by William S. Frank, President/CEO of CareerLab®
As much as I like to help people achieve greatness, I also like to help them maintain balance in life, because without balance, success can be short-lived. We all have friends who suffer from life-threatening illnesses because they achieved prominence, but forgot to take care of themselves along the way. I believe too much success can literally kill you. It's not the achievement itself that's harmful, but the frenzied activity and self-denial it takes to get there.
High-achieving people often nurture everyone but themselves.
Here are 30 indicators of high stress that can accompany the hot pursuit of success. Review this list, and note any items that apply to you. If you find yourself checking more than ten, it may be time to alter your career to reduce your stress level:
This 30-item list could go on endlesslyand one person's stress is another person's happiness. One of my friends calls herself a "stress-junkie" and thrives on adrenaline. The question is, for how long?
In Portraits and Observations by Truman Capote, Marlin Brando is quoted as saying, "Too much success can ruin you as surely as too much failure." And Navy SEAL veteran Brent Gleeson advises "Don't run to your death."
Our culture encourages us to be more and to do more. There's nothing wrong with high achievement, the problem with achievement is when it takes over our liveswhen we become our careers. That is, when our career becomes our whole identity. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with a career being one's whole identity (think industry titan), unless it interferes with family, friends, health, and having a personal lifeif in fact you want a personal life. Some folks don't.
America's high-speed FedEx, Twitter, 24/7/365, needed-it-yesterday culture rewards achievement, consuming, and having and doing more; and it disdains being quiet, taking time for oneself, slowing down, and looking after oneself. It's a battle with the culture to achieve balance and peace of mind.
I work with people in high-stress situations: they've been fired or laid off, or are afraid they might be. Worse yet, they don't have a direction. Their future is completely uncertain. A broken career can be frightening and disabling.
Self-care means different things to different people. For some it's walking their golden retriever in Washington Park. For others it's skiing the black diamonds at Vail. You may be calmed and centered by reading, meditating, or playing your violin. Forget what works for others; do what works for you.
I've found massage therapy, or "body work," to be beneficial in combating a high-success lifestyle, and I've used a family counselor and executive coach for years. These four books have slowed me down and put my career and life into better perspective: 1) Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life, by Thomas Moore; 2) Lao-tsu's 2500-year-old masterpiece Tao Te Ching, Translated by Stephen Mitchell; 3) Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual, by Dennis Prager; and 4) The Artist's Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self, by Julia Cameron with Mark Bryan.
The reason I'm such an expert at discussing "too much success," is that I've displayed most of the above-mentioned symptoms myself, sometimes many of them at once. Mid-career, I've made some gains in balancing my life, but I'm still working at it. It's a lifetime journey.
(Texas Guinan, quoted above, was an American actress, producer, and entrepreneur (1884-1933). Credit to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd for some of the language in item #29.)
William S. Frank (Bill) is President/CEO of CareerLab® in Denver, CO USA. Bill does one thing right: he helps businesspeople maximize their careers. That's it. Nothing else. He works nationally in person or by phone. Companies hire him and so do forward-thinking individuals. Since 1978, 355 brand-name corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and educational institutions in far-ranging industries have hired Bill to provide Testing & Assessment, Executive Coaching, and Outplacement.
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"More men are killed by overwork than the importance of the world justifies." ~Rudyard Kipling, The Phantom Rickshaw, 1888
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