Don’t Let Success Destroy You

April 3, 2012
Please pardon my excess. I’ve been veering off on tangents in some of my blog posts lately, but I promise I’ll get back on the topic of inventory management soon. Right now, I want to comment on an article I recently read in the Harvard Business Review, entitled “The Catastrophe of Success.” It’s fascinating and ironic that success has the power to destroy people and organizations. It can lead to second-guessing, playing it safe, and other things that are detrimental to innovation. I will now proceed to make my point by discussing one of my favorite film series of all time, Star Trek. Kirk and Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Saving Star Trek

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This famous line, which opens Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities, is a timeless message that speaks to people and businesses today. Oddly enough, I was first introduced to A Tale of Two Cities as a child watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Kirk reads the opening line in an antique copy of the book he receives from Spock for his 50th birthday. It’s meant to set up the triumphs and calamities that are about to present themselves to Kirk and his crew on their latest space adventure. But these words also have a deeper meaning for many Star Trek fans. At that time, Star Trek was at a crossroads. One bad sequel could have killed off the fledgling film series. When Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in 1979 it became a big box-office hit, and fans probably thought that Star Trek’s best days lay ahead of it. However, Star Trek’s future was full of questions. The first film had earned a lot of money, but it had also been extremely expensive, and it was unpopular with critics. The follow-up film would have to reverse those negative trends and still earn a hefty profit in order to prove the viability of the series. If Star Trek: The Motion Picture resurrected the old TV show from obscurity, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan gave it a new lease on life as a full-fledged film series on par with Star Wars. Paramount realized that if they wanted to keep their space saga alive, they needed new blood. Luckily, they got Harve Bennett, Nicholas Meyer and other talented filmmakers to come in and take bold, new moves that would, ironically, bring the series back to its roots while also speaking to a new generation.

To Boldly Go

As I noted at the beginning of this post, you shouldn’t let one success keep you from trying new things and achieving even more victories. Instead of thinking of success as an end goal, think of it as something that naturally follows strategic risk takers. You have to be flexible and give up some preconceived notions, even ones you cherish, if they’re keeping you from reaching your full potential. The makers of Star Trek had to compromise some of their vision about an ideal future in order to give us stories about prejudice in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and retribution in Star Trek: First Contact. But when they compromised, they often ended up with their finest work. So let’s boldly go forth and live our lives hoping for the best, planning for the worst, and never forgetting that chances are something we need to take or else we might run out of them. And hopefully we can say on a regular basis, “It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done before.” The photo from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the copyright of Paramount Pictures.