“It’s the breakdown before the breakthrough. This happens to all my clients just as they are on the brink of achieving their goals. . . . It is real, and it is serious. As you become more successful, something inside you will start to resist that change. You will get sick or injured or something else will happen that will try to sabotage you.” –The Seven Levels Of Communication by Michael J. Maher
Ashley Zahabian is a motivational speaker who is quickly gaining popularity on social media for her passionate style of speaking.
8 months ago Ashley got the opportunity to speak on the same stage as Gary Vaynerchuk (otherwise known as Gary Vee) who is one of the most dominant names in the motivational world.
No doubt. It was a huge opportunity, a breakthrough that would surely take her to the next level.
Ashley was literally on the way into the DC area for the event when it happened.
Out of nowhere, a random car on the freeway knocked into hers—totaling her vehicle and leaving her with a painful head injury the day before the event.
Right before her big moment at the event with Gary Vee, tragedy struck her with an obstacle that would have discouraged anybody.
But she was unfazed.
Despite getting hit with a terrible car accident, Ashley proceeded to take the stage. She persevered and she pushed through it. And she went to the next level in her career.
It was life-changing for everyone involved.
Ashley’s car accident the night before her HUGE event was one of the most powerful examples of Success Suicide that I had ever witnessed. And it still is.
Success Suicide is when a sudden illness, tragedy, setback, accident, disaster, emergency, or act of self-sabotage happens to you on the cusp of a huge achievement. Like Michael Maher says in The Seven Levels Of Communication, “it’s the breakdown before the breakthrough.”
Success Suicide is a very real phenomenon that happens to people when they are about to break through to a higher level of accomplishment. Right when you are about to accomplish a major milestone in your life or career, a random breakdown threatens to derail the whole thing.
The famous examples of Success Suicide are almost too many to list.
A-list rapper and fashion designer Kanye West is a household name that everyone now recognizes instantly. But way before the global fame, stardom, and controversy, West was an up-and-coming producer working on his debut album, The College Dropout.
Right when he was about to finish up the debut album that would make him a star, Kanye fell asleep at the wheel. He was involved in a almost-fatal crash that shattered his jaw. It was the breakdown before the breakthrough.
Though the accident was devastating, Kanye didn’t lose faith, hope, or optimism. Instead, he used that accident as inspiration to create his breakout single “Through The Wire”—a song he recorded while his mouth was literally still wired shut.
The rest is history.
When it comes to Success Suicide, Kanye’s story is the first of many that comes to mind.
But let’s not forget about Len Bias.
Leonard Kevin Bias was a University Of Maryland breakout superstar basketball player who had just been drafted by the Boston Celtics. The basketball world was buzzing about this kid. He was projected to become one of the greatest players of all time.
Then only 2 days after the Celtics drafted him, Bias overdosed on cocaine.
Bias’ overdose was one of the most tragic, devastating, and mind-blowing examples of Success Suicide. He had been drafted to the NBA only 2 days earlier.
But he never got a chance to play.
Decades later, Robert Griffin III—another DC-Maryland sports player—also became a powerful example of Success Suicide.
RGIII was the most popular player to take the field for the Washington Redskins in decades. After years and years and years of losses, RGIII was able to take the Skins to the playoffs in his first year as quarterback. The whole city was buzzing.
The Redskins made it all the way to the first round of the 2012 NFL playoffs where they faced off against the Seattle Seahawks. As a rookie QB advancing towards the super bowl, Griffin was on the cusp of glory. Right when he was about to launch his career to a new level, he was hit with a right knee injury that destroyed his ability to perform over the next 2 seasons.
Even though Griffin eventually regained his ability to play football, the injury was a devastating setback that motivated the Redskins to trade Robert to the Cleveland Browns. It was the breakdown right before the breakthrough.
Fortunately, Griffin is still alive and still playing football. And with that much talent, Robert may one day still get that breakthrough as the quarterback for the Browns.
The most famous instances of Success Suicide are almost all sports players.
My last example is another football player named Inky Johnson.
In 2006, Inky was a college football star for the University Of Tennessee who was on a path to playing in the National Football League. He was on a trajectory to living a dream that he had pursued his entire life—becoming a professional football player.
Just like Ashley, Kanye, Len Bias, and Robert Griffin, Inky was right on the cusp of greatness when tragedy struck. A routine tackle left Inky with a career-ending injury that paralyzed his entire right arm.
Not only would Johnson never play football again, he also lost the use of his right arm.
Who wouldn’t lose faith in God’s, destiny’s, or the universe’s plan at that point?
Inky could have given up on doing anything with his life. Instead he devoted himself into using his story to inspire the world as a motivational speaker. And if you have ever seen the man speak, you know he’s one of the best out there.
So Success Suicide is very real. It’s not always drastic as the accidents that happened to Kanye West, Inky Johnson, or Len Bias, but it does happen to a lot of people.
And for those of us who are on a path that leads to a better life, Success Suicide is something that we have to be prepared for. Because each time you bust through to a new level, new problems, setbacks, accidents, and potential for self-sabotage will be waiting for an opportunity to strike.
“New levels bring new devils” –T.D. Jakes
Each new level in life, comes with new devils, setbacks, failures, and struggles that we have to overcome.
So How Do We Overcome Success Suicide?
“You persevere. Success Suicide can rear its ugly head in many ways. Many times it is in the decisions you make. On other occasions, it is a physical form of self-sabotage like illness or accidents. You must persevere. This is the all-important breakdown before the breakthrough.” –The Seven Levels Of Communication
The short answer is: prepare for it and persevere.
Be prepared for Success Suicide. Now that you’ve read this blog article and you’ve seen the examples of what can happen, make it a point to mentally prepare yourself for the new devils that may be waiting for you as you break through to new levels. Mentally prepare yourself for the new responsibilities, problems, hardships, accidents, and disasters that might be strike in your life as you move higher to bigger accomplishments.
Nobody is immune to Success Suicide. But you can definitely prepare for it.
And in the event that Success Suicide does take place in your life—whether it’s self-inflicted or completely random—make it a point to handle the tragedy the same way Ashley Zahabian, Kanye West, and Inky Johnson did. Persevere. Push through it. Don’t lose faith in your destiny. And choose to believe that even though you don’t understand the reason why it’s happening right now, everything DOES happen for reason. Choose to see that tragedy as a blessing in disguise.
Persevere. And you will be able to reap all the rewards of that next level of success in your life.
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