Home Careers 16 Negative Things Smart People Have Given Up to Be Successful

16 Negative Things Smart People Have Given Up to Be Successful

Simi July 11, 2018

In the words of the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay: “My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends – It gives a lovely light!”

Imagine if you became a success overnight. You wake up tomorrow and you are rich and successful. How would your life change? After you’ve bought the new car and the new house, the yacht and all the trappings, what’s next? How would you spend your days differently?

It would be nice to think you could spend your days sipping cocktails beside a pool filled with champagne on a private island, but is that a reality? Think about it. There will be demands on your time – lots of them. Your phone will ring non-stop and people will want to meet with you. People will be interested in your opinions.

They may seek your help with this project or that charity. Invitations will roll in for gala dinners, openings and premiers. You might be able to buy many expensive things; however, there will be demands on your time that you can no longer afford. You have become money-rich, but time-poor.

One of the factors of success is to practice the right habits that will serve you on your path to success. But they will also help you once you have achieved your goals when your time becomes increasingly scarce. You must plan your time as carefully as you managed your money when you didn’t have much. Better use of your time will make you more successful. If you’re not sure where to start, here is how successful people do it.

1. Wasted Time

You may have heard this quote from Henry Ford: “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.” Somehow successful people find time and energy from somewhere to go that extra mile and rise above the rest. They might be working to succeed in their chosen career, or they might invest time and effort in a side hustle that will ultimately lead to success.

What are you doing while the achiever is busy forging ahead? Are you having a drink, shopping or perhaps watching television? But you’ve earned that rest after such a tough day, haven’t you? And yet, there’s the entrepreneur working away while you rest. One reason for this is that we measure ourselves by our own lights.

The weekend jogger can’t imagine covering 26 miles in a marathon. Yet, with time and effort, they will find themselves doing exactly that. So too, the demands of going that extra mile look daunting, but you’ll reap the rewards of your small efforts. Also, it slowly becomes easier. There is simply no space in their world-view for procrastination.

Rather than putting something off until tomorrow, successful people feel they should have done today’s tasks yesterday. They don’t procrastinate. They have a vision and goals, so they want to leave a legacy that future generations will appreciate. The achiever never loses this habit. When successful, they must manage their time even more carefully as the demands on their time increases.

For example, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wears a simple set of clothes every day to free his mind for more important decisions. If you feel daunted by the tasks that lie before you, just begin. Set small, incremental goals you can do straight away. Ignore the voice in your head with a million reasons why you shouldn’t. Take that first step.

2. Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts, worries and the fear of the unknown beset everyone at one time or another. The thing to know about negative thoughts is that they are worse than just “not positive” thoughts. They are something else entirely – something far more insidious. When you feel worn down by depression, difficulties may feel like impossible obstacles to you. Problems seem permanent and appear in simple black and white.

Here’s how that happens. Beset by negative thoughts, you feel like you will never get it right. But, if you can’t do this one thing, the whole project is impossible. It might seem obvious that how you feel does not align with reality in the cold light of day, but it feels like reality at the time. Most people can remember this feeling when things felt just impossible.

The first step to climbing out of this funk of failure is to be aware that it is happening. The fog is not going to miraculously disappear. But you can start to take small, dogged steps that will slowly lead to the sunshine again. Just do the next thing on your “to do list,” and the next. This is how hikers climb the tallest mountains.

Mindfulness is a popular concept that involves meditating and emptying your mind. But successful people already possess and use something similar. The passion high achievers feel for their work is because they immerse themselves in the experience of every moment – be it painful, disheartening or happy. They accept those feelings and use them to drive themselves forward.

3. Fear of Failure

One of the many quotes Thomas Edison probably never said was, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If you have run 10,000 failed experiments like Mr. Edison, you’re probably and justifiably feeling a little depressed. However, this quote focuses on the positive. You have narrowed down the choices and gathered a lot of knowledge and information along the way. Your chances of success have increased

And yet people do fail. Most successful entrepreneurs have a history of many failures before hitting on the right formula. The trick is to determine what there is to learn from every experience. Then they step away from the failure and start something new. It only becomes a failure when you don’t move forward with it and build anew.

