Have you ever gone straight from success to failure?

success, failure, silicon valley

A lot of Silicon Valley executives have. But essentialism usually get them back on track again. Watch this short interview with Greg McKeown telling Stanford University what he found when evaluating them:

Interesting video, isn’t it? The problem in a nutshell, according to McKeown, is that we believe we can do it all. An abundance of successful entrepreneurs and executives become overwhelmed by expectations and options. As a result they often lose the single-minded focus that led to success.

Focus on less

McKeown is of the opinion that focusing on essentialism, i.e. the disciplined pursuit of less, often  is what makes them successful again. His recipe is hence to start by figuring out what’s most important, eliminate the trivial and establish routines for effortless execution.

Can you relate to what’s stated in the video? Has it happened to you that success has made you lose your single-minded focus? Have you like the Silicon Valley executives swiftly gone from success to failure? Did you ever try essentialism to get you back on track again? Are you after watching the video going to try focusing on less next time you need to? Or maybe you have found another strategy to get you back to the single-minded focus that deliver fantastic results?

Video: stanfordbusiness – picture: Fortune Live Media

67 thoughts on “Have you ever gone straight from success to failure?

  1. We always talk about being flexible. I guess there is nothing more flexible than success, to failure.
    If you are focused on your goal, the failure is just temporary. You can see beyond the mistakes, or roadblocks ahead, and still see the goal at the end.

  2. I believe that success and failure are a part of life and we must learn from these experiences. Where we have made a wrong decision, we face the consequences and ensure we do not make the same mistake again. Where we have succeeded we look at our goals, our approach and apply the same to future projects.

  3. Really good advise. One of my goals is to focus on less this year and eliminate clutter and trivial things in oder not to lose focus.

    1. Absolutely, that's domething that contributes to this, Jeannette. But isn't the main factor that when we as entrepreneurs run a company that is growing we get involved with all kinds of issues that we don't excel at?

  4. We all go from success to failure, or back up again. And sometimes we are responsible for creating that failure.
    I think we have to look at our goals over the long term. I would rather be on a roller coaster going up and down, then a Ferris wheel going nowhere except in a circle.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  5. Well as an introvert I can certainly relate to the importance of being able to focus and am SO grateful to be able to not only work from home but to live in a peaceful rural environment. His message reminds me of interviews I've read with Steve Jobs where he talks about how being fired from Apple turned out to be one of the best things in his life because he rediscovered his creativity as a result.
    My recent post An Often Overlooked Building Block to Emotional Resilience

  6. Interesting post, Catarina. I'm finding that so many people are talking and blogging about the same thing these days. We are all so stressed, busy, and short of time that we have to make tough decisions on how to best spend our time. It is tough, as so many times we have conflicting demands on our time that we do indeed lose the focus. I'm struggling a bit with that myself these days.
    My recent post five things you should know about Tequila

  7. I loved Mckeown's story about the CEO who takes two hours "off" a day to shut everything down and just think. Not only is that a great idea for CEO's but it's a great idea for CEO's to encourage other members of their team to do. Suspect that most don't do this even for a half hour. I found myself able to do this when I was driving or on a plane or train, things that forced you to disconnect and gave you time to think. With the world going in the direction of being always connected, we might lose this thinking time.

    1. Good points you bring up, Ken. Personally believe time to think is more scarce in corporate America than in Europe because of the the way people are managed in the US. In Europe it's more frequent to lead staff.

  8. No, I am still very much on the road to success! I am learning great principles along the way. I understand the importance of delegating and sharing of ideas. No one person can run an organisation alone.

    I assume that success can do crazy things to a person’s ego. So much so that they take their eye off the ball.

  9. Great post! When I started my business, I said yes to everything. After a back injury from working to hard in organizing, I realized that I needed to slow down and say no to projects that made me crazy. I realized that if I had time, I could be more creative in my work and offer my clients better solutions for their business. It is a work in progress though. Every time, my businea grows, I fall into the same stressed pattern and have to dig myself out of it again. One day, I will make it more consistent. I am going to share this video with my clients too. 🙂

  10. Very good analysis. Many do zero based budgeting but few do zero based thinking. Its far too easy to get busy with trivia and become intellectually lazy as a result of being swamped

  11. Catarina — this is an enlightening video. Why did I think he was talking to me?! I particularly have a hard time saying "no." When I join a professional organization I usually end up running it. I recently was asked for the third time to become president of an organization and I'm proud to report that I did say "no." It would have been a huge amount of time which I don't have. But it's never easy.
    My recent post Why Google+ Has Become More Essential Than Ever

    1. You make me laugh, Jeannette. Good for you that you said no. Personally also have to stop myself from starting to run a whole company. When I did so in Saudi a friend of mine told me to stop or I would get fired:-)

  12. Catarina there is an old adage I learned years ago jack of all trades master of none. No one can do it all even if you think you can. I am happy to say I have never gone from success to failure. I think I have realized my short comings in business and I am able to delegate, so I can focus on what is important to be successful.

