Tobias Blog

The Top Performer Dilemma


There are numerous studies, which prove that successful people are also often more lonely and have fewer social contacts. This fact surprises, since one could assume the opposite in the first moment – a successful person is admired, even surrounded by others. This assumption is not only wrong, but also deceptive, because admiration has nothing to do with friendship.

Many celebrities around the world are also marked by loneliness, as Niki Lauda once confirmed that he had no friends. Several tech celebrities such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs and Elon Musk report similar things in a recently published article. Christiano Ronaldo also mentions in his film that he does most of his activities alone or feels better alone.

But why are successful people, including but not limited to the personalities mentioned here, lonely?

Success makes lonely

First of all, it is important to note that successful people are not given the gift of success. This usually has to be earned hard and in a time-consuming way. In addition a strongly pronounced long-term motivation is required to be successful. This leaves little room for the maintenance of ongoing social contacts, but the supposed loneliness in this case is not perceived as such.

A successful person has a goal in mind and is usually busy with the project. During this time one does not feel lonely. In this very sense, loneliness is also an offshoot of boredom, inactivity, or laziness. This is not meant to devalue sociability, but it can be difficult to find the right balance.

In this context, it is more common for people to neglect their social environment for career and success.

Success is scary

Second, successful people are often lonely because success causes an paradox effect on outsiders: deterrence. Especially successful women know this situation, and sometimes have difficulties in finding a suitable partner because men do not feel good enough or do not want to be (supposedly) of lesser value, than the woman.

Also, hard-working and successful people often (sometimes their whole life long) have to defend themselves against numerous pushbacks in order to be successful in the end. This struggle not only hardens but also deafens them in a certain sense. As a result, one closes oneself off from others and can sometimes develop the feeling of having nothing in common with “normal” people.


The eponymous “Top Performer Dilemma” can be summarized in the following words: Success requires the will to succeed, which requires a certain talent but above all iron discipline. Such people wish (like everyone else) to have friends at eye level, but the more talented and passionate a person is (and the more time and energy they invest in their vision), the more difficult it becomes to get involved with other people.

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