Why Most People Fail (And What to Do About It)
“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
― Truman Capote (Tweet This)
Why is that, even with thousands of books, videos, and sites sharing amazing concepts, many people still have difficult lives?
After I learned about self-improvement, I became obsessed with this question. For a long time, I couldn’t make sense out of it. It was as if a sick person had the cure for his disease right in front of him, but instead of taking a simple pill, he would choose to die.
When I started my journey to become a better man, I naively tried to convince my friends and family to join me. I am sure that you did the same as well. I particularly remember how every time I attempted to persuade my cousin of the validity of personal development concepts, he just argued with me. In retrospect, I realized that I was sharing my ideas not only because I wanted to help him, but because I needed someone to reinforce my new belief system.
After reading a few self-improvement books, I lost all my certainties. I needed someone to agree with me that this time I was on the right track.
We Do Everything to Preserve Our Beliefs — Even Fail for an Entire Lifetime
I started to understand the answer to my question when I caught myself, many times, acting like my cousin. When I first discovered the people that I now call my mentors, I thought they were idiots who knew nothing about the topic. I had that kind of reaction because my beliefs were challenged.
These people were telling me that, in the past 18 years of my life, I took poor decisions. No wonder I was resisting their ideas.
“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” — Frantz Fanon
When beliefs are at stake, people feel threatened on a physical level. Their entire sense of reality is in danger.
They were suggesting that I reconsider all my values and actions. If I would have done it, I could have discovered that I was wrong in many aspects of my life, and that was scary.
For instance, when I used to be broke, every time I saw someone rich, I thought it was thanks to talent or luck. If I would have perceived them as normal people, it would have meant that I could have been rich as well — if only I would have worked hard.
I was labeling them to protect myself from seeing the truth.
The Most Difficult Thing for Us to Say Is, “I Was Wrong”
The books I read and the ideas of my mentors made me aware of my mistakes, but I could have chosen to preserve my ego. Luckily, I faced the evidence.
I was able to turn my life around, because I had the courage to recognize that I was wrong plenty of times. If I didn’t challenge what I thought to be true, I would have been exactly the same person with exactly the same results for the rest of my life.
Beliefs are like clothes: If you are not aware of what you are wearing, you might end up going out with a horrible t-shirt on… for years.
“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” — Nathaniel Branden
So many people prefer to be “right,” instead of admitting to their poor decisions so they can change and improve. They prefer to be “right” and have a lackluster life, instead of being wrong with an amazing life.
Life is a wonderful exercise to humble yourself. The people that keep growing and getting better are the ones that are not scared of admitting when they’re wrong.
Don’t Be Like Your Uncle
The books and mentors I appreciate the most are the ones that share concepts I have never heard before, that question what I believe in, and that challenge the way I see the world.
I always make huge improvements in my life when I discover new ideas that contrast what I already know. Whenever I am reading and I catch myself thinking the author is an idiot, it usually turns out to be a good book.
Mine is just an automatic reaction that each one of us has against new ideas. I don’t necessarily change what I believe in, nor do I believe something because I have never heard it before. I am pragmatic; I use my mind and test it in the real world, and if it works, I apply it to my life.
When you declare to yourself “this is the way it is,” you are going to stagnate for the rest of your life. Don’t be like the uncle that everyone has that held the same view of life for over 50 years.
I hope that you and I will admit to be wrong plenty of times again. We will constantly improve and evolve our character to become the best version of ourselves.