There is a sad and dark truth about becoming ultra-successful.

It’s a lonely and often miserable life. Behind every trophy, belt or accolade, there’s sacrifice, broken families, torn relationships, extreme poverty, unbearable solitude, anxiety, depression, etc.

I’ve noticed that people don’t talk about it nearly enough.

With social media these days, it’s so much easier to glamorize success.

Anyone who’s watched “The Last Dance” documentary about Michael Jordan and the legendary 96’ Chicago Bulls team will realize Jordan can be a difficult person.

By his own admission, Jordan was a prick. He was never the most cordial teammate. You’ll find it difficult to associate friendliness with someone lauded for his “killer instinct” on the court.

The late great Kobe Bryant embodied the same ruthlessness and naturally drew comparisons to Jordan throughout this storied career. Phil Jackson, who coached both Jordan and Kobe, even wrote in his book that Kobe was “uncoachable”.

That said, there are exceptions. 

Georges St Pierre is an all-around wholesome dude and perhaps the greatest Welterweight ever in MMA.

I locked horns twice with ‘The Spider’ Anderson Silva and have the utmost respect for him as both a man and competitor.

But they remain outliers.

I realized a startling truth after observing top performers and the most outstanding achievers in their respective fields. 

Either by choice or circumstance, there are three common factors that influence their success.

They combine to create a life of loneliness and misery, punctuated by transient moments of extreme euphoric victory.

Crippling insecurity

Don’t be surprised to learn that some of the biggest winners are highly insecure individuals.

Their motor runs on insecurity and the perceptions that others have of them. Whether it be real or imaginary expectations, the greatest achievers constantly feel like they’re never good enough.

Despite all the wins, medals, belts, trophies or awards, they always feel the need to prove themselves.

Even after a decade, winning three SuperBowls and a spot in the Hall of Fame all but assured, Tom Brady still feels the sting of being unwanted and drafted late in the sixth round.

And then you have Michael Jordan, who famously turned his Hall of Fame speech into a roast of anyone and everyone who he felt had slighted him throughout his career.

Like a deer being chased by a lion, they fear failure. And because they’ve tasted defeat so many times, they succeed.

Superiority complex

What if I told you that these top performers often believed that they were better than others and deserved more in life?

Wait, doesn’t that sound like you and me? Don’t we all have big goals and aspirations?

Well, the difference is that these individuals have both a superiority complex and the grit to actually put in the work and invest their life into their craft.

It’s an immeasurable sacrifice and unfortunately, most of us are just not up to the task.

Ultra-successful high-performing individuals have a remarkably clear vision. Sometimes being stubborn and having tunnel vision can rub others the wrong way – as we saw from Jordan’s teammates in The Last Dance.

Winning has a steep price. Most people claim they deserve success but simultaneously lack the will to pay their dues.

Before winning over 20 gold medals and becoming the most decorated Olympian in history, an 8-year-old Michael Phelps wrote a set of goals – including making it to the Olympics.

Source: yourswimlog

In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps alone won more medals than Canada, the Netherlands, or even France.

What were you doing when you were 8 years old?

Impulse Control

The ultra-successful aspire to be great and have something to work towards. Yet, there’s also the feeling of crippling insecurity driving them forward.

This push-pull dynamic is consistently seen in many high performers. Yet, it’s still not a perfect model.

Many of us also experience push-pull factors with regard to our life goals. 

However, we tend to get distracted and lose focus on our way there.

Impulse control is what separates the greatest achievers from the rest of the pack.

They not only have tunnel vision but are able to stay the course no matter the circumstances. Whether it’s a string of bad luck, timing, or unfortunate happenings, the greatest of all time have the mental fortitude and will to persevere through it all.

Anyone can look great on a highlight reel. String together your “best moments” into a collage, slap on some special video effects, and editing to make the perfect montage.

No one documents failures. Disappointments. Or setbacks.

Having impulse control often means making sacrifices and tough choices. 

Between going out to party versus staying in to get your rest and be up early for training tomorrow.

Compound these micro-decisions over the course of a week, month, and years because success takes time. 

Do you have impulse control?