The old saying, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again,” is most apt here. It is difficult to take the decision to stop working on a project and focus on something new. If you have ever waited for a bus and decided to start walking instead, you know how it feels. The more time you have invested in waiting, the more difficult it is to just walk away. And yet the more likely it is the bus isn’t going to come.

How do you drop a project when you have invested way more than just a few minutes of your idle time? Many people struggle to rise above the experience of failure. They feel that failure is the opposite of success. Indeed, it may be; but it is only a failure if it doesn’t provide any foundation for something more successful. Even if the lesson you learn is simply never to do this again.

An achiever is not any less successful because of early career failures. Don’t let the fear of failing hold you back from future success.

4. Depending on Luck

Once you have tried those 10,000 unsuccessful light-bulb experiments, it is reasonable to think that luck is not on your side. You may wonder if there is anything you can do about it. It’s obvious from the quote this was not how Mr. Edison’s mind worked. In fact, many other “serial failures” find success later. Edison still felt that success was possible and tied to his own efforts rather than dumb luck.

Whether our efforts are a failure or a success, they are due partly to plain old circumstances and partly to ourselves. There are two simple factors at play here. First, achievers have an abiding belief that success ultimately resides in their own hands. In other words, the buck stops here. Don’t wait for circumstances to become more favorable. You can always find a reason to procrastinate or one to get started.

The second factor achievers bear in mind is that outside influences will always affect things for better or for worse. Successful people understand that things happen that are not in their control. They adjust their sails accordingly and leave the harbor with an eye on the horizon. At the end of the day, achievers manage environmental factors as much as they can. However, they focus on what they can control like their efforts, brain power, energy and resilience.

The more things you try, the harder you work and the more people you meet – the more likely something will go your way. So just do it. Don’t attribute your successes or failures to luck but clearly see your part in them. And remember, always be humble when successful and find pride in failure.

5. Giving Up

Successful people experience failures along the way, and they find the strength of character to drop what isn’t working and move on to the next project until they achieve success. However, they don’t give up on the larger goal of being a success and they don’t let the failures stop them from working to achieve that success.

Just because a project is likely to succeed in the end, that does not mean it will run smoothly. Successful projects probably require even more resilience and determination than the unsuccessful ones because there is no walking away from them. Somehow the achiever needs to find the right balance of single-minded purposefulness and determination. They also need the tactical skill to drop or adapt projects that aren’t working.

It almost sounds like a game of poker. Dropping cards and picking others up, always with a strategy and an end-view in mind always. After all, the winning hand might be quite different from the initial cards. And indeed, achievers often enjoy the thrill of the challenge. As in poker, a lot of skill and experience are necessary to make the right choices against a background of chance. You also must be willing to fold when necessary.

Most successful people will have an amusing anecdote about the strange and surprising circumstances where happenstance led them to a successful end. While the story seems to show the person blown about like a leaf in the wind, achievers maintain a steely eye on the end goal. Through all the ups and downs, they make sure they stay open to whatever fortune or success may come their way.

6. Being Alone

These days technology means you can do many jobs from anywhere. Yet people continue to congregate together in certain places. Even Silicon Valley, which has the best chances of using virtual connections and communication, is a real place. People continue to gather where they can find and share new ideas. They meet where synergies occur and where like minds can gather together and make magic.

Successful people stay well connected and take a lot of trouble to become so. Talking with like-minded people keeps their knowledge current. It also provides new ideas, insights and trends from many different areas. In addition, it gives them an opportunity to bounce their ideas off other people. The aim is to gather cutting-edge knowledge from the forefront of the industry before it becomes common knowledge and to use it to one’s advantage.

Balanced against the need to be part of a bigger network of other successful people, achievers must retain a strong personal identity and set of goals. To do this, they often build a small inner circle of trusted people, while interacting with lots of people superficially. These trusted advisors provide the honest advice and perspective so valuable to a successful person to keep them grounded.

