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Taking Credit for Success

Originally published May 08, 2014

Failure sucks. From its economic realities to its ego-deflating self-esteem sap, failure slows you down and holds you back. And while it would be nice to live in a world where failure rarely happens, our reality is the opposite; success is the exception. Success is hard to come by, and often passes by unnoticed. Therefore, it is impossible to overemphasize the importance of recognizing and taking credit for success.

The starving artist

We’ve all heard these stories: many of the artists we now consider to be masters were not fully appreciated during their lifetimes. It is a narrative told both to romanticize and to rationalize failure. “It’s okay if no one appreciates your work today; time will tell if your legacy survives.” While there is an optimistic tone to it, this narrative generally stinks. When it comes to success, the only person whose opinion truly matters is your own.

Smelling the roses

I often let the future overwhelm the present. I very seldom appreciate what is happening in the moment, because I’m too busy planning for and worrying about about what’s going to happen down the line. It’s a habit I have developed to avoid dwelling on the problems of the present — which is not so bad on its surface. But this habit also means I do not allow myself to appreciate the good things about the present, including the ways in which I have succeeded. There’s no feeling of accomplishment and no opportunity to celebrate; I’m always looking ahead to the next challenge.

Claiming victory

Defining, achieving and acknowledging success are essential for sustaining you and your business.

When starting something new, write down what exactly constitutes success for you. If you are learning a new language, success might be having a conversation with a native speaker. If you are an entrepreneur, success might be a profitable exit, or it might simply be recognition in the media. Whatever it might be, keep that definition of success in mind as your efforts continue.

When you finally achieve whatever it is you wrote down, take the day off. Wallow in your success. Give yourself a pat on the back. Call your mom. For a brief moment, be content, and get a good night’s sleep.

If you cannot give yourself credit for your own successes, you will find it hard to accept the credit others give you. And worse, it will be harder to envision and strive for future success.