Muscle for life

Success Isn’t Always What You Think

Success Isn’t Always What You Think

It has really dawned on me how much you have to grow as a person to prevent success from ruining your life.

Yes, success can ruin your life.

Every step forward comes with more responsibility, bigger challenges, higher stakes, and smaller margins for error, and if you’re not up to the challenge, you fall on your face.

And eventually, if we keep raising the bar, we reach that ceiling and find ourselves facing a crisis.

This is a generalized version of the Peter principle, which states that we tend to rise to the level of our incompetence.

That is, we keep doing whatever has worked until the tasks become so great that it fails (and sometimes spectacularly), and then wonder what the hell happened.

I think that applies to more than just work, too. I think it applies to our approach living life on the whole.

We can sacrifice everything on the altar of productivity and achieve tremendous financial success, but can all that money fix battered health, shattered relationships, and frazzled nerves? Can it fill the void that opens when you start asking “is this it?”

I should know, because I’ve recently felt this shadow looming.

And when I stepped back and zoomed out, I realized that what has gotten me this far wasn’t going to get me to where I want to be, not just as a businessman but as an individual, husband, father, friend, community member, and human being.

I had to admit that I had reached my level of incompetence, and that my decisions, values, and behaviors weren’t going to create the future that I really wanted.

Moments like these are tough at first–when you get radically honest with yourself and “face your dragons”–but they’re the only way to make the sweeping, lasting changes necessary to rise to the next level.

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For me, it boiled down to two things:

Reconnecting with my purposes.

I didn’t get into this game with visions of “building an empire” or getting rich or famous. I just wanted to help people with what I knew and make new friends and connections.

I feel like I’ve fallen away from that in the last year or so, as more and more of my time has been tied up in organizational and marketing activities.

This has drained me spiritually, so to speak, and I needed to get other people to do that work so I could get back to my big whys.

Remembering that I have to create my life outside of work as well.

I love working.

It satisfies me in a way that nothing else does, and that has gone a long way to help me and my team do what we’ve done.

There was a problem, though: I was losing my ability to enjoy anything BUT work.

If I wasn’t working, I was thinking about work, essentially biding my time until I could get back work.

That’s not healthy. That’s not how I want to live.

Yes, I want to work hard. I enjoy putting my nose to the grindstone and getting shit done. I also want to enjoy the other things in life that matter, too.

You know, exercise, family, friends, community, and so on.

The only way I’m going to get there, though, is to PARTICIPATE in those other areas of life just as creatively and vigorously as I’ve participated in my work.

I truly believe that you can only get as much pleasure out of life as you can be interested and active in it. Waiting for people, money, or things to “make you happy” never works

What’s your take? Have you had a similar experience of “radical honesty” that helped you make your own personal breakthrough? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Harry Ashton-Potter

    Can definitely relate to this. Over the last 6 months I found that if I wasn’t training, then I was spending most of my time thinking about training and waiting for the next session. And I’ve had to start PARTICIPATING more in other things to regain passion for other things I enjoy. For me that was taking on other hobbies like acting classes, film work or anything creative

    • Thanks Harry, glad you experienced this for yourself. 🙂

  • Thank you for posting this. After reading your fitness book for women and even coming across your non-fitness writing, I developed the impression that you are a very cool, sincere person. I am sorry that you’ve been struggling with managing a business that is exploding fast, but I am not surprised it’s been difficult to stay connected to your more personal ideals and values in the process. I wish you much luck in figuring out your own unique balance for yourself and your family! For what it’s worth, I have been enjoying your content in my feed for some time now and hope you continue with it.

    To answer your question, though, I personally keep my ambitions moderate because my soul gets crushed easily from too much frenetic work that doesn’t feel creative and meaningful. At times I wonder if I am selling myself short, but other times I feel sure that I am choosing the right path for me.

    • Thanks Katharine! I appreciate the kind words and support. 🙂

      I think it’s definitely a challenge to build a big business and not lose a bit of yourself along the way, so to speak, but I feel like I’ve learned some good lessons along the way and am on an even keel again.

      Meaningful is the key word there. If you can’t answer “why” with something that really means something to you, it’s very hard to maintain the level of interest required to push through all the bullshit and get the work done.

  • Adam Chamberlain

    Wow, this came at a weirdly pertinent point. I’m studying for an Anatomy exam and my wife booked us a trip to Hawaii for all this week (we leave tomorrow). I’ve been miserable about it because I have a big exam the Monday as soon as we get back. I’ve been moaning and studying for a week now and I just packed up all my notes and books to take with me. I’m currently sitting with 103% after two exams (I got all questions correct with some extra credit stuff as well).

    But at what cost? I stress, don’t sleep, don’t have time to workout, don’t post on my twitter account…dont listen to my wife!

    Man, I need to get some balance.

    • Adam Chamberlain

      But here is the thing. I get told that my generation (millennial) expect things, don’t work hard, bitch, and moan. So here I am. Fucking up my family and my health because, that’s what it takes.