The adage that says, “Behind every successful man is a strong woman,” still has currency today, whatever genders apply. Even for people who thrive on disruption, uncertainty and tumult, successful people always have somewhere or someone to provide quiet. They make sure they have a place to rest and re-energize. Leaders who spend the day portraying an image of strength and invulnerability need a safe spot to return to where they can be vulnerable and human again.

7. Selfishness

Because they rely on other people so much, successful people must create an environment where staff believes the pie is growing larger. It should be where there is enough ideas for everyone to share to their mutual advantage. To quote George Bernard Shaw, “If you have an apple and I have an apple, and we exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea, and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”

The achiever’s expansive approach to business helps everyone do their best work and cooperate with others for the best results. Staff can reasonably expect their exceptional dedication and work will result in exceptional rewards and remuneration in return. The modern digital world has done much to disrupt the idea of trade secrets. Crowdsourcing, funding and idea generation is now standard. There are no sacred cows in today’s environment.

Open source software has changed the whole dynamic of the software market. It has successfully taken on some of the titans of the IT industry. Elon Musk recently transferred all patents relating to the Tesla electric car to Open Source. IT and other technologies are disrupting certain industries, such as newspapers, where the pie is shrinking.

However, even in shrinking industries, people often need to cooperate to find new, creative solutions to maintain or rebuild the industry in some new guise. Many of the world’s richest people have contributed nearly all their earnings to philanthropic projects that are so large and ambitious, they are often beyond the capacity of governments. Selfishness is not an option in an environment where disparities between the haves and the have-nots continue to grow.

8. Wasting Money

Many rich people are misers because they are careful with their money, even though they now have lots of it. However, it is those careful money habits that helped them get rich in the first place. In fact, as their fortune grows, money management becomes more complicated. They must place assets overseas in complicated finance vehicles and investments. It becomes even more important to manage your money carefully, attentively and wisely.

The digital industry is interesting because the top people have achieved seniority without coming up the normal business route. Their interest in tech means they show less interest in the material trappings of power than the technical IT challenge they face. They may continue to display a low desire for material trappings outside of the latest technical machines.

People who invest in businesses often have a broader expectation other than just reasonable profits. Ethical business, employment practices and environmentally-friendly production methods are increasingly important to investors as the internet continues to enforce transparency on businesses. Husbanding of company assets and finance streams has become a complicated job other than simply tallying up operating figures.

The richest people in the world often have money that exceeds the GDP figures of some countries. Their assets are too large to spend in their lifetimes. Coupled with the disparity between the earnings of successfully employed people and those who struggle to find a job only increases the scrutiny of these achievers. It is important for wealthy people to prove they are contributing citizens of the world, so waste is not an option.

9. Conspicuous Consumption

The Netherlands used to have a conservative religion that frowned upon anything materialistic. While the Dutch are far less Puritan these days, they consider anything which smacks of bling or conspicuous consumption as not classy. Where achievers used to pursue success for its material rewards and the power it brought, this is no longer as common. Indeed, few people who chase success for the money find satisfaction when they succeed.

In modern industries where achievers predominate, people pursue success for the love of technology or for the sheer love of the game. Their growing bank balance is a nice addition. However, if they manage it wisely, money can provide them with options not open to others. They have the capacity to live in another country, finance new business ventures or help others in a meaningful way.

Indeed, there are some people whose personal wealth far exceeds what any person can use in several lifetimes. Companies have fortunes and footprints around the world that make them more powerful than some countries. The possibilities for conspicuous consumption now exceed almost all history. And yet the continued success of these businesses and people depends in part on maintaining a low profile in terms of assets.

Conspicuous consumption these days is less of a problem with business leaders themselves. However, it is often more of a problem with their children, who are sometimes subject to reality TV shows about their over-the-top lifestyles. Since most of them earn more money by appearing in these TV shows, it seems the problem is not going away soon. But, as long as consumption exceeds production, they will be on the right side.

