Photo credit: Joshua Earle

7 Reasons Why Smart, Hardworking People Don’t Become Successful

Melissa Chu
Aug 13, 2018 · 5 min read

For the longest time, I believed that if smart people worked hard and grew up in a reasonably nurturing environment, success would come eventually.

I looked at other people and thought, “Wow, that person’s going to go on to do great things.”

But as I grew older, I realized that’s not necessarily the case. A few people I know who are intelligent and have a strong work ethic have gone on to do notable things, while many others are doing fine. Unfortunately, there are some that drift along, unsure about what to do.

I then realized that there are a lot of factors when it comes to success, whether it means having a fulfilling career, having great relationships, or staying healthy. Yes, smarts are part of it, and so is work ethic. But there’s more at play than just these two factors.

Here are seven reasons why you might not be finding success even if you’re smart and hardworking:

1. You don’t reach out to new people.

It can be tough to reach out at first to new people, but starting small can help. Aim for a low goal initially, such as introducing yourself to one person a week.

“You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it.” — Lionel Messi

2. You are averse to change.

Instead of resisting changes, see how you can make the best of them. Maybe you can cater to a growing businesses need or see a different perspective.

Be open to new concepts and curious about the world around you.

3. You’re not willing to take risks.

While this guarantees a degree of security, it can be mundane. I hear so often from smart people that they find their jobs unfulfilling and that they want to do something else, but are afraid to do so.

If you’re thinking about branching out into unfamiliar territory, consider what your life will be like decades from now if you opt not to pursue something. Will you regret it, or will you be happy with your decision?

4. You believe you deserve success based on credentials.

I’ve heard people claim they deserve something because of their intelligence or where they went to school. They expect things to pan out automatically because of their credentials. Sadly, though, life doesn’t work like that.

In the real world, you don’t get results based on the work you put in. You get results based on the combination of hard work, strategic thinking, and some luck involved. You can increase that last factor by working on the first two.

5. You constantly go after whatever’s exciting at the moment.

While this is a strong attribute, it also means chasing the next big thing and not following through. Starting out in any field or endeavor is tough, and getting through the initial obstacles requires patience.

Focusing effort on one goal yields much better results in the long run than going after one thing, getting bored, and then going after something new.

6. You can’t commit to a decision.

An abundance of choices makes it difficult to decide what to do. As a result, it’s tempting to jump around and “see what suits you”. I knew someone who attended numerous graduate school programs, one after another. Over ten years later, she still can’t figure out what to do.

Rather than dabbling in many endeavors, I suggest testing things out first. Talk to other people and do the research before making a big decision, so that you know whether or not an option suits your personality and lifestyle.

7. You don’t believe in yourself.

Smart people have high standards when it comes to their work. Whenever they work on a project, they tend to scrutinize and second-guess the final product.

This seems like a good thing on the surface, but it’s often more debilitating than helpful. Perfectionism can hinder people from progressing forward in their goals or starting on anything in the first place.

“It’s difficult to believe in yourself because the idea of self is an artificial construction. You are, in fact, part of the glorious oneness of the universe. Everything beautiful in the world is within you.” — Russell Brand

So instead of letting fears of “what if” or “I’m not good enough” keep you back from something new, think of how you want your life to look like years from now. Getting started beats waiting for something to happen anytime.

What will you do today to get closer to your success? What are some things that have been holding you back?

Melissa Chu

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I write about living better, creating great work, and making an impact. Get your guide to achieving your goals at http://jumpstartyourdreamlife.com/welcome.