Seven Personal Habits for Failure

The success and achievement you seek become more likely by taking an open-eyed look at personal pitfalls.

An interesting part of my work and studies into organizational and inter-personal psychology is cataloguing and describing how institutional psychology informs individual psychology. This happens when underlying structural dysfunction and the psychological requirements of the organization become part of the individual’s temperament.

To build better organizations and societies you have to look for the consequences in the individual and the antecedent in the organizational structure.

Here are seven initial characteristics that people tend to emulate and thereby perpetuate the already institutionalized dysfunction. Learning to seeing them in yourself is a valuable step towards seeing it in an organization’s psychology.

1) Self deception – lacking the humility and the personal candor or insight to perceive your shortcomings: This problem makes you unavailable for help or guidance even if it is right in front of you. Without the willingness to search for your own blind spots (which are invisible to you) your risk of failure increases dramatically. It is not enough to go to those who are wiser and more experienced unless this is done with a willingness to see things which will most likely make you feel uncomfortable. Facing one’s own shortcomings is the deliberate self-infliction of pain. It takes a strong sense of resolve to subject your self to this process. Developing this resolve requires:

  • Going inside yourself and bit by bit facing those things which you are most of afraid of
  • Seeking out mentors who will be starkly honest and constructively critical of your strength and weaknesses
  • Keeping track of behaviors – listing both productive (positive) behaviors and counterproductive (negative) behaviors
  • Actively observing your interactions with others and noticing the nature of those interactions.
  • Being ruthlessly honest with yourself about your intentions, and digging deeply in to your own hidden agendas, especially as they lead to great awareness of egoism, unnecessary defensiveness, fear based impatience, selfishness, etc…
  • Being honest about your business position. For example: market potential – don’t fail to see when the numbers just aren’t there. Or when you are causing more pain than good to your stakeholders, or if the conditions for your endeavor are just not there, the list goes on.

Do not be afraid to be ruthlessly honest about you and your situation. (Incidentally this includes taking an accurate stock of your assets, material and personal.)

2) The need for certainty – it is a common trait to want to control the outcomes of events and our efforts. But you must learn to accept what you have no control over; and that is almost every outcome in your life. If you accept that life is a complex, dynamic playing field that is constantly in motion and never stable you will be far stronger through resilience and adaptability.

3) Failing to compartmentalize confidence and humility – you must be a citizen of two worlds: experience two distinct realities – an external experience and an internal experience. On the outside you must behave confident and grounded like a mountain. On the inside you must be humble and flowing with the fluidity and resilience of a river.

4) Making kindness and courage mutually exclusive – It is a mystery to me why people can’t see the reason “nice guys finish last”. It is certainly NOT because they are nice. In almost every real or fictional account of a nice guy finishing last what torpedoed him (or her) was not the highly valuable quality of niceness or kindness, but rather the lack of courage. For some reason people have come to think of those qualities as mutually exclusive. They are not. They are both required to be a true success.

5) Battle without reserve but don’t fail to repose with abandon – there is increasing pressure to rest and relax less. This has been the trend around the world, even causing workers to feel guilty for wanting to take breaks.  The solution is not to become less diligent or less determined to take part fully, but rather to remember that R&R is as important to success as hard work.

So, yes, give it all you got. Don’t save enough for the trip back – go forth each day with the idea that it is your last and you have nothing to hold back for the return trip. Make each day and each hour of your working life count as if everything depends on your efforts. But when the day is over or the week-end or month-end break arrives take it with impish seriousness. Really relax and allow you mind and body to recuperate. Also do not forget to feed your soul.  Internal strength comes from humility. Humility means cultivating an awareness of that which is greater than you. This can be God, the universe, nature, humanity, or that which you understand to be greater. You will be empowered by not feeling like it is you at the top of the heap.

6) Fear of failure –If it is worth doing you must be willing to fail and you must embrace the possibility of pain and loss of reputation. You must know the risks and own them. Go into the pitch with full knowledge of the worst possible outcome and be willing to continue forward at full speed in spite of this. People mistake blind optimism with courage and think that fear of failure is having negative thoughts. This is psychological-babble and rubbish. Fear of failure begins with being unwilling to acknowledge the worst and ends with being unprepared for it. There is no daring in delusion. It is looking into the darkness and choosing to advance that makes up courage.

7) Envy and Greed – the unwillingness to see what others have to share, to seek help when it is needed and to reward those who make sacrifices for your success. In the past we valued the time people gave us with monetary designations as if it is possible to put a value on the increments of time that make up a human life. If we look at those who take part in our business growth as contributing their time on earth which can hardly be valued as less or greater than your own then we may have a different consciousness when we decide how to remunerate and reward. There is a beautiful logic and empowerment to being increasingly fair in the way we conduct ourselves.

It is certainly worthwhile to look deeply at the implications and existence of these issues in your personal life. It is even more important to understand how the organizations that we created are not just cultivating these types of dysfunctions but are actually requiring them. Subsequent articles will look at how these unhealthy behaviors can be eliminated from an institution’s deep structure.

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