Opinion: Ruined by success

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Success hasn’t ruined us yet – at least that is what we hope. We move forward in life ever concerned of failure. Some of us even become so thin-skinned as to achieve hyper-sensitivity to perceived criticism of our own short-comings. Indeed, it is the rare human who dispassionately reviews one’s own accomplishments. Did we “earn” this accolade? Did “we” make it happen?

Most human achievement comes from collaboration. Sure, a good leader independently can move the ball significantly. And, one might argue, the team cannot win without a stellar quarterback. But how do we account for the personal contribution that we’ve made without assuming that our participation was seminal? How do we avoid the overconfidence that is often fostered, some might argue fomented, by triumph?

The pages of this newspaper, like the homes and businesses in this community, are filled with good people who are striving to improve their lives and the lives for whom they care. We aggressively pursue education. We work, hard. We think, read, and talk at rates unrivaled in our state and on par with some of the best on the national and international stages. Confidence is required to fuel this endeavoring. Scientific studies prove that people seldom pursue objectives they believe beyond their capacity. So how do we manage to remain sufficiently self-assured to push our limits without becoming so arrogant as to tempt spectacular failure? Icarus’s wings were a beautiful thing – for a moment.

Certainly, we must remain vigilant of ourselves. Ask hard questions and don’t take a pass for bad behavior. Too, isn’t subjecting one’s self to a higher authority a guard against conceit? Religious faith, a mentor of consequence, an old and trusted friend – each can urge us to challenge our own suppositions. If success is as dangerous as failure, shouldn’t we be as suspicious of it?


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