Be humble. A lot has been accomplished before you were born.
You've accomplished your goal-you've lost the weight, you've finished the project, you won the game. Now what do you do? Do you revel in your success, or do you find a new goal, a new project, and a new use of your time? I see so many people get caught up in something they've done to the point where they lose out on winning at something else. For me and my team, there's always another game to prepare for, always another season. We don't pat ourselves on the back so much that we lose sight of what has to be done next week to get us to our ultimate goal. Until we reach that, we won't rest. I know I won't. And when we do reach it, then we'll start over and try to do it again.
We are tested by the manner in which we respond to success and praise. Does it trigger arrogance and pride, or does it cause humility? How someone handles praise and success can tell you much more about that person than how he handles criticism. It's a great equalizer.
When you are praised, it really means that you've been noticed. Okay, you've been noticed-now what are you going to do? Either you're going to think you've arrived and let up, or you use that window-and it's not a big or wide window-to do something really great.
I spoke to a group of bankers once who had just been promoted to the next level. I told them that what that meant was that they had been praised and noticed, and now they had a voice. I said, 'Everything you say and do now will be looked upon by others as having a certain validity because of the praise that has come your way. How you handle it-what you choose to do with that voice-is up to you.'
Success and praise often bring a sense of contentment, which can lead to complacency, and that is guaranteed to harm your chances of future success. It's like exhaling. You've been building, building, building, and then you've succeeded; you've been praised, you're feeling good about yourself, your friends are calling saying, 'Great job.' And before you know it, you're just lying on the couch basking in the glow rather than using that glow to find even greater success or to succeed at something new.
I'm always amazed at the number of players who think they've earned the right to slack off once they have a Pro Bowl season or capture some record of some kind. Their thinking is, they've made it to the top, they'll just stay at the top, and we all know it doesn't work that way. The success and praise has made them cocky, and once that happens, their reactions become skewed. In the off-season, if you tell a guy who became a star the previous season that he needs to get in the weight room or on that track, his response is, 'I know what I'm doing,' when before either he was already doing it or he answered, 'You're right, coach, I'm starting that today.'
The guy who does this has forgotten what it was that made him great. He's been blinded so much by his success that he can't see in front of him. He thinks that because he has become a star, the stardom will stick on its own. If you forget what you did to get to the level where you are praised and considered successful, you have nowhere to go but down. A guy like this had a small window to take his game to an even higher level by showing that he wasn't satisfied with what he had accomplished, which, in turn, would most likely have increased his marketability as well as his performance on the field. And before he knew it, someone will pass him by. One of our rookies will come into camp like he used to be, in fantastic shape and with a hunger to prove himself. Embracing success is the surest way to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Say you get an award for being the top salesperson in your area. There's a big banquet, a big presentation, they give you a plaque and maybe a bonus, and the attention is squarely on you and what you've accomplished. Sure it's good to feel good about what you've done, but if you spend the next three years coasting on those accomplishments, you'll find yourself out of a job. You are only as good as your last accomplishment, and the 'what have you done for me lately?' theory definitely applies to most walks of life.
And even if you find you can't work any harder, you can maintain the level you've operated at to get you to where you are. You stay committed to your goals, you embrace the challenge every day, and you find new and creative ways to stay at the top.
If you look at the top companies in the country, you'll see that they have maintained their excellence by doing those things. They've become successful and they've continued to be successful by working hard every day and changing when change is necessary, either with products, advertising, community outreach, or philosophy. They haven't waited for the rest of the industry to catch up with them, they haven't rested on what they've accomplished; they've pushed on in the face of success.
When we won the division in 2002, we had another game to play, so we couldn't afford to sit back and celebrate what we had accomplished. We felt good for a few minutes-you have to do that; it's human nature-and then we turned our attention back to where it had been during the winning stretch toward the end of the regular season. Nobody was basking in anybody's glory; nobody was patting anybody on the back saying, 'Good job. Now you can rest.' We were still hungry, and we had a lot to accomplish.
We won our next game against Indianapolis and then fell two games short of playing in the Super Bowl, losing to Oakland in the playoffs. We certainly didn't rest on what we had accomplished.
A lot of people think that overcoming adversity is the toughest thing you face in life. I'd argue that often, the toughest thing you face is overcoming the gratification that comes with achievement. It's far easier, I believe, to overglorify what you've done than to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get through tough times. Humility is hard to find once someone tells you you're great. And complacency is the anti-success. It is laziness in the spotlight, and after a while, the spotlight fades and it's just laziness. Those who are truly successful handle praise with humility and success with a smile and a willingness not to let that be their only brush with accomplishment.