June 23, 2012

Radiohead or Barton Fink?

Elizabeth Gilbert who authored the wildly successful Eat Pray Love admits that she may never replicate that accomplishment for the rest of her life. She adds that it doesn't mean she won't find satisfaction and passion from the rest of her work.

Playwright Barton Fink had some success but fell apart when he was forced to create the next great American work. The Coen Brothers' story gets weird from there (no surprise) but Fink personifies the fear every writer has within. Will he write another successful work? Is her biggest success behind her?

OK Computer or The Bends?

Music purists argue over Radiohead’s finest hour. All measurements of commercial success point to the fact that the band has never reached the level of achievement they had with two iconic albums.  Kid A, Amnesiac, and Hail to the Thief are also fine works and I'm certainly glad the band didn't decide to pack it in and measure success with metrics from earlier milestones.

And when you can look at your successes, perhaps you worry if the good times will continue. Companies attempt to recapture former glory all the time and few achieve it. But the bigger question is, why do we do it? Why do we point to a single event in our careers or businesses and use it as a barometer for the rest of our work? Why do we think that future success - though different - can't be just as or even more satisfying?

Dump and Roll

One of my mentors once explained that he would toss early. He knew himself well enough that if an idea was struggling after a few passes, he’d leave it to fend for itself. Some came back, some went away.

When you’re experiencing business or leadership best sellers, celebrate them. But understand that to replicate the past will require a time machine and a bunch of luck. It’s how we grow with wins and losses that make us stronger.

Try Learn Grow

There are negative events in your past that you can point to as leadership growth spurts. They may not have felt so at the time but with reflection you can see that you needed them to get closer to your next win.

Any great leader will have a long list of events that didn’t go their way. That’s why they can navigate through the set backs and successes we all experience. That’s why they are leaders. And the essence of leadership is helping people who are flawed, make mistakes and find solutions just like you.

Don’t be so hard on yourself, best sellers and writer’s block come with the territory. It's what you do with them that counts.

Kneale Mann

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