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How Not to Get Wrecked By Success

November 1, 2013, 5:13 PM

A lot of people really want success, but they don’t understand that actually success is scary. It was definitely very scary for me and continues to be from time to time, although I'm a lot more used to it now.

I think writing my first book and having it be a bestseller was really shocking to me.  I knew there was a big need for it, but I didn’t know how big the need was and when we started our school we had no idea if it would be successful and it was hugely successful and then when it failed it was so crushing and it was so scary.

What are we going to do next? But we figured out the next thing and all along the way there have been these moments of it being far more successful than we ever imagined. What I think comforts me and my husband and the rest of our team - initially it was actually really hard to change from being this small company where you knew everybody, you could have everybody over to the house, it was really close knit, it was really fun - to embracing the idea that it needs to grow.

I think a lot of companies will say "we want to be a billion dollar company." They’ll put a financial reason why they want to grow and I think for us the reason why we want to grow is because we see how many people we’re helping and we know that so many people don’t know about us and need our help and that really motivates us in that we actually serve a bigger purpose by being big than by being small and we actually fulfill our mission by being bigger versus being smaller. 

By having more members we can create more education.  We can hire more great teachers.  We can hire more great employees.  We can build a better website.  We make a sustainable ecosystem that allows us to help more people ultimately.  It’s like a factory.

And so I think that is something that we had to enroll a lot of our employees in because many of them didn’t like getting bigger.  It was really cool in those early days when we were all inventing it together, but I absolutely have loved learning about all the different stages of the company. I think every stage has its growing pains and we’re always in a growing pain phase and sometimes we’ve also been in pain where we had to reduce our size like during the dotcom crash - what happened to us when people stopped traveling due to 9/11 and everything.

So I think you want to learn in both situations and embrace the problems because I kind of had an epiphany at one point that there is never going to be a moment where we don’t have problems.  Problems are always going to be there and when we fix one a new one is going to emerge and you do have to kind of view it as a journey and not a destination and that mindset if very helpful.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


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