Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 7, Issue 5;   January 31, 2007: Astonishing Successes

Astonishing Successes

by

When we have successes that surprise us, we do feel good, but beyond that, our reactions are sometimes self-defeating. What happens when we experience unanticipated success, and how can we handle it better?
Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia

Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia. Painting by Charles Marion Russell.

You've just learned that something you've been working on is a success — an astonishing success. You probably feel great, and at the same time, you might feel troubled. Maybe you worry that the success isn't real, or that something bad is about to happen, or that from now on, they'll expect much more of you.

These worries can undermine the very natural sense of triumph you might otherwise have. What are these paradoxical feelings, and what can you do to put them to rest?

Here are some examples of the feelings some of us have when we succeed.

I don't deserve it
The concept of "deserving" probably doesn't apply to success. Success isn't necessarily the result of a decision by a panel of judges. Most often, success follows real achievement or random chance or both. Deserving has nothing to do with it.
What if they find out the truth about me?
If you have a low assessment of your own contributions or self-worth, others can sense it, and they adjust their assessments of you accordingly. It's your own view of yourself, rather than the discovery of truth, that leads to the readjustment by others.
Something bad is about to happen
Success is not a sign
that something bad
is about to happen.
The Universe
doesn't keep score.
The universe doesn't keep score. No known mechanism is at work to "even things out."
I'm completely responsible for this success
Almost everything that happens in the modern workplace is a group effort. Feelings of superiority and total responsibility for success aren't likely to be rooted in objective reality.

And here are some perspectives that help allay the anxiety-producing concerns above.

Neither success nor failure is wholly earned
There's an element of chance (or the hand of the divine, depending on your point of view) in all things.
Express your appreciation
If the astonishing success is your own, you probably know some people who helped. Express your appreciation. When the success isn't your own, express your appreciation to those experiencing success. These appreciations feel good, both to the givers and to the receivers.
A sense of Chaos is common
Astonishing success can be a "foreign element" in the sense of the Satir Change Model. Because a foreign element can throw you into Chaos, the better you are at dealing with Change, the better you will be at coping with success.
Expect the fall
After the immediate success experience, many people experience a feeling of relative letdown. Learning to manage these feelings can be very helpful. See "After the Accolades: You Are Still You," Point Lookout for February 13, 2002, for more.
More success is on the way
If you've worked to achieve success, and you've achieved it, then it's more likely to happen again. Your work contributed. Get ready for more success.

Sometimes, my reality does exceed my dreams. But dreams are supposed to be beyond reality — that's what makes them dreams. When they aren't, I remind myself to dream bigger. Can you dream bigger? Go to top Top  Next issue: Retention  Next Issue

For more on achieving and inspiring goals, see "Corrales Mentales," Point Lookout for July 4, 2001; "Commitment Makes It Easier," Point Lookout for October 16, 2002; "Beyond WIIFM," Point Lookout for August 13, 2003; "Your Wishing Wand," Point Lookout for October 8, 2003; "Give It Your All," Point Lookout for May 19, 2004; "Knowing Where You're Going," Point Lookout for April 20, 2005; "Workplace Myths: Motivating People," Point Lookout for July 19, 2006; and "Achieving Goals: Inspiring Passion and Action," Point Lookout for February 14, 2007.

Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunLove the work but not the job? Bad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? This ebook looks at what we can do to get more out of life at work. It helps you get moving again! Read Go For It! Sometimes It's Easier If You Run, filled with tips and techniques for putting zing into your work life. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenjssZtXkqLDxudHHpner@ChacBzCHXlKpSZbBquqqoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Suspension cables of the Brooklyn Bridge, which spans the East River between Manhattan and BrooklynDealing with Negative Progress
Many project emergencies are actually the result of setbacks — negative progress. Sometimes these mishaps are unavoidable, but often they're the result of patterns of organizational culture. How can we reduce the incidence of setbacks?
The damaged Apollo 13 Service Module, as seen from the command moduleHealthy Practices
Some organizational cultures are healthy; some aren't. How can you tell whether your organizational culture is healthy? Here are some indicators.
Vortex cores about an F18 fighter jetGuidelines for Sharing "Resources"
Often, team members belong to several different teams. The leaders of teams whose members have divided responsibilities must sometimes contend with each other for the efforts and energies of the people they share. Here are some suggestions for sharing people effectively.
The impeachment managers for the impeachment of U.S. President Andrew JohnsonProblem-Solving Preferences
When people solve problems together, differences in preferred approaches can surface. Some prefer to emphasize the goal or objective, while others focus on the obstacles. This difference is at once an asset and annoyance.
The cockpit of an A340 Airbus airlinerThe Limits of Status Reports: II
We aren't completely free to specify the content or frequency of status reports from the people who write them. There are limits on both. Here's Part II of an exploration of those limits.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

C. Northcote Parkinson in 1961Coming September 27: Meeting Troubles: Collaboration
In some meetings, we collaborate not in reaching objectives, but in preventing our doing so. Here are three examples of this pattern. Available here and by RSS on September 27.
A typical standup meetingAnd on October 4: Meeting Troubles: Culture
Sometimes meetings are less effective than they might be because of cultural factors that are outside our awareness. Here are some examples. Available here and by RSS on October 4.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenUYgbiOrDNBmTtUwjner@ChacvEwszoXhpHxunuidoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.