10 Things Successful People Never Do
I have done all of these ten things and seen the results. I was very unhappy.
Before I can give you the rules I must establish my credentials.
I have started about 20 businesses and failed at 17 of them. I have failed as a husband, as have many.
I hope I don’t fail as a parent but certainly some people would look at my track record and say, “yes, yes indeed, he failed as a parent.”
I’m not the best boyfriend. One time I broke up with a girlfriend while I was on the elevator up to meet her her in her apartment. I just hit the down button and never spoke to her again.
But I also have had a few successes.
HERE IS WHAT FAILURES DO:
1) THEY BELIEVE IN THE WORD ‘FAILURE’
We don’t live long enough to fail. Like if a planet is around for 4 billion years and produces no life-forms, I would call that planet a failure.
Everything else is an experiment.
Thomas Edison never said, “I failed 10,000 times before I made a lightbulb.”
The guy was in a LABORATORY. He experimented. And now everyone gets into “failure porn” and says “I’m a failure”. That’s BS!
John Coltrane didn’t fail when he couldn’t stay in Miles Davis’ quartet.
He was experimenting with Miles Davis style but ultimately, with 20 years of practice and study under his belt, he knew that only his unique style could survive and flourish in his own quartet.
He experimented, learned from the experiment and moved on.
HERE is the key on experimenting:
THE MORE MISTAKES YOU MAKE THE BETTER YOU GET.
Why is this? It’s brain science: when you make a mistake, you repeat and repeat until you get it right.
This repetition is “practice”. Practice makes perfect.
People who just get it right the first time (e.g. when I sold my first business) never learn all the subtleties you learn with practice.
So they get fooled into thinking that “luck” equals “good” when actually “mistakes + repetition = good”.
2) FAILURES “UNDER PROMISE AND OVER DELIVER.”
Everybody is told a lie: to be a success you have to under promise and over deliver.
This is the worst form of lack of integrity. The idea is that you are “safe”. Let’s say you under promise and you under deliver.
You think, incorrectly, “hey, at least I have my integrity intact”.
No, you have nothing intact. You are just like everyone else. There are 3,000,000,000 employees on the planet and they are all under promising and most of them are under delivering.
You are just like them.
You have to: OVER PROMISE AND OVER DELIVER
Over-promise sets you apart from the people who under-promise. Over-deliver sets you apart from people who just delivered.
It’s not that hard to do both. (It’s easy to slightly over promise and slightly over deliver because nobody else is doing it).
Try it and you will see the results. it’s amazing.
3) PEOPLE WHO FAIL SEEM TO HAVE A LOT OF ACCIDENTS
They left their important project on the subway. They are sick.
Their dog got sick. They broke up with their girlfriend or boyfriend.
There’s a way to minimize accidents and it’s called health.
You can’t succeed if you are sick in bed. You can’t succeed if you spent all night the night before reading your wife’s emails because you can’t trust her.
You can’t succeed if you aren’t grateful for being given at least the chance to be something better than what you are now.
When someone consistently has a lot of excuses for why something has gotten done, I know they are not ready for the next step.
When I was young, I was the man with the excuses. I had them every day. I was a master of them. But I fooled nobody. And so I was given less opportunities for success.
And you know what: I was right! If I’m reading my wife’s email and she’s cheating on me, I deserve to fail.
So here’s what you do: You can’t be perfect.
But every day:
- Move, Eat, Sleep…Well
- Improve your relationships (Call a friend, surprise a spouse, be kind to your kids)
- Be creative (only you know how to do this but at least write 10 random ideas a day)
- Be grateful for where you are. (and this is the “Now” that people brag about.
4) FAILURES DON’T TAKE IT THE NEXT LEVEL
Bobby Fischer always took it to the next level. Nobody ever thought he was the greatest talent in chess history. He probably had average talent.
But he always said, “how can I take chess to the next level”.
When he was a kid he learned Russian so he could read the Russian chess magazines.
After that, he never lost a US Championship. He was 13 years old.
He was so much better than the Americans he even stopped playing in the US championship.
And he took it to the next level right up until the world championship.
For the first time in his life he played a different first move.
His opponent, the older world champion had ONLY prepared for the one move Fischer ever did. So Fischer came up an entire new opening with a new first move.
Gandhi took it to the next level. Every revolution before him was done with violence.
He experimented. He had a vision. He felt that 300 million Indians didn’t need to do violence.
He was right, despite everyone disagreeing with him.
Take the advice of everyone around you, and then take it to the next level. Practice taking it to the next level (because at first you won’t be good).
Come up with your ideas but then think, “What has never been done before” (it’s not true that everything has been done before. Only shadows of things have been done before).
But do it over and over again and you will be THAT PERSON that knows how to take things above and beyond.
5) FAILURES TAKE ALL THE CREDIT
Failures are insecure. When they do their little stupid thing at work they want the credit.
Give others credit all the time. Then you are the source of credit. Just like a bank.
When people want more credit, who do they go to? They go to you! Just like they would go to the bank when they need more money.
Credit is like currency. If you’re the bank, then in the long run you will end up with all the real credit.
6) LACK OF INTEGRITY
I don’t mean “be honest”. That’s obvious.
How do you take “honesty” and “integrity” to the next level?
You become vulnerable. You admit mistakes before you have to. You offer people their money back when you’ve lost it and didn’t have to.
