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5 Habits That Lead to Failure (and What to Do Instead)

These common ways of thinking will frustrate and thwart any attempt to grow yourself or your business.

Pursuing success isn't just about doing what works; it's about avoiding what doesn't.  If you indulge yourself with the following five mental habits, it can ruin your career and your company:

1. Mindreading.

People who try to read minds don't listen. They cut the other person off mid-sentence, because they "already know" what the other person will say.  They then respond to their own thoughts rather than what the other person actually said.

Do this instead: Active listening.  Get curious about the other person, including what the other person might say.

2. Impatience.

Actively pursuing your goals is one thing, but fretting when you haven't achieved them makes you less able and likely to achieve them.  This is especially true when you're dependent on other people, because impatience can easily turn to frustration and unkind words that damage your business relationships.

Do this instead: Focus on process.  Once you've set your goals, set them aside and concentrate on executing each step of your plan to achieve them.

3. Woodenheadedness.

This consists of pursuing a strategy or tactic even after you know (in your heart of hearts) that it's not working and not going to work.  Because you don't want to admit that you made a mistake or that you've spent your resources unwisely, you end up "throwing good money after bad."  (Note: I personally struggle with this habit every single day.)

Do this instead: Learn to let go. Don't just let go of the past; learn to love the process of letting go.

4. Faintheartedness.

It's been said that "fools rush in where angels fear to tread." In business, though, the real foolishness is fearing to tread where angel investors are waiting for innovative ideas.  There's no reward without taking risks and faint hearts never win stock options.

Do this instead: Think like an entrepreneur.  If your gut says "NO!" trust your intuition. But if your gut says "yes, but I'm a little scared," feel the fear, then do it anyway.

5. Negativity.

Negative people think they're being realistic, but they're looking at the world through crap-colored glasses. Staying positive and upbeat leaves you open to new ideas, opportunities and learning experience.  Being negative just forces you to stew in your own bitter juices.

Do this instead: Be happier at work. Take some action every day to make your work experience just a little better.

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Last updated: Mar 20, 2014


Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

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