I have been studying both success and failure for most of my life, and I have found the one common trait to both: Your strengths can also be your weaknesses.
If I were to ask a room of people what they would say makes a person successful, I believe they would list many of the following things:
• Hard work • Good personality
• Persistence • Good attitude
• Connections • Education
• Money • Luck
I have noticed that you can have a good debate about any and all of the above items and what part they truly play in success and failure. However, I have noticed that for all people, the very things that can lead to your success can also lead to your failure.
Let’s evaluate some of the items above.
Hard Work — A strong work ethic is essential in being productive in areas that lead to results. However, you can be working so hard in the wrong areas or in the wrong ways that it just leads to inertia. You can become the proverbial “hamster in a wheel.” Hard work for many becomes a false badge of honor, with nothing to show for it. I know a lot of extremely hardworking, unsuccessful, broke and unhappy people. Even the word “hard” becomes a negative emotional anchor to the word “work.”
“Don’t tell me about the pregnancy, just show me the baby.”
Good Attitude — I think even an extremely negative person would say that you must have a good attitude to be successful. However, I have noticed that often people avoid critical thinking by using a positive attitude as an excuse. You can use all the pithy sayings you want, get in a circle with your positive friends and sing “Kum Bah Ya” until you are blue in the face, but that does not mean you are doing what will make you successful. Frankly, if you do not have the right goals, game plan, actions and review strategies, along with a strong dose of critical thinking, you may be allowing your positive attitude to drive you positively broke. I have witnessed a growing legion of people who spend all day posting positive things on Facebook, Twitter and every other social media source and seem to be giving groups hugs to everyone in their “I’m happy and positive all the time” circles, but yet their business and incomes stink.
“If you are going to talk about it, be about it.”
I am pretty sure that all successful people have their “moments of doubt and pain,” to borrow from a Rolling Stones lyric. I have also noticed that very successful people at times begin self-reflection that would be anything but positive. They are, however, very responsible for results and absolutely ruthless at times in regards to themselves, their actions and results. In fact, they are purposely negative and critical in a very motivating way. Pain can often move mountains, while the pursuit of pleasure leaves many on the couch. Many a person has resolved to be skinny with zero action toward the goal, but became fanatical in pursuit after seeing themselves in the mirror and becoming painfully disgusted. Just talking positive means squat without taking action, having tons of failures, misfires and even the anger that drives you the last step when others would have quit.
Good Personality — More failures have been hired in sales positions in the name of “good personality” than any other single waste of criteria I have seen. The reality is that many great salespeople do not have wonderful personalities, and often can be downright “pains in the ass.” Superstars are incredibly driven people, often to the point of being maniacal and, often, do not suffer fools lightly. High performers cannot stand anything or anyone that gets in their way and sometimes have little empathy, sympathy or patience for those people and things that do. All of this leads to anything but a great personality at times, and will surely not win them any congeniality awards. A great personality means nothing without the rest of the makeup necessary to be successful. It’s just a fact that nice guys do not always finish first. The critical component here is that successful people know what it takes to be successful and have no tolerance for anything else, and that can often lead to anything but a pleasing personality.
The bottom line for everyone is that your strength, unchecked, can also be your weakness. This is why I think many people who succeed also have failed over and over. I think they possess a strong ego drive to get up off the mat and get back after it. However, somewhere along the way, the really successful people discover that those critical points of success are what also drives them to failure. At this point, the successful person creates an internal governor that cuts back the strength to a level that keeps them from going over the cliff from success to failure. Maximize your strengths, but do not let them lead you to failure.