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Leadership Thought #461 – Success Must Be Earned

January 13, 2014

Free Man Holding Mug in Front of Laptop Stock Photo

Success rarely comes easy and must be earned.

I’ve witnessed a disturbing trend lately amongst many entrepreneurs.  They want to work the hours of a successful person without yet attaining actual business success.  All this talk about work-life balance has made people a bit confused.  If you want to run a business that supports a flexible lifestyle, you can certainly choose to work for yourself as an option, but financial success usually requires extremely hard work, especially at the beginning.  You can’t enjoy the experience of having climbed the mountain without having made the climb it in the first place. You can’t be all things to all people including yourself; you must make some tough choices about how you spend your time.

You can’t have a business fraught with cash flow and sales problems and leave work early to coach soccer practice. You can’t volunteer for multiple boards if your own company is lacking direction itself.  You can’t give yourself a raise or distribution to cover increased living expenses if you can already barely make payroll.  You can’t have a policy of not working weekends or being home for dinner every night when you can barely keep the doors open.  You can’t regularly show up to work late when your customers typically arrive early.   You can’t limit your client geography because of commuting headaches if your clients exist beyond your travel comfort boundaries. You can’t take long vacations if your business requires you to have an active daily presence.  You must be honest with your spouse about networking responsibilities and pressing deadlines, rather than attempting to meet unrealistic family expectations during the work week.

There is an enormous difference between starting a lifestyle business and running a genuine business.  The former is more of a personal job program where you prioritize your quality of life over economic benefits.   Many people do this and are happy, but they know their economic limitations and do their best to live within them.    Most of these businesses, at best, only employ a handful of people.  The latter has the potential for great economic benefit but often requires significant personal sacrifice, significant risk-taking, and delayed gratification.  You are building something over time and as with most construction projects, there is a lot of design and build work at the front end.  Delays and problems will inevitably happen, but if you stay focused, follow the plan and work hard, the rewards can be great at the back end.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but they are few and far between; therefore, we call them exceptions. I am very worried that our society is becoming addicted to shortcuts, personal convenience, and unrealistic expectations. We want what we want, and we want it now with minimal sacrifice on our end.  America was not built on this mindset. We got to where we are by major effort and personal sacrifice.  We outworked our competition and did our best to consistently grow our capabilities and network of contacts.  We pushed economic boundaries and raised the bar on what was possible through sheer determination and effort.  We prioritized progress and success over personal self-exploration and leisure time.  We did what was necessary to get the job done and didn’t complain about how hard this was to accomplish.  You can’t have it all, despite what some experts try to tell you – no one can, but you can always prioritize what’s most important at a given point and time and then live with the consequences.  Success must be earned, and you can never take for granted what it takes to get there.

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