Why don't successful people and organizations automatically become very successful? One important explanation is due to what I call "the clarity paradox," which can be summed up in four predictable phases:As I read McKeown's blog post I thought of camps I've visited who were very success early on but declined over time as they expanded their program. When they were narrowly focused on doing a few things well they thrived. But as described in the "clarity paradox," as they succeeded they found new opportunities that diffused their efforts and reduced their clarity. This eventually led to decline.
Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.
Curiously, and overstating the point in order to make it, success is a catalyst for failure.
We can see this in companies that were once darlings of Wall Street, but later collapsed. In his book How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins explored this phenomenon and found that one of the key reasons for these failures was that companies fell into "the undisciplined pursuit of more." It is true for companies and it is true for careers.
It's important that as we achieve success, we be careful of the new opportunities that success provides. Are the new opportunities consistent with our vision, mission and values? Will they strengthen the core of who we are as a camp or send us in directions that weaken us. Can we sustain the focus and attention that led to success if we expand?