Success Myths You Should Unlearn

E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.Decision Making, Self Care, Vision

There are many common misconceptions about business success. These are some of the biggest lessons I’ve had to unlearn in the course of my career. Maybe you’ll recognize some. Be on the lookout for the others.

Working hard leads to success. All mammals, including humans, are hard wired to achieve mastery through playing. That’s how we started as children and it’s still true as adults. If you love what you do so much you would gladly do it for free, you can work really hard and it won’t be hard work. You’re much more likely to be a raging success. Without that passion, hard work grinds you down, leading to burnout, chronic illness, and depression. In fact, a  recent study shows working a lot of overtime more than doubles the rate of depresssion.

Nevertheless, every profession has certain tasks that are – shall we say – less than joyful. The way to get through chores is to approach them with complete presence, to Be Here Now without procrastinating or giving them half our attention while the other half is planning the weekend. When totally present, tedious work becomes a meditation.

Problems are bad. Real problems invite us to grow. They cannot be solved at the level of maturity that created them. By design we prosper best when subjected to challenges. Without them we grow bored, restless, and often invent problems out of thin air. Years ago, I learned to approach difficulty with the mantra, “I am grateful for this and I have no complaints at all.” It helps me claim the lesson that’s always there.

Success is the opposite of failure. Actually, success is built on failure. When we are willing to try, fail, and learn, we move forward much more quickly. Those afraid to fail become frozen, like deer in the headlights, in their imagined safety zone. The most successful people are willing to reach so far they sometimes fall flat on their face, without letting failure define them. You may struggle in the moment, but be grateful for the lesson and move on.

It matters what they think. Personal brand management does matter. Your career potential requires that your clients, boss, and teammates think well of you and recognize your contributions. However, as one startup CEO often said, “You can tell the trailblazers by the arrows in their backs.” No matter what you do or say, someone will disapprove or misinterpret. Don’t let the opinions of others keep you from pursuing your convictions, especially if you’re coloring outside the lines. It’s a business challenge, but don’t rent it too much head space.

You should make rational decisions. Information-based decisions greatly reduce risk. However, research shows our rational capabilities are more error-prone than our more primitive, evolutionarily-older thought processes. Data helps, but we typically make the actual decision based on a body-centered, emotional feeling. On two notable occasions, I ignored my unease because I couldn’t prove it. In one, I lost a substantial amount of money. In the other, I was nearly killed. Now I listen.

If you got that promotion/raise/transfer/etc. life would be perfect. Goals are important, but tangible rewards merely represent ways of keeping score. You can never get enough money, power, recognition, or security, because such props for your ego aren’t actually what you’re after. Your deep drivers always propel you toward the person you were meant to become. Savor your successes, realizing that the following week you will be beset by a whole new set of high-quality problems.

Your past determines your future. Clients sometimes worry that past misadventures will hold them back from future business success, or they feel locked into a particular career path because all their experience lies there. Such realities carry weight, but what really determines your future is your mindset. If you believe your problems are insurmountable, they surely will be. The very thing you’re doing at the moment – questioning habitual thoughts – is enough to begin creating space for new possibilities.

Over the next week, take one of these ideas and examine how it has shaped your thinking and career decisions. What will you do differently in managing yourself and others to reflect your new understanding of the laws of business success?

Contact me to discuss how I can help you create a clearer path for reaching your goals, for yourself and your team.

E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.

E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.
Managing Partner
The Cogent Executive LLC

Ann Hollier provides strategic consulting and performance coaching to high achieving senior executives and management teams. She specializes in change management, strategic planning and implementation, leadership development, and building world-class collaborative teams. Learn more at


E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.Success Myths You Should Unlearn