What to Do When Success Bites You in the Ass


Your relentless pursuit of success is a lot like trying to hunt a wild animal.

To pull it off, you have to know when to be aggressive – and when to be stealthy.

Your prey, success, is smart and elusive. It’s skilled in dodging people like you and me whose goal is to catch it, tame it, and keep it as a pet.

Eventually, if you have a smart strategy – and a ton of intestinal fortitude – the planets will align and you might just catch success by the tail.

But even after it’s caught, success retains it feral instincts. It plays possum. It temporarily bends to your will, letting you think you’ve decoded all its secrets.

Over time, you begin to believe that you’ve mastered it – which is exactly what it wants you to think.

Your ego kicks in, and you begin to believe you have all the answers.

You begin to believe that you’ve discovered the formula.

The secrets of success are now yours. And they belong to you forever. Don’t they?

Don’t they?

Precisely at the moment you become distracted by your own glow, success springs back to life, bites you in the ass, and escapes back into the wild.

Why We All Need A Little Humility In Our Lives


I tried tying my shoes his way – and you know what? It is better.

Now, if a friend came up to you and said, “Hey… let me show you how to tie your shoes”, first you’d think they were out of their mind.

Second, your ego would kick in and you’d think, “Are you kidding me? I’ve been tying shoes my whole life! What could you possibly have to teach me about tying shoes?”

But you know what? Your over-confidence would betray you.

This way is better. It’s much better. I’ve been doing it for months now.

And if something as stupid-simple as shoe tying can have an entirely different angle to it that you’ve never considered – so can everything else in your life.

“Pride is the mother of arrogance.”
— Toba Beta

Why Expertitis Kills Success

And yet, over my many years in business, I’ve see people in all walks of life become so sure of themselves after a period of success that they forget they can still learn from others and the world around them.

That’s the #1 early onset symptom of an affliction I’ve dubbed expertitis. And it’s rampant.

Expertitis clouds your vision, alienates you from others, and makes really smart folks look stupid. Oh yeah – and left untreated, it can be fatal to you future.

You know people who are afflicted with expertitis. You’re thinking of someone right now. Their name is on the tip of your tongue, isn’t it?

People with expertitis start to think they’re bullet-proof. They lose touch with “the little people” and often lose their humility.

Most expertitis victims are really pretty decent people who have been more successful than most. But at some point something changes with them and they become a little too certain of themselves. A little too proud.

Actually, being proud in and of itself is a good thing – and you should be proud of your accomplishments.

But when you become so proud of yourself that your success blinds you, you’re on a collision-course with a big, ugly comeuppance.

How to Avoid Expertitis (and Getting Bit In the Ass)

Success is not an absolute. It’s not a math test. It’s not a chemical formula.

Stay alert. The answers change. Often. (click to tweet this)

Over the years, I’ve watched many successful people go from golden boy to busboy in their careers because of expertitis.

I can promise you it will never happen to me, and my hope in writing this post is that you stay vigilant as you become more successful – so it never happens to you either.

Like many afflictions, the trick to not suffering from expertitis is in prevention – not letting yourself get infected in the first place.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to do that.

  • Stay humble.
  • Stay approachable.
  • Stay imperfect.
  • Remain curious.
  • Realize that you’re never too smart to learn from anyone.

And remember these words as you become successful. They’re especially important to remember after you’ve achieved your wildest dreams…

“Let it never be forgotten that glamour is not greatness; applause is not fame; prominence is not eminence.”
– James R. Sizoo

So go conquer the world. Grab success by the tail. Achieve everything you’ve dreamed about.

But if you’re going to all that effort, don’t let expertitis and your own pride take it away from you in the end.


Have you seen people fall prey to expertitus & get bit by their own success? How do you avoid it? Let’s discuss…

About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

22 Replies

  1. Expertitis? Great word!

    It’s something to guard against. I reckon it also comes with a ‘Guru mentality’. Just because others think you’re a ‘guru’, you start believing it yourself.
    Mary Jaksch | A-Listblogging recently posted…Take this Fun Quiz to Find Out What Makes a Blog SuccessfulMy Profile

    1. While “guru” is a term that’s pretty specific to online, you’re exactly right – it happens everywhere. You’ve probably heard the saying that someone is “starting to believe their own hype.” That’s the same thing you’re talking about.

      I’m glad you like my made-up word, Mary. I think it paints a picture 🙂

      Thanks for stopping in & participating!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…What to Do When Success Bites You in the AssMy Profile

      1. Samra Khan

        Aye, It’s surely a great term. 😀
        It must hit the blogging dictionary asap. And you got to tell us its pronunciation also, Gary. 😀

        Great Post, I just loved it!

        1. Ha! I’d love it to make the dictionary. I didn’t know there was such a thing.

          It’s like tonsillitis.

          Exper-tie-tiss 🙂
          Gary Korisko recently posted…What to Do When Success Bites You in the AssMy Profile

  2. Great post, Gary! This reminds me of the Kelly Blazek story that was all over the media a couple days ago (one of the articles about the scandal: http://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2014/02/25/kelly-blazek-head-of-cleveland-job-bank-writes-scathing-emails-to-local-job-seekers). Staying humble definitely gets overlooked a lot in today’s fast-paced life.

    1. Wow, Alina. I hadn’t heard of this… but I just read the article. This lady has the late stages of exprtitis, doesn’t she? That’s full-blown arrogance. It’s unbelievable how some people speak to others. What a shame.

