We’re often amazed when companies or careers stumble when they seemed destined for continued success. For instance, of the 500 companies that appeared on Fortune’s initial list in 1955 only 71 still remain. Some of the most well-known names (at the time) on that list have long since disappeared from it, such as Scott Paper, Zenith, and Warner Lambert.
The study of how companies can go from the pinnacle of their industry to the bottom in such a short time has become a furious topic of study, particularly in management circles. Of all the theories discussed, the idea that success itself is at the root cause is one of the more interesting.
In his article, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown suggests that companies and careers can suffer what he calls the “clarity paradox” that consists of four phases:
1. When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
2.When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
3. When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
4. Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.
In order to counter-balance this effect and maintain our upward trajectory, he advocates an approach that ensures we focus on only the most essential items in our professional life and push all the others to the side.
As you progress through your career, you’re going to be presented with a variety of different options and opportunities. Be discerning when it comes to making a change; don’t simply make a choice based on a modest salary increase or promotion. If you don’t think it’s going to get you where you want to be in the long run you might be passing up other opportunities you don’t even know about yet.
When you focus on the essentials and strip away everything else, you’ll be left to concentrate on what has made you successful thus far and will be left to invest your time in the areas that matter most.
Photo: Above photograph used under CC license
This article was inspired by a blog post in HBR’s Blog: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.
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