Beware of Success


When a warning light comes on in your dashboard, that’s a sign that something could be wrong with your car. In business, we don’t have anything similar other than seeing profits dropping and expenses rising. While most people look for troubling signs like declining sales or net profits, another warning signal can be success.

Everyone wants success, but the moment you become successful, that’s also a time not to get complacent. Sometimes success can be the beginning of the end. Just ask Kodak, Blockbuster Video, and Borders Books what happened after they became successful.

What’s Really Responsible for Your Success?

As much as we like to believe that we’re 100% responsible for our success, there are often elements outside our control. Right before the 2008 real estate crash, it was easy to be a successful real estate agent because everyone could easily get loans. Once the housing crash began, loans dried up and suddenly being a real estate agent became much harder.

So be honest with yourself and look for what external circumstances are helping fuel your success. Once you identify these external forces out of your control, you can plan for when (not if) those external forces change. Then you can become less dependent on outside forces and more in control of your own destiny.

Success Blinds Us From New Opportunities

When you’re successful, it’s easy to believe you’re doing everything right, and that may be true. But remember, life always changes. Successful businesses tend to keep doing what made them successful, and then they overlook new opportunities until it’s too late.

First, try to imagine what could put you out of business. Then shift your business to that new opportunity to put yourself out of business before someone else does it for you.

Apple once made millions selling iPods. When smartphones started offering digital music playing features, Apple killed the iPod by coming out with the iPhone. Apple killed their own product because other companies were going to do that anyway.

The lesson is don’t be afraid to kill your own business because if you don’t, someone else will, and if someone else does it, then you’ll be out of business.

When the Internet first began, Borders Books opened a website and directed potential book buyers to Amazon’s site because Borders didn’t want to bother selling books online and didn’t think online bookselling would be profitable. Think Borders made a wise decision?


Everyone wants success, but success is never an end but a milestone. The moment you’re successful, don’t stop. Stay hungry. Look for new opportunities and identify forces outside your control that could change. Success is a process, not a destination. As long as you keep this principle in mind, you’ll be well on your way to success in your business, whatever it may be.


Wallace Wang is a freelance writer and author of over 50 books including “Microsoft Office For Dummies,” "Steal This Computer Book,” and “macOS Programming for Absolute Beginners.” In addition, he currently co-hosts two radio shows on KNSJ 89.1FM called “Notes From the Underground” and “Laugh In Your Face Radio.” He has performed standup comedy in Las Vegas at the Riviera Comedy Club and teaches iPhone/iPad programming classes through UCSD Extension in San Diego.