13 Little Things You’re Doing to Sabotage Your Success

In an average week, I interact with over 500 people
in some business capacity. These people vary from
students and professors to venture capitalists and
entrepreneurs. Some I’ve just met. Others I’ve
known for years. Regardless of age, stage, or
profession, it constantly amazes me the little things
these very different people do to sabotage their
future success.
1. Grammar: This is not something to “LOL”
about. Misspellings, lack of capitalization, and
generally poor grammar say you’re uneducated,
inattentive to detail, or, frankly, just don’t care.
Poor grammar is like a giant fluorescent warning
sign that says: “Steer clear.” Please use spellcheck
tools, reread your note, and if it’s something
“important,” have others proof it, too.
2. Flaky McFlakerson: We all have our “off”
moments when crap comes up, but consistently
failing to show up or deliver quickly takes its toll.
Chances are, you’re either disorganized or a
megalomaniac. Either way, it’s a deal breaker. And
no, your constant string of excuses doesn’t help.
Just do what you said you would when you said
you’d do it.
3. Quick Sale: Nothing’s worse than getting slimed
at the cocktail party by the undercover used-car
salesman. As a general rule, never ask to get
before you give. Add value before you expect value
in return. And for goodness’ sake, please don’t
sneak-attack sell anyone.
4. Talking Crap: You said, “He’s so annoying the
way he _____.” I heard, “I’m sure I’ll find something
annoying about you and tell everyone about it.” You
said, “The last company we worked with was
terrible, oh, and the one before that, too. Just
awful.” I heard, “I’m really difficult to deal with, will
be a terrible partner, and will share my
misinformed opinions with everyone I meet.”
Unless there’s a material breach of ethics involved,
keep your trap shut.
5. Over-promising: Expectations matter. If you
promise me a miracle, I’ll expect it. If you promise
me a little, I’ll be happy with a little and delighted
with a little more. Being impressive is mostly about
being reasonable in your projections and hitting
them consistently.
6. Not My Fault: We’re human. Mistakes happen.
But ever noticed how some people always have a
scapegoat and even a backup scapegoat? The
finger is always pointing in the other direction.
Occasionally, another person might have played a
role. Most of the time, it’s your own fault. Own it.
7. Lack of Patience: I’ve found that nothing
worthwhile comes quickly or easily. Regardless of
your goals, they will take focus, hard work, and
plenty of time. Stop looking for the secret sauce or
the quick fix. There aren’t any.
8. Pretend Motives: Actions have a funny way of
exposing motives, particularly over time. You can
pretend you want to help, but if it’s not in your
heart, it will be obvious. Think deeply about why
you want something, and make sure you’re
transparent about it. Nothing is more off-putting
than thinly veiled grabs at money, fame, or power.
9. Without Intention: Each day is packed with
questions of how to spend your time, money,
emotions, and focus. Do you know why you do what
you do? I see lots of “ping pong people” bouncing
between distractions. Pick something meaningful to
accomplish and attack it. You’ll be amazed at what
you can do.
10. Overcommitting: You can’t juggle an endless
number of commitments. Every time you say
“yes,” you’re saying “no” to something else.
Eventually, things break down and blow up. Ask
yourself if the commitment in question will help
achieve your goals. If not, politely decline.
11. Complication: Even seemingly small choices
matter. Life is packed with small corners to be cut,
victimless crimes to be committed, and endless
opportunities for one-night stands. Suddenly, a life
that seemed so simple becomes complicated. But it
doesn’t have to be. Don’t fool yourself into
believing that this one time is different, because
it’s not.
12. Subtraction by Addition: When things get
hard, the inclination is to do more. Work more
hours. Demand more from others. In the short term,
it feels great. Your brain rewards you for “doing
more.” But when you look back, you’ll find you
accomplished less. Instead, focus on addition by
subtraction. Spend more time thinking, and less
time doing. Be still. Be alone. Be thoughtful.
13. B.S.: Most, it seems, have a flair for the
dramatic. The temperature is always five degrees
warmer or cooler than the forecast. Employee
count, revenue, or profits are a multiple of reality.
As someone who fights this urge, I can tell you it’s
wildly unhealthy and quickly destroys trust. Just be
honest and confident. Stop comparing yourself, and
be grateful for whatever you actually have.
Confession time: I’m sensitive because I’ve made
each of these mistakes. They’re easy to make — and even easier to keep making. Being aware has helped me, and I hope it helps you, too.

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8 thoughts on “13 Little Things You’re Doing to Sabotage Your Success

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