I was nurtured in a moderately magnanimously Italian family which congregated habitually for what appeared to be the single-minded duty of crafting and devouring epicurean delights.  These occasions were bursting with hustle-bustle and passion in all things from the door-flying-open greetings to the seniority driven kitchen disputations.  Everything somehow remained in motion as the family settled in.  An outsider would have perceived the intensifying aroma filled cacophony as chaotic, but to us it was just another Sunday dinner.   Throughout years of tables amassed with lasagna, braciolettine, cioppino, eggplant parmesan, and hundreds of other top-button dislodging courses, I innately grew cognizant that our banquet was only a concealment for our family’s real communal function.  What my family revered above all else was talking!

Discussions on everything from family issues, politics (this was the contentious ‘60s), movies, religion, and work were openly thrown into battle between the tastes and praises of

food.  As children we were encouraged to sit-up and heed the engaging rants and arguments of our elders regardless of the issues intricacy.  I am certain the majority of my value and belief system was formulated while feasting.  One persuasion you could not elude was that of my Uncle Mario’s.  He was one of the Tough Leaders in the family.  Not very tall, and more rounded than any Italian General, he carried a force of conviction that could heat up any matter.  Uncle Mario was fervent, compassionate, arduous, resilient, intellectual and the most successful businessman at the table.  I was enthralled, enchanted, and loved by him.

In my early teens an intense conversation developed around the talking table involving my Uncle Mario.  He had been exceptionally successful in his management position and was being promoted to Vice President.  Customarily, this would have been a celebration but a controversy spun around the reality that he and his family would have to relocate to the East Coast for the new situation.  It was a heartbreaking prospect which defied any purpose.   Then, between one of the courses, I heard the magic figure driving the decision.  He was to be paid $50,000 a year, a tremendous amount at that time.  He accepted the position and moved a few months later leaving a momentous void at the table.

A few years later I activated my work-life in an unpretentious shipping department making $105 net per week.  It was a sufficient commencement, managing to pay the rent, put food on the table and gas in the car.  I worked harder than most, learning all I could and with the help of my first mentors, gained promotion after promotion increasing my compensation approximately 150% every two years.  I was driven to be a “Success”.  Then it materialized!  I was about 25 or 26 years old and my W2 hit $50,000.  “Wow!  What a milestone, what an accomplishment”, I thought to myself.  “Yes, I believe I am able say, I am a Success!”

Enjoying my success, the next year I earned about $50,000 and the following year, again $50,000.  And as I was on-track for another replication, I grappled with the realization that I was no longer attaining those substantial year-to-year compensation increases.  I had stagnated and was falling behind.  As I tried to gain an introspective answer to my flat-lined prosperity,   I realized the “subconscious” definition I had set for success so many years before.   I had accomplished my goal of success without an awareness of it.  And success had supplanted my inner drive to accomplish more.  With this awareness, I quickly established a new “cognizant” goal to double my earnings and achieved the new benchmark over the next several years.

As a Leader you need to accept that success is only a momentary accomplishment.  Success is the favorable outcome of a goal.  It is the termination of something sought.  Winston

Winston Churchill

Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  He appreciated that success was a temporary state and that without continued effort it would fade away.  Success does not guarantee a secured entitlement for your future.  It only measures your achievement up to that moment.

We have all witnessed great successes mutate into complacency and then plummet towards disaster.  History is bursting of fallen men, companies and countries that became comfortable with their success.  The aggressive action orientated values and culture which created the success becomes effortlessly replaced with the minimum determination necessary to maintain the status quo.  Success becomes a detriment to continued progress.

Much attention is spent on instructing the unsuccessful to become successful.  Many Leadership endeavors are focused on turn-around situations where failure must be replaced with victory.  But as a Leader you must also learn how to build success upon success.  You must be able to reprogram your thoughts to comprehend success as a potential impediment to your future.  “Resting on your Laurels” is an easy way to crumble the foundation of your success.

Take a moment and evaluate the current success of your team, your company and yourself.  How long ago was your current level of success achieved?  When is the last time you shook things up with real challenges for new and forward leaping goals.  Do you recognize complacency anywhere in your world?  If so, it is time to recapture your inner drive and move into aggressive action again.  First, set fresh goals over past achievements that will defy and stretch the normalized comfort zones which have developed.  Become uncomfortable with the current state of affairs and terminate your success.  Focus on the untapped potential that continues to exist and create new opportunities.  Secondly, return to the 1996 book “Built to Last” by James Collins and Jerry Porras and refresh yourself with the concept of BHAG Goals.   BHAG stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal that change the very nature of a something’s existence.  Dig deep and become serious about integrating a BHAG goal into your life.

Business Leaders are approaching dangerous times.  Recent years of economic downturn have shifted focus from “thriving to surviving”.  And although surviving may indeed be a success story in these turbulent times, it is a lethal formula for lasting prosperity.  As many are feeling successful for surviving tough times the opportunity peaks to grasp the future with innovative goals and expectations.  As many wait for a 2% economic upturn to replenish their severely diminished revenues, courageous leaders will take charge of their destiny and focus on the achievement of double-digit growth while increasing productivity.


Be vigilant and recognize success for the impostor that it is.  Strong Leaders must constantly and consistently “raise the bar’ on prior accomplishments.  Remember that complacency and comfort are your enemies and must be rooted out if you expect your achievements to grow over the long-term.  And although there is much to be proud of after turning around a bad situation, a Street Smart Leader learns how to build “success upon success”.  Today’s Leaders, who refuse to be subconsciously flat-lined and remain highly challenged, will be ready to savor tomorrow’s opportunities.  It is time to upgrade your Goals!