10. Not Trusting People

People who work best alone or in start-up businesses sometimes find themselves turfed out as the business expands and they require different skills. Steve Jobs is probably the most famous example of this. A larger business means depending on more people, over whom no one has direct control. Many people struggle to give up direct control. Working indirectly with people to achieve your goals is a skill like any other.

While anyone who works at a senior level nurtures and regularly applies a cynical approach to their decisions, this is an essential but ultimately limiting approach. Even small businesses need assistance to keep running. A degree of trust is the foundation for all working relationships. At some point, one must let go of the cynicism and rely on trust and with faith.

People who have earned the trust of a leader deserve to have them give that trust unreservedly. They will repay that trust many times over. With all the training and coaching they do, there is a point where business owners and managers must rely on their junior staff to interact with customers. Tom Peters calls this, “the last two feet.” In this small space with the customer, people can and will disappoint or exceed expectations.

These days, where online shopping is common, it has become necessary to trust customers. Where retailers have some control over what happens in their stores, online retailers have little to no control over what happens on someone’s doorstep hundreds of miles away. As with staff, businesses can put control systems into place. But in the end, there is a need to rely on other people to ensure a mutual success.

11. Not Believing in People

This is important: trusting people is by no means the same as trusting people blindly. Successful people have learned a lot about others, often thanks to previous failures. They are aware of how much they depend on other people. They know they can’t run a large business operation single-handedly. Achievers learn how to determine who they can trust and who they can’t.

However, successful people don’t simply trust people because they need them. They believe that the right people they manage the right way can do way more than they ever could. And helping other people achieve their dreams isn’t bad, either. Working well with and through people is an advantage many companies ignore or waste. That is the crucial differentiator for success since it is often the only factor to differentiate your business from your competitors.

These days, businesses have systems and databases which provide a degree of transparency making it easier for employees to trust them. However, it also makes them vulnerable to viruses, trojans and other threats. Trusting people is no longer a matter of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. Since many businesses have an overseas presence, building relationships with people in distant countries, being able to rely on others is crucial.

Technical skills often require companies to hire and train staff themselves, which leads to a special bond between staff and employer. The long hours that modern employees often work also leads to stronger bonds with their employers.

12. Wearing a Mask

People will exercise their personal judgment over others, particularly their leaders and role models. They will only agree to follow someone and support their vision if they believe them to be honest and authentic. Most senior business leaders find themselves increasingly in the media spotlight. So they need to present themselves authentically to an increasingly large audience.

Showing a degree of humility and vulnerability are important because video technology can bring leaders close enough for others to examine the expressions on their faces. Television debates have changed the dynamics of political elections for many countries. Prominent people often share their opinions on topical matters completely unrelated to their jobs, yet their responses can affect their positions.

Authenticity is something leaders need to build up in times of calm and rely on it in moments of crisis. In the 90’s, the cult of personality was important in business journalism. People considered a CEO as the final arbiter of the fate of their businesses. This has reduced in importance but it still remains valid. The hiring or dismissal of a CEO can still impact a share price profoundly.

Digital media like cellphone cameras record and disseminate every lapse in judgment. Employers will often review Facebook and other feeds from applicants as part of the selection process. It is safe to assume nothing remains a secret for long these days, so behave accordingly.

13. Having Feet of Clay

Being successful means doing something others either can’t do or don’t do as well. Holding the belief that you can achieve something extraordinary is a necessary first step to reaching your goals. You should back your belief with the passion and skill to deliver. Knowing your limits and weaknesses is as equally important, so you can build up your strengths.

Having supportive people around who will hold up an honest mirror when necessary is important for the ongoing success of any leader. You can only learn and grow if you are honest with yourself. Being comfortable enough with yourself and your power to admit weaknesses to others is a way to show your humanity, make yourself relatable and build a connection with your followers.

Many successful leaders prefer to hear from yes-men, but eventually, they lose their success and reputation to hubris. For example, exposure of sexual predators in the entertainment industry was a major theme in the news for 2017. Yet successful leaders must retain a strong belief in themselves to pass on their optimism and passion for their goals to their followers.

