No high achievement is ever attained without adversity. It’s the fortitude to face and fight any obstacle that stands in our way that separates winners from losers. But long-term success can breed complacency and hubris that leaches that fortitude to fight right out of us.
The most notable example of this dynamic is Hillary Clinton’s shocking loss to Donald Trump. According to a new book by New York Times political reporter Amy Chozick, the defining moment of Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign wasn’t just the candidate’s record low favorability but her acceptance of it instead of doing something about it.
According to Chozick, after repeated reminders from pollsters that half of voters didn’t like her, Clinton said, “You know, I am getting pretty tired of hearing about how nobody likes me. Oh, what’s the point? They’re never going to like me.” That resignation infected the campaign. As a result, nothing was done about it.
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From that point on it seems to me that the Clinton campaign was more focused on diminishing GOP nominee Donald Trump, whose likability was also unfavorable, than on elevating Clinton. One of the outcomes of that remarkably flawed strategy was her infamous “basket of deplorables” remark.
When that went viral, Clinton told aides, “I really messed up.” But according to Chozick, it was not a one-off but rather how Clinton had characterized Trump supporters for some time, lumping them into three baskets, one of which was the “deplorables.” While Clinton recites a never-ending laundry list of excuses for losing, that to me was the turning point of the election.
It’s no wonder that, in the end, Clinton felt like a victim. “I knew it. I knew this would happen to me,” she said, according to Chozick, “They were never going to let me be president.” Instead of owning it, Clinton saw her devastating loss as something that happened to her. That victory was something “they” would never let happen, whoever “they” are.
On the contrary, Clinton clearly doomed her own campaign by refusing to take on the one big obstacle that stood in her way: the fact that half of America didn’t like her.
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Clinton’s is a cautionary tale, but this is not just about politics. It’s the same in business and in life.
The world is a chaotic place full of obstacles and competitors. Some surprise you out of the blue, others are known. The former you can’t control. The latter you can. Failing to attack known issues head-on and just trying to sweep them under the rug will surely doom any chance you have of achieving your goals.
Don’t let complacency and hubris keep you from realizing your dreams.
Image credit United States Mission Geneva via Flickr