      • Truth there, too.

        In my experience, the people that really “have it all together” do a few things very well:

        1. They utilize their time to the fullest, spending at least 80% of it doing things that positively impact their lives (fitness, family, friends, work, community, etc.).

        They don’t fritter large amounts of time away doing stuff that not only serves no real purpose, but leaves you feeling “drained,” like watching TV, playing video games, surfing the Internet, etc.

        2. They are very routine oriented.

        They’ve organized their lives carefully to allow for everything, and don’t like to deviate from the plan unless they have to.

        3. They generally surround with other people like themselves.

        They seem to feed off each other’s energy and enthusiasm, and tend to avoid people that think small and do little.

        • Adam Chamberlain

          Thanks for the reply man. I think my issues are caused by my perfectionism. An “A” grade is not enough, I have to get 100%. I think I need to get that sorted out and the rest will follow.

    • Thanks for sharing Adam, and I totally understand.

      I think it’s necessary to throw your life out of whack sometimes, but if taken too far, it creates bigger problems than it solves…

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • Kristine Fifer Ripamonti

    Thanks for posting this. It actually is very inspiring. One of those things that gets you thinking.

  • Mani Singh

    I appreciate your articles on topics like this as much as I do about health. Thanks for being thoughtful and a critical thinker in a number of different areas of your life.

  • Jess Golden

    Thanks for the great article, these always seem so timely too. I gain as much if not more from the insights you share about what you’ve read, or experienced in business to this point. As great as you’ve been interacting with everyone, I hope you recognize this is another you help people. I’ve been running my own business for 13 years & just last week recognized it was time for a change. I hope this conclusion was reached sooner for you than it did for me, the way it consumes & dominates your thinking, I ignored signs I wish I’d recognized sooner. When I began to think in terms of a legacy I MIGHT leave behind, for me, I realized my kiddos are that regardless of my intention, hopes, or dreams related to success. I hope for you it’s as simple as delegating more work away & practicing your coaching skills when the kiddos are playing sports! 😉 Since you used to play hockey & you’re in the NE now, maybe you should get back to those roots too?

    By the way, I’ve seen the title to the book before, is this an updated version?

    • Thanks Jess! Really glad I can help. 🙂

      I hear you and totally know where you’re coming from. For me it was more of a mindset shift than anything else as I still love to work and don’t think that will change anytime soon, haha.

      Definitely interested in playing hockey (was playing again in FL) but may rather put that time into golf, actually. 🙂

      No, I haven’t updated this book. Would love to but have too many other things on my plate at the moment, haha.

  • Lindsey Marchant

    It’s so interesting And brace of you to share this. Being honest about where we are and realigning ourselves with what we really want is key. I have had a moment like this recently in my life, but a very different sincerio. I wanted to become a singer, a great broadway singer. I am a religious person and I prayed for comfort to move forward in This. I never really got that “YES this is good for you” but I couldn’t let it go. So I tried major after major in school and nothing satisfied. But I kept feeling I should be in choir when I school. So I was like what the heck, I love music so I tried to go into music several times and it just wasn’t working for me, and I came to find out just recently why. I love music, but when I am majoring in it I want the results so bad I get into hyper focus mode and think about it too much and become insecure that maybe I’m not good enough and the list goes on. I recently went on a vacation with some of my family in buffalo and got to see my brother and sisters kids that I hadn’t seen in awhile. I was so happy. It dawned on me. My family is what matters to me. Love. Everything else are bonuses to life but not what really matters in the end, it’s the lives we touch and the people we love. So i prayed and prayed and searched for the right major for me and came across Hawaiian studies in Hawaii at BYU Hawaii. I felt such peace. The culture, people and the skills I’ll learn were perfect for my personality, and I can still do choir but just for fun. Balance in life and proper perspective is so important to a fulfilling life:) it’s nice to know I’m back on track:)

  • Lindsey Marchant

    PS One question, if I’m working out cardio in the morning and weights in the afternoon does that change to needing two prep workout and post workout meals? Different than what’s shown in the meal plans? I feel I get too tired doing the cardio and weights back to back.

    • Good question.

      You don’t necessarily need pre- and post-workout meals for both workouts.

      If you’re not doing the cardio fasted with supplements (caffeine, synephrine, yohimbine, etc.), have some protein and carbs before it and then make sure to have at least protein every few hours thereafter.

      If you have some carbs as well before you train, you’ll probably have a better workout.

    • Assuming you’re not training fasted, I’d suggest having something (meal or snack) 1-2 hours prior to training, and you generally don’t have to immediately eat after a workout. 1-2hrs after is ok too. Most meal plans should be able to accommodate that.

  • Lindsey Marchant

    Do you have an article explaining fasting before cardio and the supplements you take before? You mentioned these ones (caffeine, synephrine, yohimbine, etc.) but I couldn’t find it in the thinner leaner stronger or when I searched it on this site. Just wanted to understand it better and try fasting cardio

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