Virginia Bianco-Mathis
University professor, author

Virginia Bianco-Mathis

Business department chair of management programs at Marymount University and author of two books on executive coaching.

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The tortoise or the hare?

Q: If you've ever hit a baseball or watched a game, you've probably heard of Stephen Strasburg, 21, a phenom pitching prospect who'll soon be called up by the Washington Nationals. Can success come too fast? Would you rather burst onto "center stage," with all the expectations that entails, or quietly hone your skills before your breakout moment?

At first, it seems that the answer is, "Of course, it is certainly best if a person has a gradual and smooth ascent to success." The assumption is that this will help the individual remain centered, become more of a virtuoso, and steadily prepare for the challenges of success.

However, even a gradual rise does not ensure a positive outcome. For example, Lindsay Lohan experienced steady success from childhood to adulthood. She crashed and still has yet to overcome her demons. Tiger Woods also had a slow rise -- plenty of time to perfect his skill and then take the lead at the top of his game. Unfortunately, he lost his integrity along the way. Snowboarder Shaun White worked for years and then exploded in to the sports scene. He seems to be totally pleasant, mindful, and normal. Maybe he won't crash.

So, what about a fast rise? Some might say that the notion of "success coming too fast" is a moot point in this age of instant fame and recognition. You are noticed and thrown in to the limelight. A few examples include Justin Beiber, LeBron James, Carrie Underwood, and Miley Cyrus. In these cases, the system put them into the spotlight and then gave them opportunities to continually master their talent. They are expected to showcase their skill and then, over time, mature and get even better. So far, these folks have stayed afloat, but the jury is still out.

Now, let's look at the business world. We recognize high potential performers and put them on a fast track. If they are as good as we think they are, they learn quickly and end up selling, advertising, designing and leading at an early age. Some people thrive on the fast track, step up to the plate and gracefully perform like a pro. Yet, like those in sports or show business, others burn out and eventually fail.

To argue both sides of the fence is unsatisfying. So, what is the answer? The answer seems to depend on a combination of linking factors: personal strength, structured mentorship, strong sense of self, intelligent guidance, two-way feedback, an examined life, a focused vision, continuous learning, large doses of humor, unwavering faith, and an infrastructure of loving family and friends. This combination of characteristics seems to lead to success, whether it is slow rising or instantaneous.

By Virginia Bianco-Mathis  |  May 27, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Rush to success Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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