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At First Glance, This Is Silliness…but Wait!

One of the things I’ve learned the hard way is that the most precarious place to be in life is that place known as success.

Let me explain. In my experience, success is precarious to your nonprofit’s future. In fact, in the for profit world, the list of successful corporations that are no longer in business is to infinity and almost beyond.

Yes, I’m saying success is the most precarious place to be because of what it breeds…

  1. The misguided confidence that it will always be this way. When you are experiencing success, it’s easy to assume that what you are experiencing will continue for the foreseeable future. You are more likely to make one of the most basic mistakes in business and in life, and that is to presume on its future.

One of the most fundamental truths of business, even nonprofit fundraising as a business, is that it goes in cycles or seasons of economic growth or downturns every business experiences. Business is always cyclical and never linear, after all. That means when you experience success, you need to plan for the time when things may be less fruitful. You need to consider what you need to do during those down times very seriously. Look ahead to see what may be coming at you and how you may be able to pivot to counter less than ideal economic conditions.

  1. The inclination to lose focus. Whether in our personal lives or in business, we’ve all experienced crises. And one thing that is absolutely true of every crisis-the one common denominator, is that each one screams for attention. The result is that it focuses your thinking in very specific ways. And because of that focused thinking, there is clarity and intense attention on what needs to be done to avert a disaster and hopefully move back towards success. Success, on the other hand, doesn’t require much, if any, attention. As a result, you can be unprepared for the inevitable changes to come. So, in the midst of success, stay focused. And you can do that by acting like you’re in the middle of a crisis!

  1. Allowing your discipline to drift. If you’ve ever worked really hard to master something like speaking a new language or learning to play a musical instrument, you know there is a natural tendency to take your foot off the pedal. That’s human nature, isn’t it? The discipline you used to climb the ladder of success wanes and you just want to enjoy the so-called fruits of your labor. That’s why it’s so hard for sports teams to win back-to back championships. It has been done, but very rarely. And that’s why when you are enjoying success you should be doubling down on the discipline that got you to the heights in the first place.

Success truly is precarious. Combat it by recognizing the reality and not allowing yourself to be lulled into complacency.



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