Coping With Instant Success

For most of us normal humans, success in business is a slow process.  It’s a culmination of small wins that compound over time fused with lessons learned from setbacks and failures all mixed up with huge helping of perseverance and inner strength.

But every now and then some special little unicorn comes along and hits a home run on the first pitch of their first at-bat.

You know these people, the stars align, they release a product or service or whatever and it explodes into the zeitgeist and they become insta-famous.  You find yourself wondering where this person came from and how come they were able to succeed so quickly when you’ve been busting your backside for years to scratch out your results.

Trust me, that’s not envy.  That’s inquisitiveness.  We all want to understand what kind sorcery those people have.

I thought of this yesterday morning while I was at work.  I had my headset in one ear listening to my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs kick off their 100th season.  Last year was a tough year, the team finished 30th out of 30 teams and ended up selecting first overall in the entry draft in June.  They picked a young kid named Auston Matthews who has a great story to how he got where he is today and maybe I’ll tell that at another time.

Anyway, Matthews has a ton of pressure on him for a 19-year-old kid – he’s looked upon as a future star in the biggest hockey market in the world playing for the largest hockey team in the world.  That would be hard for anyone, let alone a shy 19-year-old.

The first game of the season was obviously his first regular season game for the Leafs and on his first shot on goal as an NHL player he scores a goal.  To score on debut is a nice feather in your cap and to score on your first shot is kind of cool.  Great moment for Matthews.

Then the game progresses another ten minutes and he strips the puck off one opponent, manoeuvres around two others, then beats arguably the best defenseman in the world before scoring on his second shot of the game.  Two goals on debut is a great achievement and to do it on only two shots is unusual.

We move ahead into the second period, about four minutes in, the puck is behind the opponents net, Matthews is hovering in front, the puck ends up on his stick and it’s in the back of the net.  Hat-trick in his first game on his first three shots – in 100 years of professional hockey a rookie scoring a hat trick in his first game has happened just 4 previous times and never on his first three shots.

As a fan, it was weird to watch.

No worries, skip ahead another 10 minutes and suddenly Matthews scores his fourth goal of the game.  No player has ever scored four goals in their first game.  It was utterly surreal to experience.

His parents are in the stands watching, they’re excited, his mom shed a tear and overall it was a nice moment for a young kid just starting out.

But talk about having instant success?!?  He may never in his career have another four-goal game – literally, it’s a rarity.  He might play the game professionally for 18 years and that never happen again.  That’s not to say it’s all downhill from there or anything, but it’s just a complete oddity.

Over the years I’ve seen this in business happen as well.  There was a lady who I thought of as I was thinking of writing this post – a few years back she released a training product teaching Facebook Advertising.  Nobody had ever heard of her and suddenly she was launching this info product that everyone was promoting.  She was an overnight success, had a seven-figure launch and suddenly had become an expert.

I saw her in an FB group the other day promoting something else she was doing and pretty much nobody knew who she was – one person even referred to her as a “noob”.

It was a weird thing for me because I remember when she had her success and she was everywhere telling people how it changed her life, she and her husband became “digital nomads” and suddenly she was posting videos of herself drinking fruity drinks from some exclusive beach in Asia.  Now she’s back living in the UK apparently starting all over again from scratch.

She made the mistake that so many people make when they have a huge initial success – they think they’ve made it and they take their foot off the gas.  They start to believe their own hype and they stop putting the work in because they’re at the top.

Contrast that to young Auston Matthews, in his post game interviews he said how surreal the experience was and when asked what he’ll remember aside from the four goals he said, “We lost.  The last goal in overtime was a result of a mistake I made, I have to be better than that and it’s a learning experience.”  The next morning after practice a reporter asked how he felt about the previous evening and he said, “That game is over, now I have to work hard to get better.”

And that’s the thing to remember.  You might have a massive success in a short period of time, but running your business is a long game.  You need to make sure that when the wins happen that you use those as momentum to solidify your business and when the inevitable bad thing happens you have enough lessons in the memory banks to help get you headed in the right direction again.

In my experience, coping with success is a much bigger deal than people realize.  I’ve seen entire businesses collapse for a variety of reasons not because they weren’t good at something but because they suddenly had an unexpected positive result.

As always, the goal is to build momentum, keep going forward, forward always and take the highs and lows as they come without getting too wrapped up in the moment.

Remember, you’re playing a longer game.

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