Five Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful People

I recently read Why Smart Executives Fail And What You Can Learn From Their Mistakes by Sydney Finkelstein. Much of the book was fairly specific to the business world, but there was one chapter titled, "The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful People." Finkelstein analyzed many, many instances of failed businesses and the habits that their CEOs seemed to share. I'm going to adopt his list to my own needs here and give some of my own commentary. So, instead of focusing on unsuccessful CEOs, here are the five habits of spectacularly unsuccessful people in general.

  1. They see themselves as dominating their environments: People start getting into trouble when they think they have everything figured out. When things are going well it can be easy to forget that there is so much that we have no control over. Being ready for the unexpected is a distinctive feature of successful people. What is your backup plan?

  2. They identify so completely with their job that there is no clear boundary between personal interests and their job: In today's era this is becoming more and more prevalent. It can be easy to get sucked into your job so completely that it is difficult to see where it ends and you begin. It is vital for successful people to have a life and interests outside of their job, regardless of how much they love it. At the very least, having non-job related interests allow a person to become more well-rounded which, in turn, can pay dividends at work. How do you spend your weekends?

  3. They think they have all the answers: Much like number one, when people think they have all the answers trouble is usually just around the corner. Successful people know they don't have all the answers, but they usually do know how they can find the answer. Whether that means knowing how to research or who to ask, successful people embrace the fact that they don't know everything. Where can you go if you don't know the answer to something?

  4. They ruthlessly eliminate anybody who doesn't believe exactly as they do: Successful people surround themselves with people who think like them and with people who have contrary ideas to their own. It can be easy to surround yourself with people who will agree with everything you say, but that is not the catalyst for success. Having people close to you who aren't afraid to play devil's advocate or produce opposing ideas to your own will only serve to help you as an individual. Is there anybody in your close group of friends who challenges you?

  5. They are obsessed with their own image: Successful people do not worry about what others think. Being obsessed with a personal image results in effort and time being placed in a domain that you have no control over,namely, what other people think of you. Instead of worrying about that, successful people worry about only those issues with which they have control, such as their own effort and expertise. What is the number one thing you are worried about right now? Is it something you can even control?

What other habits do unsuccessful people tend to have? What can you do to counteract them?