Lucas Marang'a

A man at 40

Victim of Success.

During this transition of my life I have interacted with what is called the sigmoid curve (S curve). It’s a mathematical concept but applies not just to organisations, but also to our lives. Learning curve is another term used to describe it. The sigmoid curve is mainly used to predict the future. Without sounding too scientific, the curve represents the natural progression of our lives. Initially when we start on a project we put in much more than what comes out. Input exceeds output. This is the point when the line of the S dips. I liken it to parenting, starting a business or a new relationship. At the beginning we put in so much work but we can’t see the results of our efforts, at least not immediately. After some time of concerted effort, small fruits of our labour begin to appear and with time they multiply. This is the point the S line moves up.

The line continues to rise as long as things are going well and success becomes our new normal.  This in my opinion is the most crucial (I prefer dangerous) point of the curve if we are to maximise on it. Inevitably, as in everything else in life, we get to the point of diminishing returns. In fact, the faster success propels us forward, the sooner we arrive to the point of decline. There seems to be no escape from the sigmoid curve. The only variable is the duration of the curve. The future can appear bleak knowing everything we are working hard towards will eventually come to an end. That needs not be the case as we can always create another curve.

My business life reflects the S curve perfectly. I put in a lot of work at the start. Passion was my fuel at the set up phase and remained so for most of the curve. It was a labour of love and failure was not an option. As difficult as starting a business was back in 2000, I was most alive and consumed by my cause to make it work. I was rewarded for my effort and success became my surname. Thanks to my upbringing, pride did not get in the way but I did enjoy the fruits of my labour quietly.

My industry started changing but I did not notice because I was riding high on the wave of success. Only when the wave crushed on the shore did I wake up to the sad reality that my S curve was on the way down. They say hindsight is usually 20/20. It is clear now the opportunities I wasted when I was climbing up the curve because success had blinded me. I had gaps and was well positioned to start new curves but I disregarded them because business was doing well. I remember while on a trip to China in 2007, a pal suggested that we look into buying some new fancy linen to replace the dull ones being used back home. I wasn’t interested but she did buy some and began a linen rental business in line with the tents. First-curve success blinded me to new possibilities.

When I woke up from my slumber, I realised her company and others had increased their market share while mine had decreased. That’s the point I realised success can set you up for failure in the future if you get drank with it. We hear and see stories of destroyed lives, relationships and businesses – all victims of success. I thank God that I didn’t have a body count as far as relationships go. In fact, those relations have been a huge source of support as I attempt to start a new curve, which has proved difficult.

You see, as long as we have breathe we can always start a new curve. But timing is key. The best time to start a new curve is when our current curve is rising and we are doing well. There’s less pressure to survive and usually resources are sufficient if not surplus to try new stuff. The tragedy for me is I am starting a new curve when my previous one is dipping. I will be required to work much harder to rise to the new curve. But I’m determined, just like back in 2000, to make this curve peak and  I will be on the look out for emerging curves along the way now that I’m older and hopefully wiser. Thinking of a second curve is harder when times are hard and that’s where I find myself. I’m working on my new calling in public service (which is not paying me yet) as I revive my business (which is financially strained).It has been difficult juggling the two. But maybe I’m required to build stronger muscles because the curves ahead will be bigger and better. No hopeless talk here folks. Only positive reinforcement.

Folks, beware of success especially when you can’t see the future because you’re too immersed in the present raha. Let’s take stock of our present situations and if doing well, try and remove ourselves from our position and look in. Imagine your life without the current success and comforts. Once you can visualise that, then you may start seeing the new curves (opportunities) available to you as you rise on your current curve. I believe therein lies long term success because new curves will keep replacing old ones in a timely and well-coordinated manner. As I strive to establish a second half of significance, I will endeavour to be on the lookout for new gaps that will emerge along the way up. So help me God.

Success enjoyed with our eyes open lasts longer, impacts wider and is sweeter even than imported sugar.

Friday, July 13, 2018 | Leadership |

2 thoughts on “Victim of Success.”

  1. Lilian says:

    Quiet some learning there. Thought provoking. Enjoyed it

  2. George Nuthu says:

    Thanks Lucas, for the sobering reminder.
    Success intoxicates one and blurs the future, thus one should remain sober to the fact today’s successes are no guarantee of tomorrow’s!

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