The price of success can be steep
Updated: May 7, 2018
I froze during my speech as I looked out at the faces of the members of that Chamber of Commerce. It was a temporary block which hopefully went unnoticed by my audience.
Yet, clearly, I was unfocused for a second.
I had been asked to be the guest speaker at their Awards of Excellence celebration. I had traveled to the community and knew no one. As I glanced around the room I came to the realization that while they were celebrating their successes, the achievements for many of them had not come easily.
Awards ceremonies are great for recognizing the strides that companies are making in business. They can pump up a team and make company leaders and employees proud of their accomplishments. They can generate recognition and publicity for the company which builds them up in the eyes of their customers. But accomplishments often come at a cost. It takes time, energy and money to build the company, but rarely are companies built without sacrifices that are more personal.
Relationships are seldom mentioned as a cost of doing business, but for many leaders they are a significant cost. Missing your kids' sports or school events, birthday parties and rites of passage are common place for many busy leaders. Long hours at work ensure that you are missing meaningful time spent with your spouse, parents and friends.
Some of the wounds that leaders also are prone to facing in their battle for excellence include: bites out of their ego when their star employee defects; burns by customers who take pleasure in bringing down our brand; stabs in the back by vendors who side with our largest competitor.
There are many self-inflicted injuries that have resulted because of our own stupidity: mistakes we have made in hiring the wrong people; errors we have made in not raising enough money; disappointments that have caused us to feel shame at the way we have behaved toward people in our organizations or our families. Bruised egos as a result of our failures and inability to reach our goals.
Winning awards is wonderful, but we rarely consider all those who have enabled us to reach this pinnacle: the supporting roles of managers, spouses, mentors, and workers who held us the ladder steady as we climbed; the cheerleaders including our children, parents and teachers, who believed in us when we couldn't believe in ourselves; the stabilizing influence of our great vendors, bankers, and partners who enabled us to walk when we could barely crawl.
As I looked out at my unaware Chamber of Commerce audience that evening, I thought of my own business battle scars. In that moment I could see their scars as well. The tired eyes, the fatigue of battle, the surprise of being recognized for success despite the feeling inside that they were just faking it. Some of them were relishing the moment and others were biding time, hoping for the evening to end.
They say it takes a whole community to raise a child, but it also takes a whole community to support an entrepreneur who in turn supports the community. The life of leadership is not always as glamorous as it seems, and the wounds that are sustained in the pursuit of dreams are not always healed. We need to recognize greatness and excellence more often in our communities but we also need to acknowledge that there is a cost to excellence. Above all, we need to be thankful for the sacrifices of many that have benefited countless people in our communities.