Certainly success is a good thing. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t have negative consequences. (Is that a triple negative?) Anyways. In the real world, success is not always clear cut.

Could we have been more successful?

How might our current success impact future success?

What tradeoffs did we make?

In the academic world, success can easily be evaluated based on grades. I sometimes teach university classes and when I do I am always fascinated by how students evaluate their success and respond to feedback about their performance.

As you can imagine, when someone gets a 100% on an assignment, I don’t hear from them very much. Of course, you would expect to see that the lower the grade the person got, the more likely they are to complain. But what is interesting to me is that I receive more “inquiries” about grades from students who make A’s (but don’t get 100%) than any other grade level.

You would think that if you got a “C” that you would be upset and try to fight for a “B”. But what I think happens is that the students who get A’s want perfection.

They hunger for it.

They strive for it.

They demand it.

The B and C students are perfectly content. They know what they need to do to pass and they do it so they’re not surprised. But the near-perfect students want perfection and so it burns them up.

Of course, when they ask for clarification it is under the guise of “doing better next time” but anyone can see it is because they want you to prove to them why they didn’t get 100%.

While such requests can be tiresome, I have to admire their commitment to their goal.  I would probably do the same in their shoes.

But remember what happens when they actually get 100%.

They get satisfied.

They feel a sense of accomplishment.

They’re happy.

Which is what we all think we want. But, even though the 100% students receive feedback in their papers as well, they aren’t hungry to improve their performance and so they rest of what they did yesterday. They don’t take action. They don’t try anything new. And they don’t learn. That’s what sucks about success. People become complacent.

It is critical in life and in business to never stop growing. If you’re getting the results you want, make sure that you don’t stop learning, growing, and expanding. Think back to a time when you didn’t have that success…remember the drive and passion you had to make it happen and bring it back. That’s what it takes to get to the next level.


John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

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