People respect the abilities of successful people. But they also appreciate the respect they receive in turn when a leader asks for their help. Having feet of clay helps when gathering loyal supporters around to leverage their efforts and strengths with your own. Knowing your weaknesses and finding support in those areas makes you stronger. Being human can help make you a more successful leader.

14. Listening to Lies and Half-Truths

Most people know a lie when they hear one. But in recent decades, there has been a rise in spin. This is when a person dissembles the truth, then shades and adjusts it to support a certain point of view. Like that old propaganda, it contains some truth to make it credible. It makes the lies subtle and nuanced, so it is more difficult to ascertain the truth. In this environment, some cynicism is necessary.

Successful people must maintain a steady compass, moral or otherwise, in this hard-to-navigate environment. Successful people often must display their spin skills. More importantly, they must cut through the obfuscation to get to the truth of the matter. While they have advisers and PR people to help, this ultimately rests upon them. They must work to keep the practice of truth-telling alive in their organization.

Crucial to this skill is the ability ask the right questions because no one knows everything. Making sure there is the capacity within an organization to question things, rather than act as yes-men is crucial to the sustainability of the business. Recent examples of this failure include several businesses that practiced unethical accounting their auditing firms didn’t pick up until it caused public scrutiny.

This digital age also allows rumors and gossip to travel the world instantaneously. This dissemination means the slightest whisper of the wrong kind can severely impact stock prices or currency levels. Successful people need to know how to critically evaluate such news quickly and take the necessary steps. No one can completely audit the whole internet. Achievers evaluate all web-based research before they use or share it.

15. Worrying What People Think of You

Believing in oneself is an important prerequisite for success. Most achievers have higher standards and set higher goals than the norm. Indeed, successful people are the ones who re-set the standards by which we work and live our lives. Achievers are far too busy working and worrying about other things to ponder about what people think of them. They live in a world where results define their reality, not impressions.

People who worry about the opinions of others will do whatever it takes to make others like them. They often do what other people expect them to do. This is the exact opposite of how achievers behave. In fact, the more individual and original the achiever’s goal is, the more criticism will arise along the way. Achievers surround themselves with positivity, rather than negative influences.

Anyone who does something different is likely to elicit criticism from one person or another. Only the act of doing or saying nothing will protect you from criticism. Again, this is not how achievers behave. Achievers are comfortable with uncertainty and adversity – two things they encounter regularly in their endeavors. People who need the approval of others are not able to live with either of these.

If an achiever worries what others think of them, it could prevent them from taking risks. But risks are an inherent part of any new enterprise or project. Since projects don’t always succeed, there is no space to worry about the opinions of others. It will automatically stop the plan in its tracks. Successful people will seek advice from others, but consider it alongside their own opinions.

16. Choosing Easy Options

Becoming successful is an investment in time, effort, money and yourself. You will also encounter frustration and perhaps even a lost social life. You must commit yourself to an enterprise and that may take several attempts. It will probably many years before you succeed if you succeed. It requires dedication and discipline beyond what many people can muster.

There will also be stress along the way, as well as uncertainty. They will test your belief in yourself. You may have to forego the easy options like social events, being with friends and relaxing, among many other things. However, your life is richer when you enjoy these pastimes to a degree. And when you become successful, your responsibilities will increase, so your free time will decrease.

But, if you have an entrepreneurial personality, the challenges you face are what make life worthwhile. You will feel most like yourself when immersed in the challenges of your projects. Time will fly, and you will feel dynamic and re-energized. Difficulties will fade as quickly as the pain of an athlete starting their next match.

You will feel your experiences, good and bad, with the clarity people who try to numb the pain won’t. Whatever happens, success or failure, you will have memorable experiences and something to show for them. So, you can choose the easy options, or you can choose to challenge yourself to shoot for success.

These are the 16 negative things your smart friends have given up to be successful. Being an achiever is a challenge requiring a big effort on your part. You must be confident but genuine, too. Hopefully, these tips will help you meet any goals you set.