I was talking to Ev Williams who started Twitter. When his older company, Odeo, wasn’t working out — he and his board decided to give everyone their money back before moving on.
That’s integrity. Nobody has ever given me my money back.
You give advice and help people when you sincerely want them to do better.
Do this every day. It adds up. No, it doesn’t add up. It multiplies. It compounds.
There’s “negative integrity” and “positive integrity”.
“Negative integrity” is saying to your boss: “I failed because I missed the train”.
“Positive integrity” is, “I like your idea for A, B, C reasons but how about you give a chance to X, Y, and Z and I bet we can make your idea a huge success to your boss.”
And then you give your boss total credit.
Remember, these rules don’t live in isolation. It’s all one big rule.
It’s all about you being a vessel for a vision.
People live for 75 years on average. But a vision can live for millenia.
7) NO MONEY MANAGEMENT
I thought there was only ONE rule about money: making it.
So I lose it all. Because first I had to learn there are three rules to money:
Making it is what we deal with for a long time. We need to pay the bills. We need to reduce money anxiety in life.
But many people who are failures think that once they make it, the job is over.
I thought my job was over when I had millions in the bank.
So I stopped being healthy. So I stopped being nice to the people around me.
So I spent money on a penthouse apartment and buoght art and got a house in Atlantic City and started gambling after taking helicopters back and forth.
So I put money in every investment possible just to impress people.
And then I had $143 left and I was dead broke and blame myself for the deaths of at least two people.
When you make money, keep it. Don’t even invest it. Put it in the bank. Don’t be greedy for more. You only need to get rich once.
Unless you want to buy a basketball team you don’t need to get rich twice.
And only when you are confident you can Keep it, you can THINK about growing it. But that takes a year or two first of keeping it.
Please trust me on this one.
Almost every failure I know (and I know a lot) didn’t fail because they couldn’t make money. They are broke now because they couldn’t keep it.
8) NO FOLLOW THROUGH
I have a very good friend who is a brilliant brilliant scientist. Maybe the most brilliant man I know.
I would tell him this to his face: you have no follow through.
He has an idea. Everyone says it’s amazing! AMAZING! You are so SMART!
He gets about 30% of it done.
And then he is on to the next Brilliant idea. BRILLIANT!
His kids live on food stamps. And every single one of his ideas is not just a million dollar idea. But a TRILLION dollar idea. I’m not exaggerating.
But he can’t follow through. The next idea is always bigger.
Thomas Edison didn’t say, “I did it!” when he made the light bulb.
He called up the mayor of New York and worked out a deal to light up downtown New York City. The first city in history to be lit up at night by electricity.
He got paid for that. He made a company. He followed through. He got rich.
That’s the difference between Edison and Tesla, who was probably smarter in every way than Edison but died penniless.
If you have trouble following through, delegate. But don’t forget the other rules above: Over deliver. Integrity. Health. etc.
9) THEY DON’T HAVE NOTEBOOKS
I carry at all times a waiter’s pad. I have over 100 waiter’s pads.
In my pocket right now is one. In the table next to where I sleep is one.
Saul Bellow once said, “you never have to rewrite what you write in the middle of the night”.
How many times do you think of a great idea and you think, “this is so GREAT I will never forget it” and then you forget it.
It happened to me this morning. Claudia and I were talking last night and she said, “You have to write this down!” and I said, “there is NO WAY I’m going to forget this. “
Well, I forgot it. I pray to the gods of memory I will remember it but I forgot it.
10) THEY DON’T LISTEN
I say, on average, 10,000 words a day.
I ALREADY know the things I’m going to say. They already got to my brain somehow. And now I’m just waiting to vomit them out.
When you listen, you learn. When you learn, you get better. When you get better you start to have a vision, you start to over deliver, you get more creative, and all the other good things above.
I’m going on a word diet.
2500 words a day. MAX. I might not succeed (it’s an experiment) but I’m hoping I learn more today. And tomorrow.
Listening is a form of giving credit. It means you value the words of other.
Listening is a form of integrity. Because everyone offers something, you acknowledge that.
Listening is a form of improving relationships with others.
Listening is a way to outsource good ideas since if you let many others talk, some of them will give you good ideas you might not have thought of.
Buddha didn’t start a major religion by talking. It started because he sat under a tree and listened.
Jesus spent 40 days in a desert. Listening.
Moses listened to his wife (err….I mean a burning bush).
Everything that has moved history happened because of listening instead of talking. Talking inspires. But listening creates the inspiration.
I can say “break all of the above rules” is the final rule.
But I’m not going to say that.
You know why? Because this is not bullshit.
This is not about how to fail or to succeed. You can read those rules in a birthday card.
This is how I failed and succeeded. I hope I can die now without any more pain.
MORE FROM JAMES ALTUCHER
Recommended Blog Post: The 9 Ways To Guarantee Success. I really blew it and everyone knows it. I’ve even spoken at conferences on Failure.
James Altucher Show: John McAfee– The Most Interesting Man in the Universe. How do you summarize a highly colorful life of an inventor, billionaire and philanthropist?
Ask Altucher: How to Become a Master at Networking. Derek Coburn says, “Going to networking events is a waste of time.” You can go to networking events two or three times a week and never realize how much time you’re wasting.