    I have learned to say no. I was working a major corporation., not to bore you with the details, I told them I didn't want to do business with them. This company was taking away much of my time and my employees with all their rules and regulations that we were suppose to follow. I told them we could no longer handle their demands. It was hard to give up their business, but sometimes you have to know when to stop. Best thing I have ever done.
    My recent post Using Technology to Promote Your Business and How it is Influenced by Our Youth

  13. Catarina – Thankfully, I have never been in a position of going from being successful to a failure. I worked with a very successful lady who made sure that people in her team rose to success to. She made sure everyone was also enjoying the work and always reminded us to say NO if we had too much to do and could not take on any more work. However, because of the kind of leadership she had, the whole team worked even harder for her. However. I have met people in powerful positions when they have a tunnel vision and forget to look at the bigger picture and then loose focus.

    1. Good for you, Mina. Tunnelvision can either lead to success or failure. In the video it's talked about how tunnelvision works when you focus on something completely. However, if you can't see the wood for all trees it works against you.

  14. Wow. My husband, a physician/scientist, could be the poster child for focusing, for not getting distracted, for not wanting more of things that would interfere with his mission. He has turned down many prestigious promotions because they would require him to do things he doesn't enjoy doing and which he doesn't feel particularly good at. At times he wondered if he suffered from a lack of ambition, but I can see that some of his peers who took those promotions wish they hadn't. They lost focus. They lost the time to excel in things that are actually important to them.
    My recent post The Hawaii Chocolate Festival – Educational and Yum!

  15. Hi Catarina

    I have an interesting saying taped to my desk – DON'T LOOK BACK UNLESS YOU MEAN TO GO THAT WAY. When things go wrong, we often do just that.


      1. I think it is important to look back and reflect on what I did good but also what I can do better next time…. Otherwise I risk making the same misstakes again.

        1. It always is, isn't it, Johnny. In this article we are talking about the mistake on moving on to cope with issues that make you lose your single-minded focus that enabled you to succeed. Presumably you are trying to say that we should not take on more work than we can handle and feel passionately about?:-)

          that's what you are trying to say?:-)

  16. Interesting post. "Busyness" seems to be considered such an important virtue in today's culture, that we find ourselves too busy to think about what's important and realize we could achieve more by doing less.

    1. I read a post today about Steve Jobs that pointed out his extreme curiosity coupled with maniacal focus is part of what helped him succeed, but also important what that he was in an open network where he worked and interacted with all kinds of people. The article stated that has been found to be the number one factor in business success. Those who are stuck in closed networks and work with the same people and ideas most of the time tend to have less success.

      1. Sounds like we read the same article, Jeri. An open network is crucial and when we are expert generalists we usually interact with all kinds of people and find out more about everything under the sun. But, like Jobs, we also have to be 100% focused on what we are good at and not get stuck doing, say the accounting.

  17. He sounds like an introvert: valuing that think time! It is getting to "the disciplined pursuit of less". Sounds like a good book if it has some practical applications.

    I have no problem with saying no. Hmmm. From success to failure? I cannot think of a time. Maybe, I'm moving to the zone of – disciplined pursuit of less.

  18. I think this directly applies to blogging as well. It's so hard to find your niche and stay on track. We want to be everything to everyone, but then no one can relate. I need to think about how to gain single-minded focus, like you are saying. Thanks for the reminder.

  19. Excellent post, Catarina. The time to think is especially important and executives get overwhelmed by demands on time – I started blocking out a couple of hours a week of time to think about 10 years ago. It really helped! It did, of course, mean learning to say NO, too…

  20. This totally makes sense. Get back to basics and what made you the success to begin with and focus on that again. It is so easy to lose sight of this. No matter how big or small you are this concept remains a constant.
    My recent post Herbal Conferences

  21. I can relate totally. I am looking at reducing the amount of things I am focusing on in order to get back on track and hopefully success. This post has come at the perfect time and is my sign that I am on the right track.
    Taking the time to stop and think is a hard thing to stick to, but so important.
    My recent post When Did My House Become My Emotional Thermostat?

  22. I agree Catarina but I must say that I have also been in organizations where "leaders" aren't honest with themselves about the things that are NOT good at doing! After all, rarely is someone good at doing everything! So, I say focus on what you do the best….what you do that nobody else can and leave the things that others can do better, to them. Of course, this requires a special brand of "humble" which can be appallingly lacking in some leaders today!
    My recent post The Sisterhood… WHERE’S THE JUSTICE?

  23. So well said Catarina. Mediocrity is built on busy. When I join an organization the first thing I do is assess what roles have been assigned to my department and get rid of those that are outside of scope or irrelevant to objectives. Sometime saying no is the most powerful gift you can give yourself, your team and your organization.

  24. Catarina, I totally agree with the "as a result they often lose the single-minded focus that led to success" piece. People get good at something then they move on, don't move on, stay and take what you do well to the next level… it's what made you successful.
    My recent post Have You Ever Given a ‘Recommendation’ to One of Your LinkedIn Connections?

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