Good management: Take every chance to tout successes

I got a book deal. I got a big advance for it– big enough to buy a nice house and big enough to stop fights with my husband about money.

Yet for all my recent success, someone recently asked me, “So, what do you do?” and I didn’t say anything about a book. Lame. That’s when sirens went off in my head. Experience tells me that people need to manage career success as carefully as they manage failure. Here are some suggestions.

1. Take time to be happy

In the past, I’ve been at points of great success and been too driven toward the top to see how far I’d come. For example, when I was a professional beach volleyball player signing autographs and smacking a volleyball in Bud Light commercials, I was always unhappy that I was not one of the top-20 players. Now I’m amazed at my former athletic achievements (and muscle mass). But I never enjoyed them when I had them. I focused too much on what I didn’t have.

So I’m taking a month to bask in my book success. I’m telling myself that my hard work and tenacity with my book proposal paid off. I’m patting myself on the back, which I always tell other people to do but rarely do myself.

2. Tell people about the success

One of the people I mentor amazes me with his diligence when it comes to telling me about his success. I don’t have a very close relationship with him, and sometimes I think to myself, “Why is he telling me this?” But I always end up thinking better of him when he tells me his achievements. He’s taught me that there’s very little harm in letting people know what great things you’re doing.

When it comes time for me to send emails to announce my book deal, my first instinct is to be hesitant– thinking “Does this person really want to know? Does she care?” But my mentee has taught me that I shouldn’t think twice. I should just send the email. If people are offended by my announcement, then they were probably never going to be helpful to me anyway. Being shy about my success will get me nowhere.

3. Strategize to leverage the success

Too many times in my life I’ve followed up success with worries– that I would not get to the next level, that the achievement would slip out from under me. My worries about leveraging success undermined my ability to do it.

Once I was running my own company and hiring all my friends and family, and we had tons of money and great press. I spent my days so worried about where to take the company next that my hair started falling out.

This book deal has great potential for worries because a book deal is all about sales. I have to make sure people buy the book. Also, I can’t help thinking about the next book deal. Writing is a business; there’s no point in launching one product and calling it a day. A thriving business is a bunch of products.

So this time I’m going to use my success as a starting point for strategic thinking instead of fearful thinking. And the first thing, in this vein, will be to craft a new answer to the question, “What do you do?” I need to get my book into the answer.
Penelope Trunk
has worked for many businesses, started a few, and become busy with her widely-read blog, so this column is reprinted from an earlier edition of the Hook. And this is her last column to appear in the Hook. We've loved having her!–editor

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