The Perception Of Success

Pop quiz – One of these things does not belong.

Alan Shearer.

Steven Gerrard.

Denis Irwin.

Gary Lineker.

Tough one, right?

Here’s a clue: Only one of these players has hit double digits for the number of trophies they won at top flight clubs.

One final clue: One of these players has more trophies than the others combined.

Sometimes we think of big names or people who are in the public eye and think “they’re a success,” and in truth, they are. At least compared to us normies. But these people aren’t normies, they are soccer players who played at the highest levels of the game at club and international level, so success has a different measurement and when comparing their success against each other, one man stands head and shoulders above the others.

But first, let’s look at how success is built. The first is trust – can we trust those around us, and can those on our team trust us? Can we trust the people around us to support us as we work towards achieving our goals? There is a sad truth that if we dream too big we will find no shortage of people who can present potential problems to overcome before they exist. It can be debilitating solving problems for every eventuality that may never happen.

Do we want to share and therefore trust someone who can only see non-existent obstacles? It may sound cheesy and cliché, but finding people with similar goals is important, as is finding someone who has walked the path and can help us along ours. If we find people who have similar goals we can work to support each other, and if we are able to help someone along the path you have traveled, we should do that too.

Here’s a prime example: Do you think people took Denis Irwin seriously when he dreamed of winning the Champion’s League? He made it because he found someone who believed in him, supported him, and shared his goals. He could only meet his goals if the team succeeded. Most people now, outside of Manchester United supporters, may not even remember who Irwin is. He wasn’t a star player with a famous name, and so it may be difficult to believe he has 20 times more top level trophies than Alan Shearer. He’s even won more than Wayne Rooney.

Being a star player on a losing team carries a whole different identity than being a team player on a high performing team. Alan Shearer has one Premier League title and three runner-up medals to show for his time as a player, but Denis Irwin has seven Premier League winning medals, three FA Cup winning medals and is a Champion’s League winner among a load of other silverware. If I had ever been a professional soccer player I know who’s trophy cabinet I would prefer. Who is the more successful? The player with the name, or the one with the trophies?

Here are the three takeaways for today:

1 – Corporate middle managers know this well – if you make something look good, people will believe it is (which is where they get the ridiculous idea that “perception is reality”). If you create a legendary brand, people will assume you are successful. Like Alan Shearer.

2 – The reality of success is that it doesn’t always (and rarely does) come with bright lights. It comes with sweat, hard work, and sacrifice.

3 – You don’t have to have small dreams just because others laugh at you having big ones. You don’t have to go it alone, in fact, the most successful people get there with others.

Success is relative. What one person sees as success another may see as failure. However, we all view success as comparative to something else. The important thing is to focus on your goals, stick with those where you can be a mutual encouragement, and remember that your success will dry up at the point your dedication and sacrifice do.

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