apply, I’ve had great success (I always hear Borat in my head when I read that phrase, though I’ve never seen the movie. Thanks, world). Every once in a while I’ll hit a big goal that happens to be public knowledge, and people will congratulate me and become a part of that world for a short time, and I’m invariably asked the question, “What are you going to do to celebrate?” I never, ever have an answer. Not only do I not have an answer, but I don’t even care to have one. The fact is, I don’t celebrate my wins. I mean, I may go grab a chocolate malt and say I’m celebrating, but let’s be honest, I get those malts on my own anyway.

It’s not that I’m not allowing myself to celebrate, either. I don’t have some voice inside my head telling me that I’m lazy and no-good and I better get my sorry butt in gear, or else. There’s nothing like that. I just don’t seem to have the “celebratory gene.” Whenever I hit a huge milestone, my reaction is a sense of accomplishment and happiness for about an hour, and then I move on to the next thing on the list. It’s actually quite annoying. The older I get and the more I do, I’m wondering if I’m too much like those coaches I see on TV, and I worry if I’m not getting everything out of life that I should be. I can’t help but feel that I’m missing out on something really good, you know? And then I wonder if this character flaw trait will affect my overall health and happiness down the line as well, because I don’t want to become the coach who’s working on his third heart attack. Part of me wonders if many of those major problems can be traced back to this one little thing, and if so, what I can start doing about it now to prevent something like that in the future.

So I want to throw it out there and see how you guys feel. Are there a lot of you out there like me, or am I alone on this? I’d love to hear from you and see how you handle the successes in your life, for better or for worse. Let’s talk in the comments below.

(Image source: TheDreamSky)

Previous post:

Next post: