“When achievement is completed, fame is attained.
— Tao te Ching, Chapter 9
The Tao warns us to be careful with success.
Success, it says, is a cup filled to overflowing, spilling water everywhere. It’s a knife sharpened so often, the blade snaps in half. It’s like a room piled high with gold and jewels, attracting greedy thieves.
That’s a colorful way of describing the three things most likely to happen when we become attached to our own successes:
– We become so full of ourselves, we ruin everything and everyone around us.
– We drive ourselves to the breaking point.
– We stop taking risks for fear of losing our hard-won reputation.
I’m blessed. My work is appreciated, and my projects at The Company are often successful. But if I were to let that success go to my head:
– I could become smug and reckless, dismissive of others and their contributions.
– I could exhaust myself, driving so hard to top past successes that I forget to rest, reflect, and recharge my creative batteries.
– I could suffer creative paralysis, becoming so protective of my reputation that I shy away from challenging assignments.
How much better, the Tao says, to “withdraw yourself” — to let achievements be what they are, to remain humble about your role in their creation, and to give your full attention to the new tasks that come your way.
Today I will focus on the work before me. Instead of competing with others or worrying about my reputation, I will just be present: going where I need to go, doing what I need to do. As I do so, I become a channel for Something greater than success.