3 Ways You’re Hiding From Success Without Knowing

Are you embarrassed by your success?  Chances are you’re not.  Successful people are, generally speaking, open to and aware of opportunities and they approach their visions and dreams with intent.

And yet we often hide from our success in important ways that dim our ability to inspire and energize others and thus impact the world.  What do I mean by that?

1. We “play down” our success when others ask us about it. 

Haven’t we all done this at some point? Someone asks you, “how are you?” or “how is your business doing?” and we feel compelled to say, “ok,” or “oh, you know, it could always be better” because we are worried that we’ll hurt the other person’s feelings or make them uncomfortable in some way if we share the truth about our success.  Why on Earth do we do this?

Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of my new business friends, Anthony Iannarino.  When I asked him how his business was he just gushed about how well he is doing and how much fun he is having. 

You know what?  No only did that not hurt my feelings it completely energized me and led to a very insightful conversation about what he is doing right.  Some of his strategies, it turns out, may work for me as well, and I have been slowly “trying them on for size.”  I am hoping that they will make me a more impactful marketer and leader.  If he had answered my question with, “ah, not bad…” and let it go we never would have had such a dynamic conversation and the impact of his success would not have spread. 

I think because we “play down” our success – sometimes habitually – we miss out on opportunities to deepen our connection to others and to energize others through our own experiences.

2. We “play down” our role.

How often do we do this too as leaders? The “aw, shucks, it wasn’t me it was the team…” is entirely well-intentioned and the best leaders certainly know that it’s their teams that make them successful. 

But when someone looks at us, as the team leader/business leader/company leader and says, “you’ve done a tremendous job” why is it often so hard for us to first say, “thank you?” 

Why is it so hard for us to own our success and then go on to talk about our teams – how our teams are made up of truly smart people who own their roles and are a great fit for their roles, who empower themselves for success and who are intent on success as a team (all of which, you realize, is a reflection of you as the leader…).

Doesn’t that make for a much more energizing and in some ways inspiring, exchange with another person?  Won’t the other person appreciate that we said, “thank you” in response to their compliment?

You know who’s brilliant at this? Mack Collier.  I know I’ve mentioned him quite a bit but he’s a mentor of sorts and I’ve learned so much from him.  He very often tweets about how it’s the smart men and women who participate in #blogchat and generously share their advice that have made it the dynamic and overwhelming success it’s become. 

But, at the end of a #blogchat when participants tweet something along the lines of, “another outstanding #blogchat Mack” he replies with a hearty “thank you” – and then thanks others for participating.  I have a strong gut feeling that those who compliment him genuinely appreciate his “thank you” and feel acknowledged by it. 

I fully believe that Mack’s leadership style is the integral reason #blogchat has grown by leaps and bounds through vibrant word of mouth – helping hundreds of people better their blogs in the process.

The ability to say, “thank you” in a heart-felt manner and to own our success confidently and respectfully is an act of inspired leadership.

3. We Don’t “Toot Our Own Horns”

Smart leaders know how to do this effectively and not frivolously.  Take for example Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker, founders of SOBCon (Successful and Outstanding Bloggers Conference – which is actually so much more than its name).  If you look at the Twitter stream for #sobcon you’ll see many instances where one or the other of them has re-tweeted a compliment that had been shared on Twitter about SOBCon.

Now, some say this is not proper Twitter etiquette.  Many feel that it’s boastful and unappealing to re-tweet something nice that another person has said about you or your business.  I get that, actually, and in general I do adhere to this.

But in Liz and Terry’s case the re-tweeting has a much greater and more impactful purpose. You see, the more those compliments about the SOBCon event get tweeted, the more people that get exposed to them, and thus the more people who will ultimately look into the conference to find out what it’s about and the more who will attend.   Ultimately, because of the effect of this truly unique conference there will be more people who will experience a transformational shift in their life and/or their business.

So, when Liz and Terry toot their own horn it has powerfully positive impact on others.  I believe this is the most important reason to toot our own horns and one that many leaders don’t understand when they shy away from tooting.

