The Dirty Dozen: 12 Ways That We Sabotage Our Success

Out of the many different ways that we can sabotage our own success, these twelve are the most common. All of us are guilty of these behaviors at various times, but knowledge of them gives us the power to start to banish them from our lives. 1. Ignore your own strengths and weaknesses. We all have many individual attributes, but it is pointless trying to be someone or something that we are not. As Peter Thompson, the great motivational speaker says, "People will only do who they are." Don't ignore reality. Learn who you are and build your business or career accordingly. 2. Stop learning. For many people, the very idea of learning is something that they left behind at school or college. They don't read. In their jobs they only know one way. Their way. Successful people are universally sponges for information. They read, listen to tapes, scour the Internet and spend their whole lives learning. The best investment anyone can make in their business, career or life is in their own ongoing education. If you are spending less than $200 a year on learning new things, you are short-changing yourself. 3. Believe that you can make it for free. 'Make $1000 a week with no outlay!' We've all seen the ads. By all means study them and analyze their sales and copywriting techniques. But don't believe them. No person or business can succeed without intelligent and consistent investment. Some online endeavors may be able to manage on less capital than many traditional businesses, but they still need something. Sure you can operate an affiliate mini site on a free web host, with free email accounts and do all the writing and coding yourself. Trouble is, the result is guaranteed to look amateurish and your chances of making sales virtually zero. Don't be cheap. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing properly. 4. Try to get before you give. We live in a gimme-gimme world. It is so easy to have a take-take attitude. Well, why not? There is so much available, why shouldn't we get our share first? Successful people don't think that way. They see the value of the long term. Anyone can get a short-term benefit, but at what cost? Trust and respect are built by giving, not by taking. These two little words are the foundation stone of any successful business or person. Whether you are offering free advice or help to a fellow entrepreneur, or delivering far more than your customers expect, think of the long term. Build your business on a firm foundation. After all, there is a lot of truth in the axiom, 'what goes around, comes around.' 5. Don't set goals. What do you need goals for when you can play it by ear? Isn't all that goal stuff just new-age mumbo-jumbo? No it isn't. Without a clear objective you can never reach your target. How many times have you heard a soldier being commanded 'Ready ... Fire.' There are always two little words in the middle: 'Take Aim'. Imagine the consequences otherwise! Every successful person has mastered the art of setting goals. As Martha Lupton put it, 'To get anywhere, strike out for somewhere, or you'll get nowhere.' 6. Don't focus. In any given day we have thousands of thoughts, hundreds of memories, scores of outside influences, dozens of helpful ideas, tens of items on out to-do lists. But of all these things, only one is important enough to take our full attention, right at this moment. High achievers have mastered this art. They have the ability to focus 100% of their mind, creativity, intuition and experience into a single laser beam that burns to the heart of the problem. Then they move on to the next. But which problem to start with? Two books that are very helpful in teaching you to identify what is important, and what is merely a time waster, are 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People' by Stephen Covey, and, 'The 80-20 Principle', by Richard Koch. 7. Hate change. Put simply, it is far easier to sit back and do what you know, than to innovate. Yet business or business person who is content to let things carry on as they always did will quickly find to their cost that the world doesn't wait with them. 'Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or to the present are certain to miss the future.' John F. Kennedy. 8. Try once, then stop. We are all guilty of this at some time. If at first you don't succeed, give up. Success doesn't see it that way at all. The road to success is almost never paved. It is full of potholes, littered with the blown down trunks of deserted dreams and blocked by obstacles. But there is gold at the end, and unless you keep on trekking, you will never find it. Edison made 10,000 useless light bulbs before he found the one that worked. J. K. Rowling sent Harry Potter to 20 publishers before one took her on. They never gave up. Successful people don't. 'Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.' Thomas Edison. 9. Think that you are more important than the customer. Let's be arrogant. We can tell our customers what they want, and they'll thank us for it. Yeah right. And Ford still make only black cars! I had lunch with the editor of a major British women's magazine a few years ago and asked her how she responded to feedback from her readers. 'My dear,' she said, 'I'm the editor. It is my job to tell them what they want, not the other way round.' It came as no surprise that 6 months later she was fired, and a few months after that the magazine folded. Don't ever be guilty of corporate arrogance. Even the might Coca Cola company can be brought to heel by angry consumers (over the introduction in 1985 of New Coke). Just think what negative PR could do to you. 10. Sit back and wait for it to happen. Whoever said 'Build a better mousetrap and they'll beat a path to your door', had no idea of how business works. You can have the best web site, the best book, the best store in the mall, but if you don't tell anyone, so what? The very word business means the state of being busy. Marketing and innovation are the locks on the door of successful businesses. Action is the key that opens that door so that you can see, as Howard Carter put it when he opened the tomb of Tutankhamen, 'Wonderful things.' 'The individual activity of one man with backbone will do more than a thousand men with a mere wishbone.' William J. H. Boetcker. 11. Listen to your peers. Surely it is a good idea to listen to what your Dad has to say about your business? Or your sister, or doctor, or cab driver? Everyone has an opinion. Unfortunately, most people are programmed to fail, and can't see the positive aspect of anything. If you allow other people's negativity to infect your thinking, all of your endeavors are doomed. Most will probably never even get started. It is vital that you have faith in what you are doing. If you have that faith, and you have seriously thought through all the issues, surround yourself with positive people and go for it. 12. Don't belive you can succeed. What has self-belief got to do with it? Either you have a successful business, or you don't. Trust me on this. If you have a cast-iron, unshakeable belief in your future success, then every action you take will be a positive one. It may take time, but you will be on the right path. Nothing else is more important than this self-belief. But, the moment you allow any doubt to creep in, you will instantly be on the road to failure. Let's give the last word to Abraham Lincoln who said, 'Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end, you are sure to succeed.'