Beware of the Arrogance of Excellence

Beware of the Arrogance of Excellence

Nicole Malachowski |

It’s safe to say that most of us want to be successful in life, both personally and professionally.

Most of us know that we get to define what success looks like, which is often made more enticing when we can earn the accolades of our peers along the way. That said, I’ve seen far too many successful people who are not prepared for what comes with accomplishment, achievement, and prosperity. What do you do after you achieve a certain level of excellence?

By most accounts, folks would agree that I had what could be considered a successful military career. I admit, there were absolutely moments when I felt proud of my achievements. After all, I was living my dream. Despite these passing occasions of euphoria, I knew that I had to stay focused and keep up the hard work, grit, and commitment that had gotten me there in the first place. I couldn’t simply just hope that my past accomplishments, good luck, and success would automatically carry me with the same momentum across my career and into civilian life. It’s possible that being a successful woman in a male-dominated career field kept me on my toes and played into my desire to never become complacent. But, I digress. Here’s the truth: I’ve watched some extraordinarily talented people squander their full potential by resting on their laurels. The old adage is true: what got you here, doesn’t always get you there.

Oftentimes when individuals find themselves at the pinnacle of success they begin to lose sight of what got them there: hard work, perseverance, dedication, and focus. I’m not saying folks shouldn’t pause and celebrate an amazing victory, of course, they should. I’m also not saying that chasing achievement after achievement is how we find success. That’s far from the truth. What I am saying is that one can certainly sell themselves short by defining their future based on past achievements. I’m also advocating for the idea that resting on your laurels can close you off to future opportunities and potential for growth. The fact of the matter is that yesterday’s accomplishments won’t always guarantee today’s success. Beware the arrogance of excellence.

Finding, keeping, and nurturing your pursuit of personal excellence is an active choice. While I’m proud of my past successes, I try to live each day as if I’ve yet to accomplish my greatest achievement. Every morning I remind myself that I’m capable of doing just one thing better than I did it yesterday. And when I find myself becoming complacent and starting to rest on my laurels, I remind myself of all that it took to reach past heights, and I tell myself that I’ve still got those characteristics and skills alive in me. And, so do you.

Bottom line: don’t let your success be your downfall. Beware the arrogance of excellence.

Photo Credit: TSgt Justin Pyle, USAF

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