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Leadership Thought #373 – Go Out on Top and Move Forward

June 21, 2012

Free Back view anonymous male explorer with backpack standing on rough mountain peak and enjoying breathtaking scenery of severe highland on clear day Stock Photo

I remember when they asked Jerry Seinfeld why he would turn down $5m an episode and leave one of the top-rated shows in TV history and he said he wanted to go out on top.  He also said he wanted to have a life and that work had become too consuming.   At the time, I couldn’t understand his decision, but now I have come to respect it.

The fact is, too many people stay past their prime.  There comes a point for each of us where the value we are adding begins to diminish and the time comes to reinvent ourselves, moving on to something different or to focus on other priorities.

Life is meant to have many chapters.  When you find yourself holding on for the mere fact of holding on, it is time to rethink why you are staying.  Successful people need to have a passion for what they are doing and to genuinely want to be the best at it.  This is why going through the motions (because you do not know what else to do or because you don’t want to give up the money and security) will eventually catch up with you.  People will notice that you are no longer bringing your “A Game” to the table.

Change can be scary even for self-confident, accomplished people.   It is much easier to cling to what you know than it is to risk uncertainty. However, when we resist change, we stop growing personally and professionally.  We lose our ability to proactively influence the outcomes in our life and instead are more likely to become victims of circumstance.  The world is constantly changing whether we like it or not.  You can’t move forward with any degree of success if you are always looking in your rear-view mirror or unwilling to change direction.

I am not advocating change for the sake of change as this can be equally problematic.  However, I am encouraging you to pay close attention to how you feel about your work and about your life.   Good can be the enemy of great if you are not careful and comfort breeds complacency. Instead of always doing what is easy, convenient, or expected; push yourself to redefine what’s possible.  If you feel yourself slipping a bit or losing your edge, ask yourself why.  Go back, reassess your definition of success, and see how you are measuring up against it.

In everyone’s life there comes a time to walk away from “what is” to recreate and embrace “what could be.”  The most successful people I know are always much more focused on “why” they are doing something rather than just “what” they are doing.   Once you scaled the mountaintop, find another mountain to climb.  Go out on top and move forward!