(If you’d like some ideas on how to toot your own horn that might be more applicable to you in your business environment, I delved deeply into that here (make yourself more visible) and here (make your ideas more visible).  I hope you’ll find some of the insights and experiences there to be helpful.)

So, instead of hiding from your success challenge yourself to turn up the light on your success in order to inspire and energize others and to powerfully and positively impact the world! In doing so MORE success will find you…it’s virtually guaranteed.

Please share your thoughts and insights in the comments…I would be honored to read them! 

(I’d also be honored if you’d consider subscribing here!)

…Photo is Hide and Seek by Faithful Chant.


  1. Thank you Lisa ;) I think self-promotion via social media is a really troubling prospect for many people. Although many people think they will come off as ‘salesy’, I think most people can tell who is genuine, and who is going ‘over the top’. I know that I am happy to hear about the successes of my friends and people I admire.

    Thanks for showing us how to improve our efforts, and the importance of doing so!
    mack collier´s last blog post ..5 smart ways to create additional content for your company blog-

    • Mack,

      I think you’re right and I think part of it is the mindset of “promotion.” In all three cases that I mentioned, you, Anthony and Liz & Terry, you were *first* complimented by others – and then you took that opportunity to own and share your success. None of you were out there blatantly or disrespectfully promoting yourself. I think that is an important distinction. And I certainly agree with you that most people can tell who is genuine and well-intentioned.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment – I always appreciate seeing you here! ;)

  2. Great points, Lisa. Thanks for sharing this. Although I’m sure there are people at either end of the spectrum everywhere in the world, I’ve experienced a big difference in perspective on this between the USA and Scandinavia. In my Norwegian family and the Swedish society I live in now, I see people deflecting praise and downplaying success to a greater degree and more often than I’ve noticed in the US (where I grew up).

    In fact, there are a couple of very distinctive cultural ideas in Scandinavia about this: Janteloven (the Jante Law) and lagom (which, for lack of a better translation, means “average is enough”). It can be frustrating – reconciling cultural norms and expectations, with a desire to excel and “inspire and energize others and thus impact the world.”

    Some basics about Jante Law and lagom here:
    Ann-Christin Lindstedt´s last blog post ..GlobalReach Copywriting – Your US English Marketing Advantage – American English Copywriter in Sweden

    • Ann-Christin,

      What a fascinating perspective you share! I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to adhere to the “average is enough” philosophy. I think there is an entirely different energy around this than the energy created by enthusiastically sharing for the benefit of others. I’d love to learn more about how you reconcile this personally!

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and to share your insights here – it means so much to me! :)

  3. Great post, Lisa! Thank you for sharing it.
    Chris Anthony´s last blog post ..Guest post- Personalized notes and rococo limericks

    • Thanks, Chris!

      I’m glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate you being here and taking the time to comment!
      Have a great day. :)

  4. Lisa,
    You tackled an important topic, especially for women. For some reason, we often are reluctant to take credit and give ourselves credit for our accomplishments. I’m not yet sold on retweeting compliments people give you, but the rest of your post is so well drawn, I just may reconsider.

    • Hi Coreen,

      Thank you so much for reading and for your very kind comments! As I mentioned in the post, I actually do adhere to the belief that you really should not re-tweet compliments – UNLESS there is a much greater purpose to it as in Liz and Terry’s case. I think their use of the RT is purposeful and appropriate because it leads others to attend. Liz and Terry know that what they offer is rich in value, so they can confidently “toot” (so to speak!) using this particular tool. Tooting with a larger purpose in mind is valuable to all those that it touches. :)

      Thank you again and I really appreciate the comment!

  5. Lisa,

    “Spot on”, as they say. Unless we are able to self-promote, but without ego, then the valuable things we do will remain hidden. This is a disservice.

