My first book went viral before viral was viral.
The website got over a million hits in one day, emails began pouring in from across the world and the nametag story spread like wildfire. My career was officially launched. And to my surprise, that media storm lasted for nearly two years.
You can’t pay for that kind of coverage.
Looking back, I estimate my advertising value equivalency to be in the millions.
Then again, what results did I have to show for it? Beyond the heaps of web traffic and the inflation of my ego, what economic return did all that attention convert into?
Because I wasn’t ready. And neither was my business. When the media tsunami came crashing through town, there was nary a surfboard in sight. So while I may not have drowned, I was still miles away from hanging ten.
I got taken for a ride before I was ready to go on one.
This phenomenon happens all the time. History is full of artists, politicians, athletes and businesspeople that became too successful, too early, too often.
And because their trajectory initiated before their professional foundation was strong enough to contain and convert the experience, they left behind a wake of missed opportunities, wasted attention and underleveraged exposure.
And those are just the professional repercussions. It gets personal, too.
When our trajectory of achievement initiates before our existential foundation isn’t strong enough to cope with the experience, succeeding takes up our whole life. And the big questions go untended.
Am I happy, or just smiling? What void am I trying to fill with all this success? When will I have done enough to be okay with myself? And if it all burns to the ground, who will I be without my brilliant career?
We have to be honest with ourselves.
We have to decide which successes are worth succeeding for.
We have to understand that getting what we think we want often comes at a cost we don’t expect.