3 Steps to Avoid the Trap of Success

UPDATED: June 8, 2016
PUBLISHED: June 8, 2016

This is not a how-to story of building a wildly successful business.

And it certainly is not about how I made millions and how you can do it, too.

This is about my failure to see the trap I had set for myself. How I got stuck in the habit of doing what I had always done. And it caused me to lose it all—I had to lose millions to learn this lesson.

Now I use my experience of losing it all and bouncing back to help people see new perspectives.

In the late ’90s, the world began to accept the internet’s researching and purchasing power. Working for an internet company put me on the front lines of this new age, and I thrived helping large corporate brands sell their products.

In 2001, I was ready to start my own business. My idea wasn’t revolutionary—in fact, it was a safe bet to operate just like my competitors. I sold ticket packages to the world’s largest sporting events, like the Super Bowl, Olympics, World Cup and more. My business grew quickly, exceeding $1 million the first year.

I worked hard. I took chances. I invested in my business. I made money, built a strong team and created a thriving business.

But I began to think about the next level—my new goals. It wasn’t about more money or free time. I wanted to disrupt the industry and change the way people made purchasing decisions. There has to be a better way. The thought consumed me.

One day, my wife asked me, “When are you going to do something about it?” I reflected on why I didn’t just do it. My internal conversation kept me from moving forward. I was trapped in a world I built. I made great money, I had freedom and I was comfortable—too comfortable. I feared losing what I created and it paralyzed me.

The success trap is like living in an invisible box. You can’t see the edges, but you’re still bound by unwritten rules. I lacked the kind of courage it takes to push beyond the current levels of success. I made incremental gains but couldn’t, or wouldn’t, leap forward exponentially.

Ironically, the same fear keeping me in my comfort zone caused me to lose it all. I lost $3 million in 24 hours. I was forced to start over again.

Related: Why Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone Is Worth It—Even When It’s Uncomfortable

But you don’t have to. Start with these three steps to avoid the success trap:

1. Get uncomfortable.

You can’t grow when you’re comfortable. Your inner fear keeps you from moving. When you listen to that voice, you have a choice: You can let it stop you, or you can use it to propel you into something bigger and better.

When you look for places to get uncomfortable, you find new opportunities. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is a growth habit.

2. Play to win.

Most people believe they are playing to win. But they get it confused with playing not to lose. When you reach your initial goals, you start to play it safe; you stop growing.

When you play to win, you continue to grow. You push beyond the edge of comfort. When you play to win, it escalates your drive to a higher level.

3. Don’t wait.

Sometimes waiting seems like a good idea, but taking action builds momentum. Don’t wait for the “right time.” It’s just an excuse, an enemy to growth.

One of my clients built a successful business using the mantra, “Everything is a test.” Prioritize your next steps by testing and discovering your essential steps to growth, the most important actions with the highest payoff. Then take action with intensity.

The trap of success shows up in places where you talk about something and fail to move on it. You might plan, but you don’t invest. You might desire a new future, but you hold yourself back.

When I look back at where I failed to take action and failed to face my fears, I realized I didn’t see what was right in front of me. Learn from my failure—leave your comfort zone, shift from fear to courage and break free from the trap of success.

Related: 6 Ways to Act on Your Ambition

Gene Hammett has started and run multiple million-dollar companies. He’s succeeded, failed and succeeded again—and what he has learned in the process, he can pass along to you. He is recognized for his coaching with entrepreneurial leaders and CEOs, and is an inspiring speaker on developing leaders, sales leadership and marketing leadership. Follow Gene on his podcast, Leaders in the Trenches or on Twitter.