Why some people with the smarts to succeed never DO
Life’s been a long exciting trip, and its taken me to a lot of interesting places: law school at Yale with Hillary Rodham Clinton; speech writing at the White House for Richard Nixon; preparing stock prospectuses on Wall Street; and for the past 18 years, writing and acting in Hollywood.
I’ve watched many successful people at work and at play.—powerhouses such as Ron Perelman, billionaire owner of Revlon, and Norman Lear, one of television’s greatest producers; actors such as Nicholas Cage, who’s struggled to the top.
But, I also know many who haven’t made it—–shining stars from my college years who sell shirts; computer hotshots who now deliver pizzas; former studio executives who peddle 900 phone numbers for modest pay; math geniuses who fix pipes in rotting apartment buildings. Like them, all too many people have the smarts to succeed but never do.
Why do some count their money while others curse their unpaid bills? Of course, luck has a role, sometimes. But, usually people make their own bad luck by regularly getting trapped in self-defeating attitudes and shoot-yourself-in-the-foot behavior.
Here are some of the worst traps. I call them the “Eight Habits of Really Unsuccessful People.”
1- Delusional thinking
Unsuccessful people constantly lie to themselves about their own lives.
I once thought that people who were habitually dishonest couldn’t be successful. Sadly, I’ve learned better. It’s possible to succeed, at least financially, while being totally dishonest with others. But, it is absolutely impossible for people to be dishonest with themselves —–about where they are in life, what their prospects are for achieving their goals and where they fall short——and still go forward.
A neighbor of mine teaches art part time. Now that’s not bad as a hobby, but it will never pay her enough to live the middle-class existence that she craves. Although she complains about how broke she is, she can’t seem to understand why teaching part time won’t pay a living wage.
2- Not producing
Again and again I’ve talked to people who fail to acquire any useful skill for which someone will pay real money. They don’t understand the fundamental truth that human beings get paid for being able to do something.
And they don’t understand a corollary truth: people get paid a lot for being able to do something that adds a lot of value. That means medicine or laws or songwriting or finance or something that will help others to get well or make money or enjoy themselves or learn something——-but, on a big scale.
If financial success is your goal, you have to produce or create something that—-in the real world, not only in your dreams—-others want. My father, who is an economist, taught me that all rewards in life accrue to either financial capital or human capital. Financial capital is often inherited. You have no control over that. But human capital——–i.e., a marketable skill ——-can be acquired only through training and effort. Unsuccessful people can spend their whole lives evading the truth.
3- Punishing friends
( Editor’s note) Read first sentence slowly.
Unsuccessful people make a habit of being friendly and grateful to those who are unhelpful to them and disdainful and ungrateful to those who are kind to them. I see this with startling regularity. A dear, close friend of mine has had chance after chance in Hollywood, thanks to powerful friends at two different studios who long ago put him on the fast track to success. But, for almost 20 years now, he has disdained their company and put their friendship to the test while pursuing power players who treat him like a doormat. Not surprisingly, he remains directionless and debt-laden at age 47.
Losers take their friends for granted—at their own peril. Unless, you are a uniquely, unusually talented artist or athlete, there is no such thing as success without a network of friends and supporters. The inability to make and to keep friends is involved in every single failure I have ever witnessed.
4- Bad manners
Unsuccessful people are also, always rude. They fail to show up on time, to thank givers for gifts and to apologize for slights and wrongs.
I have fun, and enjoy it too, while I calculate how late my dinner guests will be using my success/lateness standard. A guest with a great job, really busy individual, with heavy-weight responsibilities will always be on time. While, someone with nothing to do all day will be very, very late or maybe not show at all. A guy with a low-level job that’s going nowhere? Between 15 minutes and an hour late.
I can also predict when someone will complain about the food. If he’s a failure, he’ll have a condescending attitude and not thank me for the dinner. However, if he is successful in life, he’ll be happy with almost anything and thank me most graciously for it.
One of my oldest, dearest, and first friends here in Hollywood had a promising career as a producer. As time went by, his career began to falter; and his slide down the pole was greased by his amazing lack of manners. This guy never thanked me for meals, passes to shows or introductions to potential employers. I finally did, what everyone who knows him did long ago: simply stopped doing anything for him.
When a player alienates everyone around him by rudeness, he stops being able to play. Maybe, billionaires and maharajahs can get away with being rude. For the majority of us, however, it’s a guaranteed success killer.
5- Dressing for failure
Unsuccessful people habitually dress inappropriately. They arrive for job interviews without a tie or in running shoes. They come to dinner parties in jeans when everyone else is in suits. They may think that they’re making a fashion statement. Actually, they’re making a visual statement that they don’t belong with the group where they are, and they have contempt for the people who do.
A really beautiful young woman I know was desperate for a job. I got her an interview—lunch with the head of a company—that prides itself on its family image. Incredibly, she showed up at the executive dining room in shorts, a T-shirt and high heeled sandals. From the moment she walked in, she had blotched the important interview—-and made me also look like a fool.
You can dress to show of what an outsider and a rebel you are—–that’s fine for your teen-agers, rock bands, and Hell’s Angels. OR, you can dress up to show you really belong, and get the job.
6- Bad attitudes.
The unsuccessful often have a sour, pessimistic outlook. They dislike their work and their world, and assume that everyone around them is dishonest or worse, stupid. They cast a dark pall over everything, and everyone around them, and by their own despair and utter hopelessness infect everything they become involved in.
They definitely also betray a lack of confidence in themselves—-a deep-rooted belief that they can’t do much or do it well. This is almost always expressed, at every opportunity, to anyone who will listen. They don’t seem to realize that they are advertising themselves as losers.
A friend of mine in Northern California is competent enough to complete a day’s work. But, wherever she goes, she complains that the air conditioning is too cold or too hot. She bad-mouths her superiors, and their boss or the job. Nothing’s right! She tells her colleagues that the work is a waste of time. Naturally, she’s lost five jobs in two years time.
She can’t get a new job now because she can’t get a reference from anyone she was worked for. It’s a chronic fate for chronic complainers.
7- Needless arguing
Unsuccessful people like to argue just for the sheer sake of argument——to stir the pot or to put the other guy off balance. People who start arguments may think that friends and colleagues will be impressed with how smart or clever they are. They couldn’t be more mistaken.
Sam Rayburn, a famous Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said. “If you want to get along, go along.” He indeed didn’t mean you had too agree with everything anyone else suggested or said. But, he surely did mean that you can’t aggravate other people endlessly and still expect them to help you.
People who get things done don’t like to spend time arguing needlessly. If you pick fights, they will avoid you, and you will find yourself surrounded by other argumentative losers. And, that’s a sure path to failure, guaranteed.
8- Putting first things last
Unsuccessful people cannot set priorities. In the nation’s capital, where I grew up, there’s a man I went to school with. He’s tall. He’s smart. He’s handsome. His father is a big wheel. And he’s miserable——stuck in a job as a manager of an apartment building. But, if an when, I suggest he study for the civil-service examination, he insists the just doesn’t have time, that he’s too busy, with hobbies. He’s been telling me that now since 1966!
The real truth is, there’s never enough time to do everything, even everything of genuine importance. Unsuccessful people , however, never quite learn that setting priorities is an iron-clad necessity. They also never seem to learn that it’s not a sacrifice to give up things of lesser importance for those of greater importance. In fact, it’s a bargain!
That’s it!, end of sermon :-).
Maybe you’ve got some of these habits.
Remember—winners know they can change——and they do! [Retweet]