What Got You Here Won’t Get You There





“We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We don’t spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to stop.” ~ Peter Drucker

The higher we go in our careers, the more our problems become behavioral. As we rise, everyone is smart, capable and accomplished. As we advance, behavioral changes are often the only significant changes we can make.

In his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, Goldsmith explores how beliefs and habits affect career success. His basic premise: Those beliefs that served us well so far in our careers, won’t help going forward to where we want to be. In fact, we may have certain habits that hold us back from achieving our career goals.

Four Beliefs

Goldsmith notes that successful people have four beliefs that helped them become successful, but make it tough to change. These beliefs that carried them here may be holding them back from their quest to go there.

  1. I have succeeded. Successful people believe in their skills and talents. “To successful people, the past is always prologue—and the past is always rose-colored.”
  2. I can succeed. Successful people believe they have the ability to make good things happen. They see opportunities where others may see threats. They’re not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity; in fact, they embrace it.
  3. I will Successful people tend to be very optimistic. They believe they can manufacture success. They tend to be very busy and often overcommitted.
  4. I choose to succeed. Successful people believe that their success is the result of the choices they’ve made. They didn’t stumble onto success, they chose it.

These four beliefs often confuse correlation with causation. Successful people may have achieved their triumphs in spite of their behavior, not because of it.


Goldsmith notes people will change their behaviors only if they can see that the change is in their best interests. Every choice is a risk-reward decision where the bottom-line thinking is “What’s in it for me?”

High achievers have very few reasons to change their behavior. Their success serves as a powerful reinforcement to continue with what they’ve always done; and by doing what they’ve always done, their future looks bright.

So getting people to change their behaviors can be daunting. However, we tend to be driven by four primary motivators: money, power, status, and popularity. Not everyone is motivated by all four, and the primary motivation may change over time. But it’s the essence of our self-interest.

The trick for career advancement is to determine what matters to you and see how it affects your beliefs of success. If there is a disconnect between your beliefs and your motivations, what behaviors can you change to bring them into alignment?

How About You?

Take a look at your own motivations.

Why are you where you are?

How do your motivations affect your beliefs about where you are?

How do they affect where you want to go in your career?

What changes are you willing to make to get to where you want to be?

Are there behaviors, habits, and beliefs you need to stop?