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31 Major Causes of Failure

Before leaving for San Francisco back in August, my older sister Monica (yes, the celebrity wedding planner) gave me a book she really liked: “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.

I feel like it didn’t have much to do with the book itself but it was mainly her way of giving me her farewell.

I picked up the book multiple times but it never really engaged me (have to admit I’m not a big reader). I felt like they were trying to rephrase “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. In addition, it was translated in italian which definitely didn’t help… 😉

Last night I decided that although I wasn’t going to read it I should at least try to get what I could out of it by skimming through it. One of the things I really liked was an outline of the the most common causes of failure. Being now in the middle of the startup scene, it really put things in perspective for me and I’m positive it’ll help me better assess people approaching me with their world-changing ideas.

The list itself has been growing and changing over time but this is the most common version.

Major Causes of Failure

1. Unfavorable hereditary background
There is but little, if anything, which can be done for people who are born with a deficiency in brain power.
2. Lack of well-defined purpose in life
There is no hope of success for the person who does not have a central purpose, or definite goal at which to aim.
3. Lack of ambition to aim above mediocrity
We offer no hope for the person who is so indifferent as not to want to get ahead of life, and who is not willing to pay the price.
4. Insufficient education
It takes more than a college degree to make one a person of education. Men are paid, not merely for what they know, but more particularly for what they do with that which they know.
5. Lack of self-discipline
Before you can control conditions, you must first control self. Self-mastery is the hardest job you will ever tackle.
6. Ill health
No person may enjoy outstanding success without good health.
7. Unfavorable environmental influences during childhood
“As the twig is bent, so shall the tree grow”.
8. Procrastination
Most of us go through life as failures, because we are waiting for the “time to be right” to start doing something worthwhile. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.
9. Lack of persistence
Most of us are good “starters” but poor “finishers” of everything we begin. The person who makes persistence his watch-word, discovers that “Old Man Failure” finally becomes tired, and makes his departure. Failure cannot cope with persistence.
10. Negative personality
There is no hope of success for the person who repels people through a negative personality. Power is attained through the cooperative efforts of other people.
11. Lack of controlled sexual urge
Sex energy is the most powerful of all the stimuli which move people into action. Because it is the most powerful of the emotions, it must be controlled, through transmutation, and converted into other channels.
12. Uncontrolled desire for “something for nothing”
The gambling (e.g. stock margins) instinct drives millions of people to failure.
13. Lack of a well defined power of decision
Men who succeed reach decisions promptly, and change them, if at all, very slowly. Indecision and procrastination are twin brothers. Where one is found, the other may usually be found also.
14. One or more of the six basic fears
Poverty, criticism, ill health, loss of love of someone, old age and death. They must be mastered before you can market your services effectively.
15. Wrong selection of a mate in marriage
Unless this relationship is harmonious, failure is likely to follow. Moreover, it will be a form of failure that is marked by misery and unhappiness, destroying all signs of ambition.
16. Over-caution
The person who takes no chances has to take whatever is left when others are through choosing. Over-caution is as bad as under-caution.
17. Wrong selection of associates in business
In marketing personal services, one should select a mentor who will be an inspiration, and who is, himself, intelligent and successful.
18. Superstition and prejudice
It is a sign of ignorance. Men who succeed keep open minds and are afraid of nothing.
19. Wrong selection of a vocation
No man can succeed in a line of endeavor which he does not like. The most essential step in the marketing of personal services is that of selecting an occupation into which you can throw yourself wholeheartedly.
20. Lack of concentration of effort
The jack-of-all-trades seldom is good at any. Concentrate all of your efforts on one definite chief aim.
21. The habit of indiscriminate spending
Money in the bank gives one a very safe foundation of courage when bargaining for the sale of personal services. Without money, one must take what one is offered, and be glad to get it.
22. Lack of enthusiasm
Without enthusiasm one cannot be convincing. Moreover, enthusiasm is contagious, and the person who has it, under control, is generally welcome in any group of people.
23. Intolerance
Intolerance means that one has stopped acquiring knowledge. The person with a closed mind on any subject seldom gets ahead.
24. Intemperance
The most damaging forms of intemperance are connected with eating, strong drink, and sexual activities. Over-indulgence in any of these is fatal to success.
25. Inability of cooperate with others
More people lose their positions and their big opportunities in life, because of this fault, than for all other reasons combined.
26. Possession of power that was not acquired through self effort
Power in the hands of one who did not acquired it gradually is often fatal to success.
27. Intentional dishonesty
There is no hope for the person who is dishonest by choice. Sooner or later, his deeds will catch up with him, and he will pay by loss of reputation, and perhaps even loss of liberty.
28. Egotism and vanity
These qualities serve as red lights which warn others to keep away.
29. Guessing instead of thinking
Most people are too indifferent or lazy to acquire facts with which to think accurately.
30. Lack of capital
This is a common cause of failure among those who start out in business for the first time, without sufficient reserve of capital to absorb the shock of their mistakes, and to carry them over until they have established a reputation.
31. Lack of imagination and creativity
No success can be achieved without these twin qualities. A man can create a new world if he can imagine it. His world will thrive if he can create it with details.
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One Comment

  1. Posted November 13, 2012 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I am quite sure I will learn lots of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

One Trackback

  1. By Quora on November 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Why do startups fail?…

    There are many elements that come into play when deciding the outcome of a startup. These can be either internal or external (although most people will say it wasn’t because of them). I would take Napolean Hill’s causes of failure as a good starting …