Are you prepared for success? It might seem oxymoronic but success like any other effort should be planned for and fully understood. Whether it's a big project, closing a merger, raising an impressive round, or a high-profile role or promotion -- you need to be prepared for what success entails.

Throughout my career, I've had my share of ups and downs, but in actuality, the successes were the most challenging. With each success came greater expectations -- whether that's fair or unfair, that's the reality.

I can recall that earlier in my career I had a string of roles that brought me a fair amount of success and thrust me into leadership roles that I didn't necessarily feel prepared for. As a leader, you own the wins, the losses, and most importantly, the expectations.

Consistency of Performance 

One of my best managers once told me, "You're only as good as your last performance." What she was sharing was that it's about consistency and impact. Over the years, I've seen certain people go on a hot streak only to disappear and I would wonder what happened to that "rising star" -- the answer is simple, they couldn't maintain their performance. It's important to remember consistency. A lot of times, people will mistake potential for success. Potential is not proof of success -- productive, repeatable, and consistent output is the proof.

Successful people seem to be stubbornly consistent. Maybe it's their work ethic or their drive -- whatever their superpower, they have staying power. And more importantly, they don't lose themselves in the trappings of success due to their consistent approach.

Life Comes at You Fast 

The greater the magnitude of success, the greater the preparation required. An element that can be overwhelming is "overnight success," where many people may want your time and your attention as you've become dramatically more popular. It's important to not let success go to your head, as it can have an intoxicating effect. It's important to surround yourself with a stable network of friends, advisers, peers, etc. who can keep you grounded and provide counsel that is conducive to long-term success. 

New people may come into your life because you're the rising star and interrupt your practice of consistency. Being prepared for success helps you better discern who those folks are and whether they are there for your success or their own.

Pace Wins the Race

Have you ever wondered about those stars who ascended rapidly only to crash and burn? Remember Aesop's fable about the hare and the tortoise? As the story goes, the tortoise and hare race, and while conventional wisdom was that the hare would easily win, the tortoise won because it steadily (and consistently) plodded forward. The overconfident hare didn't see the tortoise as competition, underestimated his opponent, and ultimately lost. From there the old adage came to be: Slow and steady win the race. I interpret that story as consistency winning the race. You can't win a marathon by sprinting; you pace yourself and execute your strategy.

In the world of business, you cannot underestimate your opponent. You should not overcorrect based on what the competition is doing, you run your race and remain consistent. Being prepared for success is about having an unflappable consistency in the face of accomplishment or adversity by staying the course.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

When success comes, it can be fleeting, so make the most of those opportunities. It's important to understand the difference between being opportunistic versus being exploitative. With success, new doors may open that were perhaps closed off before. Each door represents new opportunities to explore. Treat each opportunity consistently, grow your network, grow your influence, and expand your knowledge.

It's important to remember, no matter what successes come your way, to focus on consistency in every dimension and you'll be rewarded more than those who take the exploitative route.

The pressures of success can at times erode one's moral compass and shift from an opportunistic to exploitative mindset. If you're exploiting others to enrich yourself and advance your agenda, remember no one stays on top forever and those wronged in your ascension will have long memories. Again, don't let it go to your head.

Success is good, but sustained success is greater.