Success often springs from new: new opportunities, new ideas, new perspectives, new connections, new ventures …

Achieving what you want to achieve often requires embarking on a new journey, bridging the gap from here, where you are today, to there, where you want to someday be. 

But sometimes success can come not from adding something new but from eliminating something old.

As Oprah Winfrey says (in a quote also attributed to David Russell),

“One of the hardest things in life to learn is which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn.”

If you aren’t as successful as you’d like to be — if you aren’t as happy as you’d like to be, since success, however you choose to define it, walks hand in hand with happiness — instead of looking for a new bridge to cross, consider burning a few old ones. 

Like these:

1. Worrying about what other people think

Whenever you try something new, whenever you try something other people are afraid to try, they’ll talk about you.

And not in a nice way. 

The only way to keep other people from criticizing or judging you is to do only what other people do. But that means you’ll be only as successful as they are.

And only as happy as they are.

Instead of worrying about what people say, be glad they’re saying it — because that means you’re on the right track.


2. Worrying about what you have, instead of what you do

Psychologists call it “hedonic adaptation,” a phenomenon in which people quickly push the buzz from a new purchase toward their emotional norm.

That “Wow!” feeling you get when you look at your new house? It goes away really fast. The same is true when you buy a new car, new furniture, or new clothes. Which means you have to buy something else to recapture the “Wow!” feeling. 

Which means you’re never satisfied. 

Lasting satisfaction comes from doing, not from having. To feel good about yourself, both in the short term and long term, help someone who needs it. It doesn’t have to be someone less fortunate. You can help your employees develop the skills they need to succeed. You can help a friend who’s struggling to achieve a goal.

Knowing you’ve made a difference in another person’s life is a “Wow!” you can repeat endlessly. 

And it’s a buzz that will never push back to an emotional norm. 

3. Worrying about finding that one big idea

Most of us won’t hit the big-idea lottery. And even if we did come up with that elusive big idea, could we pull off its implementation? Do we have the skills, experience, and funding?

Maybe you do. I don’t.

But here’s what all of us do have: hundreds of small ideas. Which means we don’t need to look for a big idea if we act on our little ideas.

Success is a process. Happiness is a process.

Since every process is based on action, not thought, stop waiting for a big idea and act on as many of your small ideas as you can.  

4. Worrying about perfection

It’s natural to afraid to be “done.” When we’re done, our idea or plan or product or service has to sink or swim — and the last thing we want it to do is sink. 

But ideas, plans, products, or services can never swim if we never launch them. 

Do the best you can, and then, as Seth Godin says, ship. If it’s not perfect, you can fix it. If it doesn’t work, you can try something else — and will have learned from the experience.  

Which means the next time you ship, your chances of success will be even greater.

5. Worrying about what other people do.

You may be a parent. You may be a boss. You may be “in charge.”

Even so, the only thing you really control is you. If you find yourself trying hard to control other people, you’ve decided that you, your goals, your dreams, or even just your opinions are more important than theirs.

Plus, control is short term at best, because it often requires force, or fear, or authority, or some form of pressure — and exerting any of those will never make you feel good about yourself. (Or make you, over the long term, a successful leader.)

Focus on controlling yourself. The better “you” that you become, the more people will want to walk beside you, and the less you’ll have to worry about controlling anyone.

Even yourself.

6. Worrying about whether you’re happy.

Try this. Close your eyes and imagine I take everything you hold dear away from you: family, job, business, home, everything. Poof: It’s all gone.

What happens next? You realize that what you already have is so much more important than what you don’t have. You realize how blessed, how successful, and how happy you already are.

Now open your eyes.


And, more important, figuratively. Maybe you could be happier, but if you think about it, your life is already pretty great.

Every night when you turn off your bedroom light, take a second to count your blessings. Do that, and you won’t have to worry about whether you’re happy or not.

Because you’ll know you are.

Originally published on

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