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The curse of the moderately successful

Over the weekend I read an obituary of that great comic, Sid Caesar. Amongst other things, I learned he was Coach Calhoun in Grease, which is a great piece of trivia. There was also a lovely quote which fits in with something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

Caesar struggled with the demon drink throughout his life, especially when his great TV days of the 50s were behind him. After he’d sobered up, he said “Everybody wants to have a goal. Then you get to that goal, and then you gotta get another goal. But in between goals is a thing called life that has to be lived and enjoyed. And if you don’t, you’re a fool.”

Now, this could easily lead to a blog about the importance of not having a goal, but I’ve already written that one. But it also fits in with a problem faced by many clients and, I suspect, by many readers of Adviser Lounge. What happens when you become moderately successful.

Many of the people I deal with have had a degree of success. It could be coaching a business owner who has, against all the odds, hewn a viable business out of nothing but hard work and vision. Maybe it’s advising someone who has saved hard to build up investments or perhaps sold their business, and has the tantalising possibility of financial independence floating almost within reach. Maybe they wonder if it would be within reach if they were to lower their requirements…

Such dilemmas throw up a host of issues. There is permission, for example. Moderately successful people often struggle to allow themselves to relax or to delegate the parts of their job they are not so keen on doing themselves.

Boredom can be a real problem. Just at the point when the business starts to make some decent profit, so the generator of that profit decides to do something different. A new product launch, a fresh challenge – but often at the expense of the profitable part of the business.

The net result can be a diminution of ambition, an acceptance of the current position. Nothing wrong with this necessarily, as long as the current position is the one you want. Being half way up the mountain can make one feel trapped. Too much effort has gone into getting there to give in, but more effort is needed to keep going.

So what’s the answer when you’ve done ok but need to keep going? Well I reckon Sid Caesar gives us the clue.

Being moderately successful means having a degree of flexibility or control, but not being able to get off the treadmill. So why not use that flexibility to fashion your working day into one you most enjoy.

For me, this meant training to be a business coach (which massively informs and improves the advice process and therefore benefits the business), focussing my working day on meeting people and running the business, and taking a day a week off to write fiction. Oh, and I like writing blogs. As you may have noticed.

Structuring my working day in this way has enabled me to enjoy my time at work much more. Others will be more driven (or have a more expensive lifestyle) than me. I’d love to hear from others how they reacted to the moment they realised they had achieved moderate success.

Chris Budd has published his first novel. More info here 

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