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The 15 Major Causes of Failure and How to Avoid Them

The 15 major causes of failure and how to avoid them

The 15 major causes of failure and how to avoid them

Every problem has a cause. In fact, most problems have more than one cause. Problems don't spring out of nothing. All problems have specific causes. And since we know that "failure" is a problem, we know that failure has specific causes.

We know that if we can eliminate the causes of failure, then we won't suffer so much failure. Meaning, if we can eliminate the causes of failure, then we will tend to be more successful. That is right, isn't it?

There are 15 major causes of failure:

Here are the major causes of failure:

  1. No goals. No clear idea of what your goal is.
  2. Too many goals.
  3. Impossible goals.
  4. Insufficient skills and knowledge.
  5. Incorrect skills and knowledge.
  6. No plan.
  7. Wrong plan.
  8. Inactivity.
  9. Procrastination.
  10. Inability to work cooperatively with other people.
  11. Inability to notice when something is not working.
  12. Unwillingness to take constructive criticism.
  13. Refusal to change in the light of constructive criticism.
  14. Refusal to learn from mistakes, and repeating the same mistake over and over again.
  15. Refusal to adapt when the environment changes: stubbornness.

Let us say a line or two about each one.

1. No clear idea of what your goal is

If success is the achievement of a worthwhile goal, then you cannot succeed if you don't have a clear goal.

How can you achieve a goal that you never set? YOU CAN'T!

Omitting to set a clear and distinct goal is the first cause of failure.

Question: Have you a clear and distinct goal, for which you are aiming? Or are you drifting?

2. Too many goals

Some people make the opposite error. They have too many simultaneous goals. So they have a split mental focus. So they lose mental focus. You cannot do ten things at once. You need to prioritise and concentrate more on a limited number of goals, rather than spread yourself too thinly and fail because you are taking on too many things simultaneously.

Question: are you guilty of taking on too many things simultaneously and therefore failing to concentrate your powers?

3. Impossible goals

Some people set impossible goals. They set goals that are not really goals.

Last week during our two day leadership and management course, I heard one delegate proclaim; "My goal is to win the national lottery!"

That is not a real goal, is it?
Why not? Because the person has no power to affect the outcome.

Don't mistake wishes for goals.

4. Insufficient skills and knowledge

If you want to avoid failure then invest in your education. Become self-educated.
If you have failed up to now, it is partly because you don't yet know enough.

5. Incorrect skills and knowledge

Even if you do know a lot, is your knowledge in need of updating?

Every few months your computer is sent updates and is reconfigured by google or apple, to conform to the latest, most up to date methodology. You need to do the same with your brain. Are you up to date?

If you are working with procedures made by human beings, then you need to know that these procedures change over time. Are you keeping your knowledge up to date, or is your knowledge obsolete?

6. No plan

If you have no plan, then you don't have a prayer.
If you have no plan, then you must, and will, fail.

Have you a plan that is capable of achieving your goal?

In the morning over breakfast; write out your plan for the day. Always operate according to a plan.

7. Wrong plan

If you have the wrong plan, then you will fail.

Whose plan are you following?

Is your plan a well thought out plan: and is your current plan the result of "a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation-or is your plan a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious mind into a kind of mongrel plan more likely to create self-doubt, like a ball and chain, in the place where your mind's wings of confidence, should have grown."

The last paragraph was a quote from Ayn Rand.

8. Inactivity

A plan won't work unless you do.

If you don't work the plan, you will fail.
Question: Are you lazy?

Make "rest" a necessity, not a goal.
The purpose of life is to see what you can achieve, not to see how little you can get away with doing.

Activity is what will make you a winner.
Inactivity is a common cause of failure.

9. Procrastination

Procrastination is not as bad as inactivity but it is still a cause of failure. Procrastination is simply the art of putting things off for so long that by the time that you start doing the job, it is too late.

You've left your revision too late, because the exam is next Monday. You will fail the exam because you have procrastinated on your revision.

Many people fail in life because they keep putting off what they know they need to do, simply because they are not in the mood to do it today. "I'll do it tomorrow". "I'll start next week".

Don't put it off
Don't delay
Do it today

Procrastination will cause you to fail.

Never procrastinate.

10. Inability to work cooperatively with other people

It is almost certain that you don't work on your own; all by yourself. You work in coordination with other people. If you are to be a success in a business context, where the key concepts are "productivity" and "trade", then you need to gain the cooperative assistance of other people. Consequently you need to be able to work cooperatively with others.

Some people are almost incapable of cooperating with others. They are called "difficult people". Question: do you know any difficult people?

Question: are you a difficult person?

Don't be a difficult person!

Be a person who is able to gain the cooperative assistance of others.

11. Inability to notice when something is not working

The next form of failure is the unwillingness to admit that what you are doing, or what you have been doing for years, has been wrong. All successful people are those who are willing to admit an error and, whenever necessary, to drop a bad idea, or habit, or practice, or belief, whenever it is shown to be wrong, or ineffective or out of date.

Question: are you able to admit when you're wrong?

12. Unwillingness to take constructive criticism

Closely allied to the above cause of failure is the inability to take constructive criticism. Most people like praise, but hate to be criticised. They say in effect, "Who the hell are you, to tell ME, that I am wrong?"

I'm not the only one who is late, why are you picking on me?"

The winners invite criticism.

They want to know what is wrong with their current level of performance because they figure they can use the criticism to inform the next improvement in their performance.

13. Refusal to change in the light of constructive criticism

Some people will accept that they are wrong, but still won't change.

They know they should not overeat, but they do.

They know they should not speed on the motorway, but they do.

They know they should not drink too much beer, but they do.

They know they should not swear, too much but they do.

This is because they feel that they are too old to change, or that they think that their identity demands a slavish consistency, which, in reality, it does not.

A slavish consistency to a bad habit is a cause of failure.

Failure is often the result of one error in judgement, repeated every day for 10 years.

14. Refusal to learn from mistakes, and repeating the same mistake over and over again

Repeating a bad habit or error, every day for years, without noticing that the habits are destroying you slowly is a common form of failure.

Some poisons kill in minutes. Some poisons kill in decades. You stay away from poisons that kill in minutes, (such as bleach) but you drink, with relish, poisons that kill in decades, (such as vodka).

Five hours of TV in one day, for only one day, won't kill your chances.
But five hours of TV in one day, every day, for 10 years will obliterate your chances of success.

Question: how much time do you waste on TV and computer games?

15. Refusal to change when the environment changes: stubbornness

Finally, refusing to notice that the world has changed around you will cause you to fail.

Here is the sad truth; what worked well for you, ten years ago, might be no good in today's market.

Methods of marketing that worked well for you, ten years ago, are hopelessly inefficient today. You have got to keep up with the times. If you don't, you will fail.

Are you keeping up with the new ways of doing business?

Try to look forward and predict the winds of change. Then you will be powered on by the winds of change rather than being buffeted by them.

Failure to adapt is death.
Adapt and you will steadily progress towards the achievement of your goals.
And if you achieve all your goals, you will be classed as being successful.
Which would make you, a very happy person.

And "happiness" is one of the tests for a successful life, isn't it?

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About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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