    I have never been comfortable receiving compliments but I also know that this has hurt my ability to provide positive feedback to those I work with.
    Hans Hageman´s last blog post ..Independence Is Not About Hot Dogs

    • Hans,

      Spot on to you in using the words “without ego” – you’re right – that is critical here and I hope that came across loud and clear! We don’t often think about the fact that by keeping success hidden then others can’t benefit from the value we’ve created – I like how you call that a disservice!

      And yes, for many of us it’s hard to receive compliments. I know. There’s a lot that one grapples with when receiving a kidney, which is one of the greatest compliments (worthiness) to receive. Thank you for helping me to think about that in relation to this discussion – insightful!
      Thank you, as always, Hans!

  6. Lisa,

    Great post, reminded me of an exercise that I participated in as part of a conference. Each time someone paid you a compliment, you could only say, “Thank you, I know.” It was really tough. I think that Thank You is the only way to honor the person who paid the compliment. The “I know” part is still tough sometimes and I usually don’t say it out loud (LOL) But it certainly helped me to hear what the other person was saying and appreciate their point of view (and frequently their vulnerability). This blog is a great reminder of that exercise and how empowering it was. Thanks again.
    Amber Cleveland´s last blog post ..Sterling Hope embarks on a new adventure

    • Amber,

      I just LOVE that exercise! Yes, I can’t imagine anyone saying “I know” out loud – but if we truly do “know” then hopefully we understand the importance of sharing in a respectful way so that we can increase our impact and help others.

      And I love your insight about the vulnerability of the person giving the compliment. Sometimes that is a very hard thing to do, and when it is not acknowledged it can be very painful.

      Thank you so much for sharing your insights, experience and wisdom, Amber!

  7. Hi Lisa,
    This is a great piece. I think we really are creatures of habit, I believe some of our comfort levels with tooting our own horn is learned from a very young age.
    I mentioned to you on Twitter that I thought there might be a generational factor, for example when I was young we were basically taught not to “brag” about ourselves. If someone paid us a compliment we were to just smile and say “Thank You.” There was this thing about not wanting to appear conceited. As a play off of this, if someone accused you of being conceited…then your comeback (snotty) was to be: “I’m not conceited, I’m convinced.” And around it went. Maybe the nuns and the Jesuits had something to do with this, as well!

    Step forward to my children’s “self-esteem” generation and you will see they are pretty comfortable with compliments, etc. Many articles have been written about this. Here is a recent one from the NYTimes

    But anyway, the one thing I do know about people is that if you are afraid to accept a compliment, you can also be reluctant to give one.

    I totally agree with you about SOBCon. When I saw all the Tweets about it this past Spring…I wanted to learn more. The hardest thing was to figure what it was and where it was…but finally Liz Strauss was kind enough to respond to my Twitter inquiry!

    It is a pleasure learning from you.

    • Judy,

      As always such a deep comment! No, I would certainly not recommend bragging, and there is a fine line to be sure. But shining the light on your success so that others can benefit from it, I think, is an act of great leadership. But yes, it takes the right skill and attitude.

      I never really thought about the reluctance to give a compliment but I can see how some may be like that. I think that would be a reflection of “where they are at” and probably invokes a much deeper conversation that would best be had over cocktails than here! And I love how the tweets about sobcon made you look into it more deeply – it was a truly amazing experience and I cannot recommend it more highly!

      Thank you so much, Judy! :)

  8. Very thoughtful post. The way I ask my clients to think about sharing their successes is you are celebrating what you love and your success with people who care.

    The other thing I remind people is that if you don’t share what you have to offer, you are doing a disservice to people who are looking for your products/services.

    One thing I personally have not felt comfortable doing is RT compliments to me or my business. What I am hearing you say is that if the RT is going to benefit people then its ok to RT. I think thats a good way to think about RT of compliments.

    • Hi Shalini,

      Thank you for sharing your insights – they are so valuable and you are clearly a brilliant consultant. I think that RTing a compliment is something I would give some thought to – as I don’t typically do it, but yes, if it will have a much greater good then I think it’s part of sharing for a larger purpose.

      I can’t thank you enough for stopping by and sharing your time and insights here! It means a lot to me. :)


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