      Thanks for adding that to the conversation!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…What to Do When Success Bites You in the AssMy Profile

  3. Thanks for another great post Gary. Always great nuggets in your writing.
    And as someone whose shoelaces are coming undone I know know how to tie a shoe properly!

    1. Ha!

      Thanks, Paul. Yeah. Really, folks… don’t discount the shoe tying thing. I know it sounds dumb, but try it for a week and you’ll be hooked 🙂

      Good to see you here, Paul!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…What to Do When Success Bites You in the AssMy Profile

  4. Hi Gary,

    I’ve reached times in my life where I’ve caught myself truly thinking that I’m ‘the queen.’ It’s shameful and not my true character, yet I’ve still reached this place. Thank goodness, with Guidance from my #1 Source, and a few very honest (and brave) friends I was able to catch myself. I don’t remember exactly how I reversed it, but I have 3 things I do recall that helped immensely:
    1) I became unabashedly grateful for EVERYTHING in my life.
    2) I kept telling myself repeatedly, “It’s not about me. It’s about reaching other people.”
    3) What can I take away from this conversation? What can I learn?

    Success is truly an amazing feeling…but true physical, emotional and financial success, in my opinion, requires humility in all things, at all times.

    Thank you for reminding me to hang on tight to my true core values and beliefs, no matter how successful my career becomes.
    Lynn Silva recently posted…5 Negative Core Beliefs That Sabotage Your BusinessMy Profile

    1. Hey Lynn:

      Thanks for being so honest about your slips. It’s easy to do – and one of the reasons I wanted to make these points in this post.

      And those are great tips to stay grounded. Something we can all take with us.

      Thanks again!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…What to Do When Success Bites You in the AssMy Profile

  5. I’m really glad I read this now. Before I’ve had the chance to be successful and get away from being myself.
    This is something we should all have in the backs of our minds as we grow bigger and bigger audiences.
    Marianne recently posted…The BIG Guide to Free Images for Your Blog Posts // Part 1: Public DomainMy Profile

    1. Exactly, Marianne. As cliche as it is, it’s so true that success is a marathon and not a sprint.” Getting cocky can really hurt people who’ve just won the sprint. Good to see you here 🙂
      Gary Korisko recently posted…What to Do When Success Bites You in the AssMy Profile

  6. For every one person telling me I’m awesome in my life, I need at least 3 more telling me I can do better. So that’s, like, 4 people in total ha ha ha!

    Seriously though – compliments are fleeting. How often do we sit and wonder why someone paid us a compliment (about our expertise, the impact our services have made on their lives), but when we receive criticism, it’s pondered upon and deflates the ego slightly?

    The latter is the preventative medication for expertitis.
    Razwana recently posted…Why customer service comes from the heart, even in the face of idiotsMy Profile

    1. Great points Razwana. The trick (and the hard part) is to try to balance the humility and confidence at the proper, healthy levels. It’s a conscious effort, isn’t it?
      Gary Korisko recently posted…What to Do When Success Bites You in the AssMy Profile

  7. Not remotely close to having this problem yet, but these are good things to keep in mind in case I ever get there. I consider myself a pretty humble and modest guy (to a fault sometimes, I realize). I only hope I remember that, as much as I might know about something, there are people who know much more, and even they don’t know everything. No one can.

    A good reminder to always keep the passion for knowledge alive, and to be as grateful to those who ask for your expertise as you are to those who are willing to share theirs.

    Nice work, Gary.
    Dean recently posted…SF Beer Week ’14: Missing the Cheese, Taking the Bus, and Hitting the LotteryMy Profile

    1. You and I have spoken about this before Dean. I have been accused of not promoting myself enough – and it’s a legit concern. Too little pride and swagger can hurt you too.

      The best we can do is try our best to walk that line. 🙂

      Thanks for adding to the conversation!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…What to Do When Success Bites You in the AssMy Profile

  8. It really is a delicate balance isn’t it? We need to have a certain level of authority (read: narcissism) in order to continue doing what we do to pay the bills. But if we get too big for our britches the world turns on us in an instant!

    I think reading is a key to staying humble (blogs, books, articles, etc.). There’s always someone who helps me learn something new every time I read.

    Great post!
    Jenn Flynn-Shon recently posted…What Do You Do When You Can’t Find the Tie-In to Your Piece?My Profile

    1. Thanks, Jenn!

      Reading helps for sure. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…What to Do When Success Bites You in the AssMy Profile

  9. Written like a true philosopher. Success can be like a drug that causes hallucinations of greatness. The problem is that you can become a pain in the ass and don’t even know it. People around you sees the changes and it is likely that they don’t like. So, you can quickly start alienating people and losing them.

    You don’t even need to find success. Lottery winners are great examples. All they did was to buy a ticket. And yet first thing they do is divorce their spouses or many years. They start living a different life that leads to fast destruction of wealth and relationships.

    Unfortunately, many people that read this article probably think that they will never catch expertitis. And yet they wouldn’t even know when they catch it when they do. It is a sneaky one.
    Jen Long recently posted…Would No Fault Accidents Increase Car Insurance Rates?My Profile

    1. It *is* a sneaky one… and you have to be hyper-self-aware to catch yourself doing it.

      Thanks for speaking up, Jen!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…Is Disqus Killing Your Blog? Why (and How) I Pulled the PlugMy Profile

  10. Thank you for an open and honest post. A little humility will serve us all well as we shoot for the stars (and success).
    Gina K. recently posted…A Prank Can Land You in the ClinkMy Profile

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