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Does Extraordinary Success Require the Ultimate Sacrifice?
Leaders who are driven to create extraordinary outcomes are a different breed. We are told that those who strive for and achieve any semblance of greatness pay a significant price.
Indeed, the sacrifices for success often produce all kinds of instability. Emotional, social, and financial. Read the biographies or interviews of many well-known leaders and entrepreneurs and a common pattern emerges.
For a period of time, they eat, breathe, and sleep the ideas they believe in and the work they do. Everything else takes a second position, including family, friends, and health.
Even for those who eventually succeed, the trade-offs are often viewed negatively in retrospect. For those who never “make it,” the sacrifices can amount to emotional suicide. They are never able to recover the time lost with those they love. They often spend years in a futile attempt to make up for lost ground.
The idea that social and personal wellbeing are mutually exclusive from success has become so ingrained in the business psyche of leaders across the world as to be self-evident. As one of the popular books on creating success suggests, “There is no balance for those who are committed to Winning.”
We even measure commitment in terms of sleep. Not getting a full night’s sleep is a badge of honor for the ambitious. Success, it appears, requires the ultimate sacrifice of total focus and immersion.
The time has come to blow up this leadership myth.
To borrow a phrase asked of Shoeless Joe Jackson, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” For those who wisely define success as multi-dimensional, the idea is to succeed on all fronts — not just one.
There are just as many examples of successful leaders who tended to all aspects of their life as there are legends made famous by myopic fixation on personal ambition. While a deep commitment to excellence is a prerequisite for success, it does not require leaders to abandon their families or social obligations in order to achieve significant milestones.
Deciding early on that success can best be achieved by focusing on the full range of desired outcomes allows leaders to find a pathway toward greatness while still having a group of loved ones at the finish line. As Albert Schweitzer liked to say, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.”