Success Is Seductive

Success Is Seductive

Tips & ToolsTravelConsultingPersonal

Posted on June 9, 2023 by Blake Leath

Success is seductive.

A psychological lifetime ago, I was running ragged and teaching 180-240 days/year...for 12 consecutive years. Is up to 23,040 classroom hours enough for a 31-year-old?

On a layover, I arranged to sit in an airport and visit with one of my all-time best friends and most impactful career mentors, Lou Romero. (You can learn more about Lou here.)

He was retired by then, and I felt trapped on a ceaseless career treadmill leading toward a horizonless mirage that never neared. Our disparity was obvious, he in a natty sweater vest with a journal under his arm, and me with frizzy hair and feeling frazzled.

"You know, Blake," be began... "if you're good at what you do—REALLY good—you'll be asked by SOMEONE, ANYONE to do it ALL THE TIME. OVER AND OVER. Success is seductive that way, rarely taking no for an answer, so take it from an old man: LEARN TO SAY NO, my friend!"

It turned out my body said no before my mind would or ego could, and health complications eventually sidelined me against my will for several years. 

My wife and I then had our child, Lauren, who turns 21 tomorrow—and I now tell folks that without Lou, and God's hand on my shoulder to draw me back—Lauren might never have entered our lives. She is so far and away our greatest gift in life that nothing else remotely nears the scale. If my tombstone only records "Dawn's Husband, Lauren's Father, and Saved Wretch," it will have captured everything that mattered upon this enormous orbiting rock. 

Reading this article today brought that earlier era flooding back to my mind big-time, and I think the way Bryan sums it up is as beautiful, honest, and spot-on as I've ever read, though admittedly, I read it through tears so I had to read it twice.

I've had the great privilege, fortune, and responsibility to share with thousands all that Lou and others like him in my life have passed on through me, and what a sacred moment it is when a leader finally sees the precipice for what it truly is: a testing of priorities.

Of the thousands of leaders I've sat across from and beside, I can honestly say that HUNDREDS have eventually dropped their masks, their armor, their swords and shields, and ventured with me into that space of admitting they need help, they are empty now, they cannot fathom continuing as they have...but they also don't want to let anyone down or leave anyone behind, and they cannot even dream what they'll do after—usually because what they do has become who they are.

I find it is only after emptying ourselves of all vanity, pride, and pretense that we can truly refill and renew our spirits with the work, the people, the relationships, and the meaning that transcend space and time.

There is more to who you are than what you've always done. I promise. As another mentor reminded me, "To know the road ahead, ask those who are coming back."

So, GOOD for Mr. & Mrs. Bryan & Robin Cranston, and may his decision to 'step back' be a powerful object lesson for everyone about the importance of stopping to smell both the proverbial AND the literal roses before they wither, die, or fall well beyond one's reach.