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The Addiction of Incremental Success

| James Riley |

Back in June, I talked about how we celebrate failure in Here’s to the Crazy Ones. But, is changing our perspective on failure enough? Can we survive, emotionally or practically, in a state of constant failure?

We find that the reason that we can celebrate failure is not because it is failureā€¦it’s because we see it as a gateway to success. As we fail, learn, try again, fail, learn and so on, the end goal is that this process leads to success. I am not just talking about ordinary success where you stumble across something, I am talking about legitimate, solid, hard-earned success. This kind of success is rooted in the knowledge that it required something significant, over a period of time and is earned. The sweat equity that is invested into this kind of hard-earned success seems to make it all that much sweeter.

If we desire this hard-earned success that comes through trials, is there any space for incremental success that may be focused on effort and/or heavily weighs intent instead of just outcome? If so, how does that fit into a bigger picture?

I tend to want to find a binary, black/white answer to this question. However, I find that the reality is it depends.

When we focus only on the incremental success, it is easy to lose sight of the goal and to think that the incremental success is the goal. While there can be value to incremental success to get you started, I believe this is also where things can become dangerous. When we lose sight of the goal, it’s easy to become addicted to these smaller, incremental, successes. When we do that, it’s easy to jump from thing to thing to get that quick fix and cheat ourselves of that satisfaction that comes from hard-earned success. We never really have a true goal, only a meandering path of relatively easy wins.

With all of that said, many hard-earned goals are so hard to get going, we need some kind of incremental success to get us out of bed in the morning and keep us motivated. Additionally, the whole how do you eat an elephant question comes to mind. (The answer is one bite at a time.) Many bigger goals are so big, the only way to achieve them is through consistent and repeated incremental successes. These incremental successes, coupled with the bigger picture goal help us keep perspective as we are buried in the weeds. To this end, provided that it is part of a larger understanding, it seems that incremental success can be highly valuable.

In our team, we work to find the proper balance of rewarding incremental success while also keeping the focus on the bigger goals that our incremental success should be leading us towards. I say we work at this because I do not think that we have it all figured out. I guess, at the end of the day, our working yields incremental success as we focus on a bigger goal of seeking to improve our leadership by finding the proper balance of vision, motivation and care for our team.

As is true with many things, we find that balance is key. While hard-earned success is a great goal, incremental success is highly valuable both in maintaining motivation and allowing us to bury ourselves in work without losing sight of the bigger picture. So long as we maintain this balance, we find that we achieve a good balance of results and retained motivation.

How do you find the balance between incremental and hard-earned success?