How to Survive Success or Failure by Focusing on What You Can Control

Last week, I received a surprise: a generous bonus from Medium for my April member engagement.

I was over the moon about this unexpected recognition and posted about it in a writer’s group. Soon, some other writers shared that they had also gotten this bonus. As we celebrated, I began to feel uneasy.

I started wondering how this landed in the other writers in the group. Having been on the other side many times, I know how much it sucks when people accomplish something that you work really hard for.

So I posted a version of the following message:

“I want to congratulate everyone, regardless of this bonus. Success is always, to some extent, dependent on luck and privilege. Where you’re born and what language you learned growing up. If you’re in the right place at the right time. If you happen to talk to the right person, etc.

In Ancient Rome, this perspective was personified by Fortuna, the goddess of fortune. Romans knew that Fortuna could bring them good or bad luck, and that might have made it easier for them to accept the capriciousness of life.

While someone who has been pushing for years is likely among the most engaging writers every month, many of us might have made it one month but not the other. It’s good to acknowledge that and I’d like to congratulate all of us for doing our best to write in the middle of the trials and tribulations of life.

As a coach, I know that it’s better to focus on process goals than on outcome goals. A process goal is something we can control, for instance, ‘write 3x/week’ or ‘send out 10 applications.’ An outcome goal is something we can’t control, such as ‘be a top writer on Medium’ or ‘get a new job.’ Even if we do our best, we might not make it.

If you’ve been doing your best to pursue your goals (and I think we always do the best we can do, given the situation we are in), congratulations!

In my case, I’m proud that I got back into a writing habit. Going forward, I’d like to increase my writing frequency. So that will be my goal… something I can control. What’s something you’re proud of that has nothing to do with bonuses and payments?”

This message contains my strategy for surviving success or failure: to realize that part of it has to do with luck, to focus on process goals, and to acknowledge myself for the effort I’m making regardless of the outcome.

What’s a process goal you’d like to focus on?

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Louise is the founder of Leader for Good. She's a former lawyer and academic who moved from Germany to the United States where she started her own business. Today, Louise loves helping her coaching clients and students connect with their passion and purpose. You can find out more about her coaching business at
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