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Why Is Success So Difficult?

by Doug Davidoff | Sep 10, 2012 6:12:00 AM

This post originally appeared on BizBeat, The Washington Business Journal’s business blog.

It’s the stuff of legend and mythology.  The stories of Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Joe Montana and many more make the journey sound so exciting.

Over the last 25 years, I’ve learned a very important lesson about success – achieving it is boring.  The benefits are great, but the process to achieving it is painful.  Dealing with the boredom is the reason so few people reach their potential.

The problem is that the stories about success are dynamic and exciting.  These stories make the legend and mythology of business and sports.  After all, look at how much fun Steve Jobs was having as he introduced one game changer product after another.  Who doesn’t want to be Derek Jeter, with the fun and the fame?

However, the truth of how they got, and stayed, there is quite different.  It required the focus, discipline and commitment to work at the little things, and to do the things that few others do.

I see this every day in all facets of life.  Whether I’m working with executives and entrepreneurs of growing businesses, salespeople trying to compete in today’s environment, or coaching the hitters for my college baseball team, everybody wants to skip the boring stuff and jump right to the fun stuff.  I struggle with it myself.

In baseball everybody wants to get the game-winning hit, but few want to take 200 swings a day (for years) off the tee to work on the mechanics of good hitting.  Every salesperson loves making the closing presentation, but few are willing to do the homework to study and practice their craft.  Executives love strategizing and visioning, but few realize that driving business growth is about staying focused on the same few things, day after day after day.

Preparing for success is fun, but that once things get going the process can get boring quickly.  Even worse, it gets frustrating and difficult.  Nothing happens as fast as we want.  Since we’re all biologically programmed to avoid pain, most people decide that “there must be a better way,” and start the process all over again.

Whenever I see this happen, I always think of the conversation I had with one of the hitters I coach.  He told me that he had figured out one of the things he was doing wrong and he told me, “Coach, I think it’s really going to help.  Maybe if I spend the next two weeks working on it, everything will be good.”

What was sad, is that he really felt he was being patient.  Unfortunately, he still needs to learn that success is a lifetime pursuit.