Higher Ed: Really Good At Something In School Or Work? Beware Of The “Success Trap”

Who does not appreciate making high grades in a certain subject or getting glowing performance reviews at work?  In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton explore the lure of the “success trap” and how to avoid it.

What exactly is the “success trap?” It is the pull or desire to continue doing that which brings the greatest external praise or reward just because of that success. (Think: I’m really good at Math. I’ll major in that. I hate it, but I’m good at it.)

Here is how Ed sees it:

“When someone is successful at something….that’s a silly reason to actually go and pursue it,” Ed believes. “But the question is: just because one is good at something, does that potentially dismiss the possibility of doing something that might bring you greater joy [or] might be actually something you’re even better at or something that you’re just actually drawn to and otherwise you wouldn’t give it a shot?”

Ed is quick to add that he does not think people shoud ditch their successful endeavors and move on if those pursuits still bring joy.

“If that success is something that continues to bring an individual satisfaction and joy and a sense of accomplishment, that’s great; I’m not suggesting everyone’s gotta shake it up,” says Ed. “That should not confine us to look at other possibilities and other opportunities because maybe your gifts and your talents can be amplified in a different direction that we wouldn’t consider otherwise.”

So how can people break out of their comfort zone and avoid that “success trap?”

Ed says it begins with deliberate and thoughtful effort.

“It’s all with intentionality,” says Ed. “If you’re going to hope that you accidentally stumble upon something I would say you have to be really lucky…. you can create your own good luck with intentionality – intentionally assessing.”

Listen to the fill episode to hear more from Ed about when the time is right to do that kind of assessment.

It is definitely the right time for the solution to last episode’s puzzler about dealing with cards missing from a deck.

This episode was recorded on Oct. 22, 2019.

Tags: , , ,

Jennifer Stayton