Thousands of people read my recent column on productivity in hopes of being more successful. Some of them will make it. Many of them won't. Lots of people say they want to be successful. They work to be more productive. And yet they manage to sabotage their path at every turn. Perhaps it's because they don't know any better. Or maybe they have blind spots concerning their own behavior. Many are simply not committed enough to go out of their comfort zone and make success happen.
I see the patterns all the time in entrepreneurs and managers alike. They can simply be their own worst enemies. Here are the typical ways perfectly smart and capable people keep themselves from reaching their full potential.
1. Taking shortcuts.
The best achievements in life take time and hard work. Sure, we writers love to tell stories about how someone became an overnight billionaire, but that's because people love to read about the unusual. Most successful people put in thousands of hours over several years to make the great stuff happen. Shortcuts cause premature failure and delay the inevitable.
2. Letting ego and emotions get in the way.
This is an emotional world. All of us have opinions about everything, most often about how it affects us. People who are truly focused on success don't let anger, whining, depression, or resentment get in their way no matter whom the emotion belongs to. Emotion unnecessarily takes energy, and ego causes distraction. They keep their egos in their wallets where they belong and focus on the work.
3. Trying to do it all yourself.
Unless you are Taylor Swift, you probably don't have everything going for you to reach success all by yourself, and even she didn't make it happen without a ton of talent supporting her all the way. The most successful intentionally recruit top talent to build a great team capable of making winners of all involved.
4. Getting it done instead of right.
It's very important to be productive and check things off your list. But often people hurt themselves by sacrificing quality for completion. The higher the level of success you are trying to achieve, the higher the level of complexity you will have to manage. Running a 500-person company is infinitely more difficult than running a 50-person company. Embrace the challenge and accept that the best things will require greater thought and attention to get right.
5. Holding back.
Timidity is not a virtue of the successful. Opportunity is there for you to grab. Tough things need to be said to get people to do what you need. There are a million reasons to take action and very few for letting opportunities pass you by without consideration. If you know what you want, step up and say or do something about it.
6. Skipping the homework.
The easy answers are there to support mediocrity. Only a few do enough research to outsmart the competition and the marketplace. That means you have to aggressively observe, analyze, learn and adjust. You may think you are intelligent enough to outsmart most others, but there are plenty who will put in the hard work to take you out.
7. Letting others determine your future.
No one will hand you success. You have to earn it. A former employee of mine said it best: "I was never handed a position I wasn't already performing." This world is what you make of it. If you let someone else decide, you get what you deserve. Spend the time to determine your preferred future. Start here. Then make it happen yourself.