What Overachievers Can Do to Save Themselves
Image: Tony Avelar/ AP Photo for Forbes India
1. Pace yourself: For a great professional, it is a marathon. Your work will spread over at least 40 years. Don’t burn at both ends of the candle. Be authentic; know that life has a larger purpose to achieve through you. Life wants to make an impact using your abilities. Therefore, don’t be under any pressure to prove your one-upmanship to someone. Your talents are not meant to be gunpowder in the barrel of your ego.
2. I always think of myself as a municipal water pipe. My job is to deliver the water, not quench my own thirst. My position and my authority are not meant for my gratification. Yes, they feel good. But I must know that they are not for personal consumption.
3. I must own failures but deflect the success. This is the best way to create greater success. When I own failure, I learn valuable lessons; this process pre-supposes reflective space and that slows me down deep within; it is a very important part of regeneration. When I deflect success I no longer carry its burden. Success is heavy, we have just two shoulders.
4. I must not trivialise my screw ups. I should relive them in my mind and seek forgiveness. Great people say sorry.
5. Every overachiever very well knows the difference between the right and the convenient. In 98 percent of cases, a CEO does not need a lawyer to tell him what the right thing to do is. Yet, sometimes, even the best among us fall prey to temptation: A fling, a bribe, waving a due diligence, a seemingly harmless favour from a supplier…anything that would later tell us all that it was a matter of common sense. Let us begin by admitting that we are all human. So, it is all right to be tempted but not all right to fall to the subsequent indiscretion. The trick is to pick up the phone when temptation begins and speak to someone with no vested interest in the matter and ideally someone with a higher reputation capital than you. Ask for advice. When you do, make sure you give all the facts, not the biases. Ask for the advice before the act.
6. When people who have loved you a lot for a long time bring forth a cautionary note, beg you not to do something you are about to, please pay attention to it. It is life showing you the yellow card through an Angel who you have always trusted. Pause.
7. What is common between politician ND Tiwari, self-styled God-man Nityananda, Strauss-Kahn, Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods? High testosterone. This is a very common phenomenon among alpha-males and history is replete with examples of countless powerful people fall because of it, starting with the demon Mahishasura who, even the Gods feared! Sexual proclivity beyond the ordinary can be a disorder that can be treated with medicine and counselling.
8. Overachievers have the power to convince people like no one else can. But note the first three alphabets in the word ‘convince’. Beware, you can con others and often simply con yourself. Once you do, no one can argue with you; you have the gift of the gab. You think brilliantly, but know that you may often come to a conclusion first, and then retrofit the justification. Then you psych yourself. Reasoning does not work anymore. The argument and your chosen path of action look perfect in every which way. Then you just step into obscurity.
9. A lot of overachievers get carried away with public awards and recognitions. Trophy hunting overshadows real work. Beware, much of the award business in the world is shallow, many are a business unto themselves, and some are a downright racket. Do the work; the recognition will follow. The greatest recognition in life is unlikely to be an award; it may be a grandchild in your arms or a butterfly in spring that you can notice in the winter of your life!
10. My dad always told me one thing: You are known by the company you keep. If you hang out with the wrong guys—seemingly harmless—and just for a few times for fun, it wouldn’t quite work. The wrong guy will return.
11. Do not live on your professional fame alone. Keep a backup. One day you will need it. This is particularly important for people who are to hang their boots in the next five, six, ten years.
12. Do leave with grace. Do not cling on to your name, fame, role, and office, whatever. Leave gently, leave a little before you are asked to go. If things get difficult, go with grace. Do not immolate yourself in the town-square and ask people to come to watch. It makes for news only for that day.
13. Respect the system. Either you are an overachiever because the system has brought you here or the system presented itself as the matching colliding force for you to battle. Either way, have respect for it.
14. Last but not the least, pray. It keeps you subordinate to a larger power and that helps in a crisis. If you believe in God, use the toll-free number; know that it gets disconnected if not used periodically.