I finally spoke up after the 30th person—literally, I was counting—came to our table.
It started when we walked in the restaurant. Heads immediately turned. Whispers of, “Hey, is that…?” quickly built to a low roar. Within minutes my friend was surrounded.
Since even my neighbors barely recognize me, it was kind of fun to watch.
For about five minutes.
Then it got really old.
“How do you stand that?” I asked my friend, who's a pro athlete and successful entrepreneur.
“It used to bother me sometimes,” he said. “Then I realized I’m just paying my success tax.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“Everyone pays taxes on their income,” he said. “Taxes are a given. If you want to make money you have to pay tax. If you want to make more money you have to pay more tax. You might complain about, it but you know that’s just how it works. In fact, you shouldn’t complain about it, because paying more taxes means you’re making more money.”
“Okay…” I said.
“Everyone pays a success tax, too,” he said. “To make a living the way I do I have to accept the fact that some level of notoriety comes with the territory. Success means people know who I am. That means some will pitch me stuff. Others will ask me to lend them money. Most just want to take a picture with me or maybe just say 'hi.' That’s my success tax. If I want to make money this way, that’s a tax I have to pay.”
“Makes sense,” I said, “but it kinda sucks.”
He shook his head. “Nope,” he said. “Doesn’t suck at all. I want to pay a success tax. I’d like to pay an even higher success tax because that would mean I’m even more successful.”
We should too.
Say you own a successful small business. Your employees need you to be more than just a boss. Sometimes they just want to chat, or ask questions, or get a little advice. If you consistently ignore their personal needs—because after all you’ve got stuff to do—they start to disengage… and your business steadily becomes less successful. The more employees you have (typically), the more successful you are, and the more success tax you’ll have to pay.
That’s a good thing. Paying a success tax isn’t a burden. It's a privilege—the privilege of success. The more you pay the more successful you can be.
Think about all the demands on your time. Think about the employees who want to talk about personal issues. Think about the people who want to network with you, or partner with you, or start a joint venture with you.
Those aren’t burdens—those are opportunities to become even more successful.
The day you make the choice to stop paying your success tax is the day your business starts to fail.
Pay your success tax gladly. It’s the only tax you should be happy to pay—and to pay even more of.
It’s gotten you this far… and it can get you a lot farther.