“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” - Vince Lombardi

So does success.

When you have success in life it becomes a habit. Success breeds more success. You get confidence and things tend to “go your way”. As your life goes on you continue to pile up one success after another. Eventually you get to the point where you land your dream job that lets you sit at home in your underwear all day long. (Yes, this CAN happen to you, trust me.)

So what happens when something doesn’t go your way? You’ve been used to success and all of a sudden you hit a bump in the road. What do you do then?

Do you quit?

Probably not. If you are used to having success you are likely to make a push to get whatever it is you were after. But how hard would you push? Would you push to the point of alienating the people around you? If you have a habit of succeeding then you just might find yourself pushing a little too hard.

The trick is to know when you need to dig in your heels and when it is OK to just let something go. This is akin to being told to “choose your battles”. I would argue that most of the time you need to let things go, and not dwell on those minor bumps in the road. This is very true for someone that has had a lot of success. If you have been successful before then you should be confident you will be successful again. I think most successful people do exactly that: they don’t dwell on any one setback and they just keep going forward.

I’ve had a moderate amount of success in life, I think most of us have. When I hit those bumps in the road I try not to let them get me down too much. Instead I look to do one or more of the following:

Talk

I talk with friends and colleagues. Not to bitch and moan (although I still will, from time to time), but because I need a sounding board. It often helps to vent, but most of the time a simple talk will suffice. I have a very close circle of friends (including family) that get this honor, and an extended circle of friends and mentors that listen to me as well (you know who you are and THANK YOU).

Reflect

I like to reflect on all of the things that have gone right in my life and try to minimize the things that have gone wrong. It is very easy to focus on the one obstacle in your way right now and lose sight of the hundreds of obstacles behind you. You’ve been successful before, remember? Chances are you will again. Why let one thing derail all that you have accomplished?

Plan

Take the time to put together a plan of action on what steps to take next. Then take that plan and set it aside for a day. The next day review the plan and decide if those steps are needed, if different steps are needed, or perhaps you may have thought of a new plan altogether. Hopefully one that doesn’t require as much pushing. The main point here is to take your time thinking before reacting.

Let Go

What if the thing you were chasing after wasn’t meant to be yours? Perhaps you got turned down to speak at an event, or for a promotion. Let’s take the SQL MVP award as an example. If you were nominated and didn’t get the award does that make you a failure? Are you less of a person somehow? Absolutely not. So why dwell on that? You should focus on all of the positive things it took for you to even be nominated. Learn to let it go.

Folks, those bumps in the road are just there to let you know the ground is still beneath your feet.

You get to decide which direction your feet will take you.