11 uncomfortable truths about success nobody wants to admit

Everybody wants to be successful. But not everyone wants to put in the work.

I’ve always been fascinated by what it takes to be successful, whether we’re talking about famous musicians or the CEOs of the world’s biggest companies. I’m particularly interested in what it takes to be a bestselling author.

And so it’s only natural that I’ve spent a ton of time looking at what traits successful people have in common. You might just be surprised by what I’ve discovered.

Let’s take a look at some of the uncomfortable truths about success that people don’t like to admit.

1) It takes a lot of hard work

Success isn’t easy.

When you look at someone who’s an overnight success, what you don’t realize is that they’ve spent years putting in all of the groundwork. It’s like looking at the tip of an iceberg and not seeing that 90% of the thing is underwater.

Let’s say that you’re looking at a singer who came out of nowhere and had a number one single. It might seem as though she was an overnight success, but what we forget is that she’s been singing since she was a kid and has had a ton of lessons.

No successes are ever quite as easy as people make them look.

2) It can be lonely

AC/DC famously sang that it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll.

This is where the hard work comes in, but what you might not have thought about is how lonely the journey can be.

Sure, you’ll have companionship along the way, but it’s rare for people to stay the course with you. On top of that, once you start to find success, people will naturally be attracted towards you purely because you’re successful.

It can be hard to know whether people are there for you or for your fame and success, and that can leave you feeling lonely.

3) You’ll fail a lot along the way

One of my favorite quotes comes from John Lennon, who said, “A mistake is only an error. It becomes a mistake when you fail to correct it.”

Failure happens naturally when you’re innovating and experimenting. When people think of Apple, they think of the huge success of the iPhone and iPad. They forget that the company nearly went bankrupt back in the 90s.

Failure is only natural, and if you want to be successful then you’ll need to get used to dealing with it. And if that all sounds too much like hard work then perhaps serious success isn’t in your future.

4) People will be jealous of you

As soon as you start to experience some sort of success, you’ll start to find that people are jealous of that success.

Why? Because they want what you have, but they don’t want to put in the hard work or experience the loneliness and failure that it takes to get there.

The good news is that a lot of people thrive on this. A lot of successful people owe their success to the fact that they want people to be jealous of them. Depending upon your personality type, it can make for a great motivator.

But it’s not for everyone, so just be aware that if you struggle to cope with people’s jealousy, it’s yet another thing that you’ll have to overcome.

5) It’s hard to follow one success with another

Having one success is easy. Having multiple successes is the real challenge.

Successful people know from bitter experience how difficult it is to follow one success with another. Going back to the example of a singer, that’s why we have one hit wonders. It’s notoriously difficult for them to take that individual hit and to come up with a hit album and a full career.

The way I like to think of it is that just because you’ve had one success, your odds of having another are no different. Every success takes you back to step one, and if you want to follow one success with another then you need to keep on putting the work in.

6) Not everyone will support you

People who are secretly insecure often use these 12 words or phrases 1 11 uncomfortable truths about success nobody wants to admit

As much as we might like to think that people will help us to become successful, that’s unfortunately not always the case.

In fact, even our close friends and family members can be unsupportive, particularly if they don’t understand what drives you or if your quest for success clashes with their expectations of you.

For example, try telling your significant other that you’re quitting your job to become a writer and that they’re going to need to pay the bills from now on. Trust me, it doesn’t go down well.

7) You’ll have to make sacrifices

Because of all this, if you want to be successful, we’re going to need to make a lot of sacrifices.

All of those failures will add up, and each of those failures will cost you something. We all only have the same 24 hours in every day, and the time that we spend doing one thing means we can’t spend it doing something else.

Even if everything you do is a success – which it won’t be – you’ll need to make sacrifices to put the time in. If something takes you ten hours, that’s ten hours that you could have spent with your family or doing whatever else you might want to do with your time.

8) Privilege plays an important role

This is perhaps the biggest and most uncomfortable truth that people don’t want to admit.

Privilege plays a hugely important role in success. When we look at those success stories of people who came from nothing and formed a multimillion dollar company, they often took on a huge amount of investment from friends and family.

Even if finance doesn’t come into play, everything from your race to your birthplace can have an impact on the way that people perceive you. And so if you come from a privileged background and you benefit from positive discrimination, you’ll find it easier to chase success.

9) You’re going to have to come to terms with imposter’s syndrome

As many as 70% of people suffer from imposter’s syndrome, and so the first thing to know is that you’re not alone if you struggle with it.

In practical terms, we can safely assume that most of us will suffer from imposter’s syndrome at some point or another. Unless you’re particularly arrogant and think that the world owes you all of the success that comes your way, you’re probably going to feel as though you don’t deserve your success.

There’s no easy way to come to terms with imposter’s syndrome, and you really just have to power through it. The good news is that the more success you have, the easier you’re going to find it to come to terms with your imposter’s syndrome.

10) Life still happens

One of the main things that I took away from Steve Jobs’ early death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 56 is that no matter how successful you are, life still happens.

You can have all of the success in the world, but bad things can still happen. Sure, you might have more money to help with things like medical bills or to provide emergency funds to friends and family members, but there’s only so much you can do.

People like to think that their success will help them to avoid the bad things in life. Unfortunately, it won’t.

11) It ain’t all that

We live in a culture in which we’re all encouraged to chase success instead of just being happy with what we have.

But as the people who’ve experienced some success in their life can attest to, it’s not all that. It’s like that classic idea of people on their death bed, talking about what they regret in life. It’s rarely that they didn’t work harder or for longer.

Sure, if success is one of your priorities, go ahead and chase after it. But if you’re more worried about spending time with your family or just enjoying your life, trying to force success might not be worth it.

It’s a personal decision and only you can make it.


These are just a few of the uncomfortable truths I’ve spotted in my quest for success, but I’m sure there are plenty more. After all, I’m still at the start of my journey.

I want to end on a note of positivity, because we’ve spent this article looking at the negatives. Success can be achieved, whatever your imposter’s syndrome tells you, and it’s worth working towards despite the hardships you’ll face along the way.

I’ve always heard that success is a result of a combination of talent, hard work and a bit of luck, and I think that’s true.

The question is, are you willing to put in the work?

Picture of Dane Cobain

Dane Cobain

Dane Cobain is a published author, freelance writer and (occasional) poet and musician with a passion for language and learning. When he’s not working on his next release, he can be found reading and reviewing books while trying not to be distracted by Wikipedia.

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