When we tell kids that they’re very smart, our intention is to inspire them, to compliment them, and to encourage them to work hard and apply themselves. But this often has the opposite effect. If you tell a child they’re smart they’ll be motivated only if they already had a view of themselves as less than smart, but if they had a neutral or positive view of their intelligence your compliment creates a small and subtle expectation that they must continue being smart. It creates a sense that they must perform well or risk losing the praise and love of the adults they look up to.
Which may not seem like a big deal except that as our desire to perform up to expectations increases our willingness to take risks and make mistakes decreases, and this doesn’t just apply to children, it also applies to all kinds of successful people.
Have you ever wondered why the second album of a new hot band is often worse than the first? Partially it’s because the band had less time to produce the same work, but it’s also because the same band that took big risks to break through, stops taking those risks once they’ve gotten a record deal.
It’s the same reason why the American auto industry stagnated and almost died. And the same reason that successful people stop improving at the same rate they once did.
As we improve and gain success, we also build a nest of comfort for ourselves that we spend greater and greater amounts of time protecting. As you become more successful you stop taking risks and challenging yourself because you’re afraid to lose what you’ve already made.
Which is why my challenge for you today is very simple and comes from a Rumi quote that my coach Rich Litvin shared with an amazing group of coaches I’m a part of.
It goes like this:
Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
If you really want to be an exceptional person, you have to stop defending your success, you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone, and learn something new. I know it’s scary and it’s hard. I know that you can do work that looks hard to others but is really easy to you. I know that you can make the numbers grow just by going on podcasts and giving away free stuff. But your life isn’t about recreating your previous success. The marrow of life is about taking what you did before, burning it, and building something that brings you and the world exponential delight.