Virtually every one of us has experienced some form of failure in our lives at one point or another.
Whether it be a failed course of study we never completed, a failed business venture, a failed attempt to get in shape, or some other form of screw up, we’ve all felt the pain that comes with not reaching your goals or hitting our target.
Heck, even those who are the best of the best in their fields experience failure. Michael Jordan has missed game-deciding shots, Richard Branson has tanked several businesses and mega companies who are the best at what they do like Microsoft have released buggy, less than perfect products and received harsh criticism for it.
Playing the game of life virtually guarantees losing at some point. Yet there are several causes of failure that I’ve seen operating both in my own life and in the lives of others. These stem from the character of the person failing, and the good news about that is that since they come from within us we can overcome them.
So what are these causes of failure? Here are the most common 4. Let’s explore.
1) Lack of Consistency – In my experience this is probably the number one cause of failure in people’s lives. You see, most people start strong and come out of the blocks like an Olympic sprinter, but they don’t have what it takes to win the marathon. Success in any competitive venture requires consistency, and consistency can only really be delivered through forming effective routines and habitual sets of behavior and sticking to them every single day.
Let’s take blogging for example. It’s the dream of many people to start a blog, write on topics they love and understand, and watch the passive income roll in from ads and affiliate sales while they spend their time doing what they enjoy rather than filing TPS reports in some office cubicle under the direction of a horrible boss in a cornflower blue shirt. That’s a good dream, and one I fully encourage anyone to pursue.
Yet how many of those dreamers would follow through every single day, every few days, or even every week, if they learned that they probably won’t see a single penny returned until the third or even fourth year of blogging? Are you a person who could endure that? Could you consistently deliver informative, quality blog posts day after day, week after week, again and again, and get nothing in return for it for years?
That’s what it takes to succeed in the blogging game. That’s what it takes to succeed at just about anything, although in truth there are many other disciplines that you’ll begin to see rewards a lot faster, such as martial arts, working out, and other businesses.
Consistency is simply getting up and doing a few small things every day to move forward towards your goals and hit your targets. The irony is, if you figure out the causes of the effects you want to see in your life and you consistently apply those causes, you basically can’t fail over a long enough timeline.
Whether you want to start a blog with millions of readers, want to sculpt a body that you can look into the mirror and be truly proud of, or want to start a business that pours millions into your bank account, consistency is key.
Do you suffer from chronic inconsistency? Then reflect on the following: “The time is going to pass anyway. After it does, you’ll either be there, or you’ll still be here.”
I don’t know about you but this quote motivates the heck out of me! I don’t want to be one of those people who stands there in five years realizing I’m no further along and all I had to do was a little every day and I would have made it.
Be consistent and you’ll have a massive advantage on 99% of people on the face of this earth. Be inconsistent and you will fail again, and again, and again.
2) Lack of Focus – There’s an actual epidemic in today’s world regarding lack of focus, and it’s going to get worse. Addiction to TV, the internet, mobile phones, iPads and every other kind of distraction available causes most people to not be able to sit with something and focus on it for any length of time. This is virtually certain to create failure in any venture or objective.
Can you clear the decks and give your undivided attention to reading an entire book which contains knowledge you need to succeed? Can you walk into a supermarket and pick out the exact foods you need to maintain your diet without getting distracted by the shiny wrappers and picking up a bunch of sugar laden junk? Can you ignore the 100 other ideas that whiz through your head daily and focus on just one or two which have true potential?
Focus is a rare trait these days, and the person who has it will move towards success a lot faster than one who doesn’t.
Truthfully, when I was younger I used to suffer from serious lack of focus. I had no idea what I wanted, was dragged around by every passing fad, put other people’s requests and needs before my own and generally was a person who dipped his toes but never fully committed to or focused on anything.
Meditation and just generally growing up helped me with this. I learned that you just can’t have too much on your plate or you’ll never get anywhere. It also helps to do something you are generally interested in or enjoy.
Learn to focus 100% on whatever you are doing. If you have multiple projects and can’t drop any, learn to either delegate to people who can handle some things for you, or learn to manage your time by dedicating certain hours of each day to one project, then other hours of the day to another. Once you establish a routine, do not lose focus and do not let inconsistency creep in – form iron clad habits and constantly remind yourself of your North Star (end goal).
There are specific exercises you can do to enhance your focus. Check them out in this post.
3) Lack of Self Belief – When I was younger, I went through an intense period of idol worship, and I think most young men go through that at some point in their teens or early twenties. I looked at guys like Richard Branson or Mike Tyson and I viewed them as superhumans. I looked up to them, but deep down I believed I could never be like them.
