One question bugged me all my life. And it’s this one question that determined the course of my life and my career. I wondered why some people … who had so much going for them … achieved so little.
Or put another way, why do so many people fail when millions of others in the same circumstances succeed? That question drove me into a career as an author, researcher, professional speaker, and leadership coach.
I found the TOP 10 reasons people fail. And the good news is they have nothing to do with your genetics. But they have everything to do with the choices you make. If you can avoid these ten traps, you’ll do very well in life, at work, and in your relationships.
Can you identify with any of these ten?
► Failure Reason #1: Quitting too soon
Some people never even start a project because they’re afraid they’ll fail. Of course, that’s possible, but that’s a stupid way to approach your life.
In fact, if you go through life, afraid of failure, you may never pursue the goals, the tasks, the dreams, or the relationships you want to pursue. As H. Jackson Brown advised, “Never let the odds keep you from pursuing what you know in your heart you were meant to do.”
Other people quit early on in a project because they think it will take too much time to achieve their goals.
Again, that’s a stupid way to approach life. Brown continues, “Never give up on a dream just because of the length of time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
Alabama’s Bear Bryant knew all about the trap of quitting. That’s why he said, “I make my practices real hard… because if a player is a quitter…I want him to quit in practice, not in a game.”
Patsy Meisel avoided trap #1. Years ago, she was a fellow professor along with me at the university. And even though she had been teaching for decades, she had the dream of going beyond her master’s degree to earn a doctorate.
Everyone told her she was foolish. After all, she was in her 60’s and would only teach a few more years; so why bother? Besides that, the schooling would cost her a lot of money that she would never have the chance to recoup.
But Patsy was a person who refused to fall for trap #1. She didn’t let the fear of failure stop her from pursuing her doctorate. And she didn’t let the amount of time it would take to finish the degree dampen her enthusiasm. She took a leave of absence from her job, went back to school, got her doctorate, came back to the university as Dr. Patsy Meisel, taught two more years, and retired.
A waste, you think? No way. Patsy achieved her dream … and continues to live today into her 90’s, knowing the pride and satisfaction that come with not quitting too soon.
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► Failure Reason #2: Unwillingness to work hard
Everybody wants easy wins and instant successes. The media even promises you that in commercial after commercial.
But that’s not how success comes about in 99.9% of the cases.
It comes through hard work, lots of it. Ask any highly successful person and I can guarantee you that’s what they’re going to tell you.
That was the great boxer Joe Frazier’s “secret”. As a young boy he dreamed of becoming a boxer. He got an old sack and filled it with sand for his punching bag. And he began to work at it, all the way to winning the gold medal for boxing at the 1964 Olympic Games.
When asked about his “secret,” Frazier said that success depends on your road work. You must be willing to do your road work, week after week, month after month, and hurdle after hurdle. You can get anywhere you want to go if you are willing to work hard.
That was my “secret” as well in pursuing my doctoral degrees. I remember telling myself that I might not be the smartest person at the university, but no one could outwork me. So I was literally studying in the library, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week for months on end.
If you’re not willing to work hard, you have fallen victim to the second of the top ten reasons people fail. That’s why I tell my coaching clients, “If you’re willing to work hard, you’ve already beaten 50% of the competition.”
► Failure Reason #3: Uncontrolled anger
Everybody gets angry. It’s a normal human emotion. It’s neither right nor wrong. A feeling is just a feeling.
However, the behavior that comes out of this feeling can be good or bad. It can inspire one person to fix a wrong in society and another person to inflict harm on others. You don’t have to look any further than the killings, road rage, and domestic violence featured on the news every day to know that.
Of course, you may have every “right” to be angry, considering the treatment you’ve received from your parents, friends, schoolmates, coworkers, spouse, boss, or anyone else. But that’s not the question. The real question is how you deal with your anger. And your answer will determine if you’re a winner or a loser.
When you’re angry, what do you with it? Does your approach to anger improve your decision making, improve your relationships, improve your health, improve your sleep, and increase the amount of success you’re achieving? If not, you’re paying a mighty high price for one little measly emotion.
Abraham Lincoln is universally recognized as the United States’ greatest President, in part because he knew how to handle his anger. For example, at one point during the Civil War, Lincoln went to see General McClellan who was in command of the Union Army. The General was not there so the President sat down to wait for him in the foyer of his house. When the General came in, the guard told him “The President is waiting for you.” But the General went upstairs.
After an hour, Lincoln was told the General was tired and had gone to bed. What did Lincoln do? What would you have done? Gotten fiery mad? Gotten indignant? After all, who was the General to treat the President with such disregard?
“Just tell General McClellan,” Lincoln said, calmly and rationally, “that next time I come I will even hold his horse for him if he will just win victories for me.”
Again, Lincoln had every right to be angry. But what good would it have done? Probably none.
That’s why survivors, heroes, and highly successful people in every profession have learned to control their anger and use it more productively than to simply lash out and tell people off.
What about you? Is your anger a tool for good, for motivation, for making things better? Or is your anger simply sapping your energy and getting you nowhere?
In next week’s Tuesday Tip, I’ll continue with the top ten reasons people fail.
In the meantime, if you can relate to any of these first three reasons people fail, do something this week to stop yourself from falling into that trap. And if you’re already there, decide to do one thing to get yourself out of that trap