Have you ever wondered why someone else is successful at something you failed at even though they don’t seem smarter, harder working, or more talented than you?
Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich has sold millions of copies and created thousands of millionaires. Hill studied 500+ of the wealthiest people in the world for over 20 years thanks to the networking connections of his friend, the billionaire Andrew Carnegie. Here’s what he has to say about the top ten causes of failure.
Failure itself is not bad. Usually, if you fail, the downside consequence is minimal and you can get up and try again. Therefore, the lesson is to fail more.
However, movement without learning can leave you stagnant. Use these 10 causes of failure to adjust so that you can see how you screwed up and how you can learn from it so that it doesn’t happen again.
1. Unfavorable Heredity Background
Let’s get this out of the way first. Napoleon says this is the only form of failure that is very difficult, if not impossible to overcome. These are situations where you are born brain-dead, lacking in brain power, or physically incapacitated in numerous ways.
If you’re reading this, you most likely have enough brain power to continue forward. If you do think you lack in brainpower, I suggest reading Mindset: The Pyschology of Success to understand that your mindset matters more than IQ. Also, you can make up for this weakness by having a network of successful, smart people who have a knowledge base you can draw from (Napoleon Hill has an in-depth version of this he recommends called a Mastermind).
2. A Lack of A Well-Defined Purpose
What can’t be measured can’t be achieved. If you are just drifting through life aimlessly with no purpose, of course you won’t reach your goals. You don’t have any! If you don’t have an aim of where you want to go, then anywhere you go ends up being fine.
3. Lack of Ambition
I have come across people like this. They are completely indifferent and do not care at all at being above average in any way. Avoid these type of people. The worst of them can’t be convinced to improve at all.
A lack of any enthusiasm or ambition to achieve something above mediocrity leads to failure.
4. Lack of Education
This one is used as the biggest excuse and can be fixed fairly easily. There’s so much free information on the Internet, in libraries, and iTunesU. There are even full courses in major categories like Math and Science from the top Universities like MIT and Harvard available completely for free online from places like coursera.org and iTunesU.
There are many college graduates I know who don’t have that much “knowledge.” They skated by and slacked off. As soon as they graduated at the age of 21, they stopped learning. What’s more important than knowledge is a state of always learning and taking action on that knowledge.
Knowledge alone is simply potential until you apply it. Compare the man or woman who stops learning at 21 to the guy who keeps learning until he dies at 71. The latter is going to succeed.
5. Lack of Self-Discipline
Self-control and discipline are really important to success. Science has shown that willpower acts as a muscle: it can be increased with practice but also exhausted and left vulnerable by overwork.
You must seek to control the negative qualities and temptations of yourself that lead to failure.
6. Bad Health
Many of the causes of this can be controlled. The most common are:
- unhealthy processed junk food and fast food
- excess sugars
- negative self-talk
- lack of consistent exercise (aerobic and cardio is preferred)
- lack of fresh air and sunshine
Nutrition is a topic on its own but there’s plenty of information out there on how to eat right available for free.
7. Unfavorable Environment
This is one that is partially a real negative factor and also partially an excuse. As a child, you may be unable to control your environment to a certain extent. Your parents may exert a negative influence on you in numerous ways (bad spending habits, criminal activity, etc.)
Even then, you have some level of control. Perhaps, you can spend time away from classmates that have a bad work ethic and befriend those who you would like to be like.
It can be an influence but as you age, your responsibility to change this becomes stronger and stronger. This can always be used as a groundless excuse so you must avoid that too. Some adults pull out a number of excuses as to why they can’t change their bad environment (money, family, politics, etc.) but the truth is that they could if they really wanted to.
Most people never succeed because they are looking for the “perfect time.” The perfect time will never come. There will always be something that is not as great as it could be.
Start right now with what you have available. Overtime, as you incrementally achieve higher bounds of success, you will be opened up to more resources.
9. Lack of Persistence
Most people start quickly but never finish. While most people will give up after the 2nd or 3rd attempt, you hold strong and keep trying. Every time after that, you have a huge advance in chance since everyone else has already given up. Compare the man who has given up after the 1st try to the man on his 24th attempt.
If you learn from your failures intelligently, your failures are not failures but learning lessons. Thomas Edison claimed he simply found over 1000 different ways that wouldn’t work in making a lightbulb.
Elon Musk failed numerous rocket launches and put his last dollar into the final attempt. He claimed he would never give up unless he was dead or completely physically incapacitated.
10. Negative Personality
Success comes from cooperation, which must come from a positive personality that induces cooperative efforts. You cannot achieve this with negative talk.
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