The Iceberg Illusion

We all have role models that inspire us with their success. They are the ones selflessly giving their time and energy to help others. They are the ones giving an impassioned speech to the thunderous applause of the crowd. They are the ones being recognized with awards and accolades for changing the world.

Success is like an iceberg: we see success, but there is a lot that we don’t see.

This is sometimes referred to as the Iceberg Illusion because we often forget about or even fail to realize everything it took for someone to achieve success. The Iceberg Illusion is beautifully summarized in this drawing by Ontario educator Sylvia Duckworth:

The Iceberg Illusion

What You Don’t See:

Dedication
Without dedication, little else will matter. If you don’t believe in your vision, no one else will. If you don’t show commitment, neither will anyone else. Success begins with your unwavering belief in yourself and belief in your vision, then putting in the time and effort to make that vision a reality.

Hard Work
You get out what you put in. It’s no different when practicing for a music recital or studying for an exam – the more time and effort that invest, the greater the success you will achieve. It always seems like successful people live such comfortable lives, but they had to put in the work to get there.

Good Habits
They say that when we practice habits, they become part of our nature. If we want to realize success, we need to practice good habits. Perhaps the most important good habit is self-care; taking time for yourself as a leader, whether physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally.

Disappointment
Moana describes her life “like a wave… always falling and rising”. Yes, I am a huge Disney fan, but I think that is a beautiful analogy. There will always be joyous highs, but there will also surely be disappointing lows. Finding success involves persevering through difficult times because as Dory said, “When life gets you down do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do? Just keep swimming!”

Sacrifice
Economists call it the problem of scarcity – we all only have a limited amount of time and resources. Because of this, sometimes success requires us to make difficult decisions and prioritize, whether it’s working on a presentation instead of hanging out with friends or buying business cards instead of new clothes. For every gain, there is a sacrifice to be made.

Failure
I know its corny, but failure is truly the best teacher. Failure forces us to reflect and understand how we can improve moving forward. It is important not to see failure as a red light telling us to stop, but as a yellow light encouraging us to make some changes for the better. Plus, failure always makes success taste so much sweeter.

Persistence
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try… try, try again! Success takes time and won’t be rushed. You must persist because like a miner digging for diamonds, you never know how close you are. Just as good things come to those who wait, success comes for those who never give up.