The condition is real, pervasive, and can ruin your career and your life. Here’s my story, and what I did to defeat it and get back on track…
For nearly two decades I was on a roll. My career started accidentally, and success came easily. That’s not to say I wasn’t ready, or that I didn’t work hard— quite the contrary, I had prepped with the mandatory Malcolm Gladwell 10,000+ hours, and in my sweet spot was relentlessly focused and determined. By any standard I was talented, driven, and thriving.
Beginning at the very bottom in what coworkers and I cynically called an “html sweat shop,” I stubbornly stuck to it, zigged & zagged from better jobs to worse jobs to better jobs, riding the wave. A combination of flexibility, relentlessness, and smarts got me from squalid office onto planes and into multimilion dollar pitches. Along the way I increased my salary ten-fold.
Maneuvering between land mines and over speed bumps, I navigated a career path that matched my appetite, attitude, and aptitude. A quirky science geek and prolific writer, my talents energized gigs that demanded a combo of cognitive and creative savoir faire. I pounded on keyboards and mugged in front of cameras to rock it at the convergence of science, marketing, and tech.
Not only was I accomplished, I was having fun. The sheer joy and apparent effortlessness of my achievements engendered awe and jealousy. Put me anywhere to do anything, I was all-in. Working evenings, weekends, always on-call and standing-by, I consistently won MVP. Jumping into any project to take myself and the whole team to a higher level, I boosted value and wins.
The price I paid seemed insignificant compared to the benefits I received. Endless roadtrips kept me from my kids, but I frequently FaceTime’d; non-stop effort allowed little rest let alone sleep, but I somehow flourished on endless espresso shots and midnight sprints; competitive intensity triggered typical work politics and drama, but we processed, rapidly reconciled, and moved on.
Success engenders more success, to the point things get taken for granted. That’s the first sign of trouble, when you consider yourself invincible. The healthy paranoia and feelings of insecurity that once forced close attention to…