Suicide From Success

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Mark Linkous, Kurt Cobain, and more recently Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell. These people where on top of the world before they made the decision to take their own lives. But why? Why would someone who has everything that the rest of us envy for, take their own lives? They seemingly had it all? 

Part of the joys of success lie in the journey there. The road of hardships is what make the top even more enjoyable once you achieve it. Does this explain why so many artists at the top of their craft so early on in their lives choose to end it? True happiness lies in enjoying the process of achieving greatness, not just greatness itself and the rewards that come with it.

The 1st album is always the best: Have you ever noticed that almost every musical artists’ best album is there first? It’s the desperation, the grit and the determination that’s required to create a masterpiece. When you aren’t rich and don’t have any fame, the joy of the process is all that you have. You create the music for the love of the process and it shows in the quality. Once a musician has money and fame they begin to lose their inspiration. The eagerness to become great leaves and the riches of fame and success start to take over once an artist achieves a certain level of fame. The enjoyment that you shared with your band members creating music starts to turn into arguments over who gets the credit for the success. The same pendulum swings in sports.

Sports Teams: The Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980’s. One great player after another, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and on and on. You would think that this dream team would have stayed together forever! But sharing the success became the problem. The winning became a battle over who would get the credit for the success, until winning became the secondary goal. 

The Dallas Cowboys in the 1990’s. Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson mainly. Jimmy Johnson was arguably the greatest coach in NFL history and they won two Super Bowls in four years. At first everything was gravy and they were winning, until eventually they won so much that it wasn’t about winning anymore. It became about who would get the credit for the winning. Until after only four seasons and two Super Bowls, Jerry fired Jimmy. Egos got in the way of winning. Ask Jerry Jones today if he regrets the move and he would admit, it became about egos instead of winning and if he had it all over to do again he wouldn’t have fired Johnson. Now from the coaches to the athletes, who experience a much similar phenomenon.

Athletes: Professional athletes are essentially lottery winners. These young individuals acquire a lot of money at a very young age for playing a game. Unfortunately, most of these athletes go broke within 3 years after retirement… fact. Again, we are surprised when they spend all their money in such a short amount of time when they have had no prior experience or training on how to handle such a situation of success. They also can’t enjoy the success of following the same work process after they retire. Being a professional athlete is unique in that way. It doesn’t even consist of half of your life before it’s over and you must begin an entirely new career. Competition is their only transferable attribute. 

Lottery Winners: The best example of this failure to handle early and vast success falls in lottery winners. The fact is that the high percentage of lottery participants are middle to low class. Why would a rich person play the lottery to become rich, they are already? These people play the lottery to become wealthy and once they do, as much as 70% of them lose all their money within several years. A study in Britain found that 44% of lotter winners’ earning were spent after five years. How can this happen? Again, it’s because they didn’t find the enjoyment in a process, they were simply rewarded with everything they ever dreamed of having at a single moment. It’s virtually the same experience that these young musicians have when they achieve riches and fame at such a young age. They are not prepared to handle it.

Too much success too early can be a bad thing. The journey is part of the joys of experiencing success. If you experience too much of it too early, you don’t know how to handle it properly. If you experience it at an extremely young age it can even ruin your life.

Imagine achieving your wildest dreams at a ripe age of 20-25. What the rest of us dream about you already have and you have the next 50+ years to bask in your own glory. What else are you supposed to do while the rest of us continue to strive and grind to achieve our dreams? It’s a weird place to be in. It’s a more difficult life to live than you would think. Most of us enjoy the joys of struggling in life, which is what life is about. It’s a struggle, a continuous battle to achieve our greatest dreams. The perfect life would be to achieve your wildest dreams at the age of retirement. Allow yourself just enough time to bask in your own glory and relive what you worked your entire life to achieve. Unfortunately, there aren’t any life classes to teach how to handle success, especially at such a young age. RIP to those who couldn’t figure it out.