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The Threat of Success

Are you familiar with the Sports Illustrated jinx?

I’m not one for superstitions, but this one seems to check out.

For so many athletes, a signature of their success in any sport and the cultural conversation surrounding it is the awarding of the coveted spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. The biggest stars in the game, the heaviest hitters on the field, the current champions, the stars on the rise—they’ve all been featured on the SI cover and typically at the height of their careers. Getting the call that you’ve been chosen for the cover spot should be great news for any athlete, right?

Well, that’s where the jinx comes in.

Because over the years, an incredible number of athletes featured on the front of the magazine to highlight their success have been met with failure soon after their cover comes out. Injuries, major losses, public scandals, records ruined—it all happens after an athlete finds themselves on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Of course, this theory isn’t scientifically proven or anything. And as always, there are exceptions to the rule. Lebron James, the Williams sisters, Roger Federer—they’re good no matter what happens. But more often than not, the jinx effect seems to be in play for those featured athletes and that begs the question: Why does the decline happen after the peak?

There are all kinds of thoughts about why this plays out the way it does for so many athletes. Maybe it’s because they’ve reached the top and feel like they have little left to give after that. Once they’ve hit the goal, they just don’t have it in them to keep going. Maybe they’re completely exhausted. They gave it their all to get there, and now that they’ve made it, they’re tired. I mean, anybody who crosses the finish line of a marathon doesn’t want to run another mile after that. Or maybe it’s the ego that comes with such fame. There’s an arrogance that follows and shifts the vision away from the craft and on to the fame.

No matter what’s at the root of it, I think there’s a lesson here. There’s a risk in believing we’ve made it. There’s a danger in thinking you don’t have to pursue continuous improvement and growth. There’s a real threat to our long-term success if we stop making things like innovation and iteration a priority. In our personal growth and in our brand’s customer experience.

Bill Gates once said:

“Success is a lousy teacher. It makes smart people think they can’t lose.”

In other words, achievement has the potential to be a detriment to the impact we want to make in the long run. The more goals we reach, the more likely we are to be tempted to give in to the belief that our work is done. That we don’t have to keep changing, keep moving, keep growing in order to keep making an impact.

This is true for those athletes sitting on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and it’s true for you and me showing up to work each day to make an impact on our customers. If we don’t make it a priority to constantly improve and make things better at our brands, then they run the risk of dying out. And none of us wants that!

This is where innovation comes in.

By definition, innovation means to introduce something new.

A new process,

A new product,

A new service that meets the customer’s needs better than before.

Innovation makes room for improvement, and improvement makes room for success. That’s why innovation is critical to stay in the game. It keeps us constantly on the lookout for what we can bring to the table to better serve our customers. It keeps us thinking about what new things we can offer the customer to change their experience for the better. It creates the space to express our ability to know what our customers want next.

Some of you are probably thinking, Wait! We’re so far behind already! How can I encourage innovation when my company hasn’t even caught up to everyone else?

Or maybe you’re thinking, Things just changed at my brand! We just made a new thing happen and now you want me to change again? It’s a lot!

You might be thinking, I am so excited about this! I love the potential for change and the new things we can do.

Or you could be thinking, You want me to introduce something new at my job? Please! My boss doesn’t give any of us the option to innovate in any way.

No matter what you’re thinking here, trust me when I tell you that I get it. Whether the thought of innovation exhausts you, excites you, or leaves you indifferent, I understand that trying to introduce and implement something new at work isn’t an easy undertaking.

But here’s the truth: Change is necessary. In life and at work, change has to be part of our approach. It has to be something we lean into and embrace.


There’s a rapid rate of change happening in the business world. Things are constantly and quickly evolving with our customers’ needs and the options available to them in the market. If we resist the call to innovate and change, we simply won’t keep up. We won’t stay in the game. We’ll eventually find ourselves outdated and left behind.

Innovation encourages us to stay fresh, to ask big questions, to constantly look for ways to change what we do and how we do it for the better. It may not be easy, but it will pay off when our innovation benefits the customer experience.

What is your current mindset toward innovation and change in general?

I ask, because it is your mindset that we must start with - because our companies and families will never be more innovative that what we allow!

Continue learning and growing by ordering your copy of The Power of Customer Experience and the book club video series and user guide for your team.


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