…when someone writes something so simple and clear, you wonder (and wish) why you hadn’t thought of it first 🙂

Seth Godin has a wonderful post titled ‘Understanding Your Local Max‘ that explains how easy it is to fall in to the trap of stagnation, particularly when you achieve some degree of success, and how obvious but difficult it can be to go beyond that point and reach new heights. You can argue it’s nothing new, but I have never seen the concept presented in such an effective and useful way. I wish he’d written it one month ago, when I resigned from Microsoft. It’s a far better explanation of my reasons for leaving than my fumbled attempts at explaning career stagnation and why it was too safe, easy and comfortable to stay at Microsoft…

It really is worth reading, and is applicable to many areas of work and play – think of the one hit pop star versus Kylie (how many had written her off when she disappeared in the 90s?), the athlete who retires early versus the one who perseveres (look at Kelly Holmes, winning double gold at Athens in 2004, running in her thirties). It can be slightly different for business, I guess, given the journey from A+ to D can often involve an acquisition that changes the game completely, but how often do we witness someone settling for the rewards from early success (good enough?) and never reaching their full potential as a result.

One of the biggest challenges to moving from B to D can be the ego, and expectations we place on ourselves, as a result of that local max – it’s that good ol’ fear of failure creeping in. And it starts from an early age – there have been studies showing how if you praise a child for their talent/intelligence, they are more likely to lie or exaggerate about their next test results. If you praise a child for their effort, they are more likely to be honest about future results, good or bad. That’s the attitude you need to get to, and beyond, point C.


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  1. The Local Max and Big Max sound like an old saying that I heard when I was younger. Sometimes you have to take a step backward to take two steps forwards. Some people think that they have to act like sharks and always go forward. I left a gob job to go into what was a pretty menial IT support role as I wanted to get into IT many years ago. That was a backward step initially but it has paid off financially and with job satisfaction over the years.The other good one is sailing. If you are headed somewhere and the wind is behind it is easy. But when the wind is against you then you either give up or tack to get to your destination.It is not only fear of failure that may be a problem. Some people think that fear of success can also be a factor. Strange as that may sound.

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