As I grew up, though, I realized that these are simply men of flesh and bones. They don’t possess superpowers, although they probably do possess natural talent in their fields, and at the end of the day, the two men I mentioned are just Richard from London and Michael from New York – they’re just everyday men who took something and gave their all to it, never giving up until they succeeded. This isn’t to take away from their immense achievements, but simply to bring them back down to a human level.
This realization is extremely liberating because it lets you see that you can also achieve uncommon success. Idol worship is extremely destructive because it puts people up on some superhuman pedestal which you can never reach, but seeing people as mere mortals just like us, with both good and bad qualities and their own human frailties, helps us gain a more realistic view of the world and realize that with enough talent, focus, discipline and practice, we too can become the very best at what we set our minds to.
You’ve got to believe in yourself to achieve great things. You really have to feel it, deep in your heart and soul, that you can do it. The irony is that as soon as you begin to believe this, you WILL do it. As long as you think you can, and you are willing to go to any length to achieve your goals, there is literally nothing other than death itself that can get in your way once you begin to believe in yourself and developed determination to do whatever you have set your mind to.
My dream was always to be a writer and travel the world. I used to write little stories in school, then I’d hide the paper away in my school bag because I didn’t believe it was any good enough. It wasn’t until I started blogging, getting emails from people who told me that my writing had made a positive impact on their lives, and getting requests to write for other people to help them achieve their objectives, combined with consistently good feedback and requests for more work, that I began to believe I could do this.
Now I would rather give up all my worldly possessions and live in a tent in the forest, and write all day than give this up and do anything else. I believe in myself, and I know I can live for the rest of my life doing what I enjoy, and get better at it every single day, which will lead to even more success.
This is what it takes to succeed at what you’re doing. Believe it and you can be it. It’s a tired old cliche, but it is true and you need to remember it during the dark days when the old mental conditioning comes up and tells you ‘Who the hell do you think you are to dream something like that? You ain’t Rockafella! This isn’t for the likes of you’. Banish those thoughts, clear your mental space, and tell yourself you can do it. Keep believing and you shall succeed.
4) Lack of Endurance – This ties in slightly with the lack of consistency, but it comes at things from a slightly different angle. The lack of endurance may well be the root cause of the lack of consistency, but endurance is something separate from consistency and that needs to be emphasized and underlined.
Endurance is simply the ability to go on when you think you can’t. It’s the ability to walk or crawl across the marathon finish line when your legs have given in and your lungs are burning. It’s the ability to send your book manuscript to the 105th publisher after 104 rejection slips. It’s the ability to pick up a book and read it after you’ve failed your exam, and you need to re-sit the difficult units you couldn’t grasp, as many times as it takes to pass.
Consistency is related to action, while endurance is the mindset that underpins and drives it. It is a battle ready and battle-hardened state of mind that says ‘I will die before I give up’. It is a rare trait, and most people will take the easy way out rather than endure painful circumstances for too long.
I’m not a person who believes in new age mumbo jumbo like the universe rearranging itself to meet my demands. I’m a pragmatist with a worldview firmly rooted in Western philosophy and science, and ideas like The Secret quite frankly make me laugh. Yet, I have witnessed both in my own life and the life of other people how a sheer stubbornness and unwillingness to submit often leads to the success we crave and wish for.
For me, there’s no magic to it. It’s simple cause and effect and it’s something like what salesmen call ‘the tapping effect’, where one taps a sheet of glass enough times, creating microscopic fractures each and every time over a long enough period until it simply shatters.
Life is like that, too, and if you endure for long enough, giving your best efforts day after day, month after month, year after year, sucking up failure, rejection and not seeing the progress you want, you will succeed.
There’s an old quote that best sums this up. It goes: ‘”Whatever you are unwilling to do, that’s your reason for failing.”
How far will you go to get what you want? How much will you endure before you tap out?
There are some things in life that are beyond our control, like getting hit by a truck while we drive around a blind corner. That said, failure to reach our goals is mostly our own fault, but we’d rather blame life and our circumstances than face up to the fact that the root causes of our repeated failures lie within our own weaknesses in character.
Facing up to this is a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s the first step to turning things around. It’s like AA – you have to admit you are an alcoholic before you can get better, then you work on identifying the causes and eliminating them. In life, you have to admit you have failed because of you and nobody else, and then you can begin changing direction and correcting your course.
Failure is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s not something you have to or should live with either. Every single moment is a chance to turn things around, and recognizing these inner causes of failure in your own character, you can identify and eliminate them from now going forward and never let them derail you again.
As always, remember the three magic words.
Desire. Decide. Persist.
It isn’t rocket science.
Until next time,