Business · Consultations · Public Relations

The Three Words that can Ruin YOUR Career by Philip Blackett

Around this time three years ago, I was in the worst time of my life. I honestly didn’t think it could get any lower than this.

My home had been foreclosed, and I had no other choice but to move back with my parents in my hometown. I had run out of unemployment insurance after being laid off during the Great Recession.

My ego was badly bruised after I fell on my face starting my first business in real estate. I also lost my best friend to pancreatic cancer earlier that year. At this point, I was trying to keep my self esteem above water, even after getting phone calls of concern from family, friends, and former girlfriends. I was borderline depressed.

Three years later, to be in the position I am right now, is nothing short of a miracle.

Anyone who has gone through such a period of ups-and-downs to now being one month away from attending your dream school and embarking on a new adventure would be tempted to say three words.

Three words that I caution you NOT to say, for it could potentially ruin your career…

I Made It.

If you are part of a team effort that has accomplished a particular goal, you may say…

We Made It.

These words may sound harmless. I even like the songs that such artists as Drake and Jay-Z have recorded with these words. You may think that you owe it to yourself to celebrate, raise your arms up in victory and yell these three words at the top of your lungs.

I beg you not to do that. I won’t say these three words either.


The moment when you say “I Made It”, whether after receiving a promotion on the job, getting accepted into your dream school, or celebrating a win in the boardroom, is the moment that likely will lead you into complacency. What was once originally an hour of celebration and pats-on-the-back later can become months (or years) of resting on your laurels as if you’ve reached retirement, laying in your beach chair, hands behind your head, shades over your eyes, in cruise control for the rest of your life.

While you’re still celebrating the varsity football championship you won in 1979, others have moved on to the next challenge (and victory). It’s time to put that letter jacket in the closet (or frame it) and move on.

You should absolutely be proud of your achievements. However, unless you’re content with that being the capstone of your life, there’s a time to celebrate and a time to get busy again.

Here are three ways to get past “I Made It” mode when you succeed:

  1. Don’t say those three words. Instead, be grateful. Understand that you, more than likely, did not succeed on your own. I know I didn’t. There were many people that were divinely positioned in my life during my toughest moments to help me get back on my feet and make small steps to turn my life around. Celebrate with the people who helped you along the way and share your genuine appreciation for their time, support and sacrifices.
  2. Understand you have a target on your back now. Don’t get big-headed. Once the news is out about your great achievement, you are no longer “underground”. People know about you and what you’re doing, even though you don’t know them. Don’t let all the new (and extra) attention get to your head, for it may one day catch you offguard and cause you to lose what you worked so hard for. If you don’t believe me, ask the Miami Heat after winning the championship last year. Who won the NBA championship THIS year?
  3. Humble yourself to know you have MORE work to do. Begin again. Oftentimes, once we set a goal, we become focused on reaching it. After achieving that big promotion, set yourself another challenging goal to keep you grounded and driven to do even better than before. If you need a best practice, follow Matthew McConaughey’s example during his 2014 Oscars acceptance speech:

And to my hero, that’s who I chase. Now, when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say, “Who’s your hero?” And I said, “I don’t know, I’ve got to think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.” I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says, “Who’s your hero?” I said, “I thought about it. It’s me in 10 years.” So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “Not even close! No, no no!” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at 35.”

So you see every day, every week, every month, and every year of my life, my hero’s always ten years away. I’m never going to be my hero. I’m not going to attain that. I know I’m not. And that’s just fine with me, because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing. — Matthew McConaughey

Who is your hero? Hopefully, it’s YOU 10 years from now. After my best friend passed three years ago, my hero is who I will be 10 years from now. Now, I have to work to become that, which will keep me busy for the next 10 years. No time for complacency here.

That’s what I want for you as well. Hopefully, this post inspires YOU to always be grateful for where you came from (and what you had overcome), refrain from being complacent, and keep chasing after the BEST future version of yourself, however long it takes to “reach” it.

As my friend Casey Gerald would say, as he did in his HBS Class Day speech earlier this year, let us begin (again).

Now it’s YOUR turn…

I want to hear from YOU. When have you felt tempted to say “I Made It” or “We Made It”? What did you do afterwards? Comment below and let me know.

— Philip Blackett

Are you on Twitter? If so, let’s connect & continue the conversation there too: @PhilipBlackett

If this post is of value to you, please share it with your connections so they can benefit too.

P.S. Want to learn the new adventure I’m embarking on to keep me pushing to become my own hero in 10 years, check this out.


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