Article February 2018

Four Toxic Lies We Tell Ourselves About Success



No other buzzword is used more often in today’s business vernacular and everyone has their own preconceived ideas about what it takes to truly be successful. 

But if we’re not careful, those assumptions each of us has can be extremely debilitating. Because when it comes to success, what we think is true doesn’t always match up with reality. Ironically, our personal parameters for success are what usually hold us back from ever obtaining it.

Many of the misconceptions surrounding success often come from our human nature to compare ourselves to othersjustify our failures, and to just go along with “the norm." Each time we fall into one of these traps, we unknowingly put up walls that prevent us from ever realizing our visions, goals, and dreams.

Simply stated, we lie to ourselves.

Fortunately, if we can recognize these lies and stop living by them, the path to success can become all that more attainable. To help you do this, here are the four most toxic lies that we tell ourselves about success in business.

Lie #1: “I can do it all on my own.”

Anyone can become ensnared in telling themselves this lie, though it’s more typical of entrepreneurs and new business owners when they’re first starting out. And despite all that business owners do, the most difficult task they’ll face is learning to willingly trust others in helping them carry out their vision.


Unfortunately, in getting to a point of trust, some professionals exhaust themselves and their resources before sheepishly realizing that they can’t, in fact, do it all on their own.

Working with others and utilizing the combined expertise of capable individuals doesn’t mean that you have to relinquish your personal confidence, ambition, or passion. Every successful business owner possesses each of those qualities. However, those same individuals recognize that no matter how talented and gifted they are, their own skills, abilities, and intelligence can only take them so far.     

Workplace disputes and other human resource problems often stem from this lie. It only takes one person with a non-collaborative attitude before communication breakdowns, entitlement, and a loss of trust among team members occurs. Success is never a solo act and while one person might have the initial idea or vision for the company, it always takes multiple people to make it work.

The truth as told by experts...

"Success comes when people act together; failure tends to happen alone." —Deepak Chopra

"The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world." —Steve Jobs

"Great vision without great people is irrelevant." —Jim Collins

Lie #2: "I need _______________ to be successful."

“A college degree," “an amazing personality,” or “years of experience” might be some of the first thoughts to come to your mind when trying to determine a singular key to obtaining success. While having these things can unarguably open up numerous opportunities, there is no one thing or "magic bullet" that will make you successful.

If needing a degree was requisite to success, our world would be far different today. We wouldn’t have Facebook, Etsy, Best Buy, Reader’s Digest, Coca-Cola, personalized computers, or Wendy’s restaurants. Or if we did have those things, it wouldn’t be until after we’d waited for individuals like Dave Rose, Bill Gates, Richard Schulze, and Steve Jobs, none of whom have a degree, to finish school before becoming successful billionaires.

A recent CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey in 2017 found that independent business owners without a four-year degree now outnumber those with a bachelor's degree or higher. This just goes to show that there are multiple paths to becoming a business owner and obtaining a successful career. Mentorship programs, on-the-job training, trade schools, entrepreneurship, and working up from an entry-level position are all means to a successful end.

There is no one “all or nothing” accolade, character trait, circumstance, or experience that determines one’s capability to succeed. Nowhere is it written in stone that your business needs this thing or that thing before you can accomplish great things.  

The truth as told by experts...

"Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do." —Nelson Mandela

"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will." —Vince Lombardi

"You don't have to be a genius or a visionary or even a college graduate to be successful. You just need a framework and a dream." —Michael Dell (Founder of Dell Computer, college drop-out)

Lie #3: "I have to work 60+ hours a week to be successful."

A hamster can run on a wheel for hours until it collapses from exhaustion without ever once making the wheel move from its fixed state. Likewise, it’s easy to believe the lie that success will only come by working longer—after all, the more time you spend working, the more you should achieve, right? Wrong. Accomplished businessman and author, Harvey Mackay, said it best: "Don’t equate activity with efficiency.”

Research conducted by Stanford examined the relationship between hours worked and productivity. Findings from the study showed that productivity levels fall sharply after a 50-hour workweek, and declines even further after 55 hours—so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours, according to the study.

That’s because success isn’t dependent upon hours, it’s dependent upon efficiency. The lesson behind the cliche of “work smarter, not harder” still remains true, though it is also somewhat flawed as it begs the question, "Shouldn't I be doing both? Shouldn't I be working harder and smarter if I want success?" Yes. But to accomplish both, you have to constantly re-evaluate your priorities and maximize the most of your time.


Don't dump time and other resources into a wheel that won’t move ever move forward. Focus on the metrics that truly matter and take advantage of digital tools and other available resources to help increase your business's efficiency. You'll find that by working smarter, you actually gain time in which you can then work harder.

The truth as told by experts...

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” —Stephen R. Covey

"It’s not enough to be industrious, so are the ants. The question is, what are you industrious about?" —Henry David Thoreau

"Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week." —Charles Richards


Lie #4: "If I'm not making money, I'm failing."

There have been countless books written and speeches given on this concept. All of them have the same underlying warning that if you base your success on monetary obtainment, then you'll struggle to ever find true happiness—which is ultimately the greatest form of success.

Of course, there is a fine line between this destructive lie and reality when running a company. From a business standpoint, if you aren't making money, then you won't be successful.

However, success and making money in and of themselves aren’t goals. They’re results that come as you fulfill your true goals—things like treating your employees right, producing quality products, and making your customers happy by providing exceptional service. Those are the benchmarks you should focus on when measuring success. If you use money to gauge what you’ve accomplished then you will often come up short-handed.


The truth as told by experts...

"Success isn't about how much money you make. It's about the difference you make in people's lives." —Michelle Obama

"A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart." —Jonathan Swift

"You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you." —Maya Angelou


Rewrite Your Personal Definition of Success

Your BBB Accreditation provides your business with some great tools to be successful and measure how well you're doing. As you take advantage of these resources and focus on removing the above-mentioned lies from your mindset, you'll see success in a new light and become empowered to accomplish things you never thought were possible. Now go make it happen!