Why do smart people fail?  That is a question that is always in my mind.  In my line of work, I get to see very smart people achieve goals and build amazing things.  A lot has been written about what they have in common, how they behave.   You can see examples here and here and here.   At one point of another, I have included some of those behaviors in my daily life hoping that I can also achieve my goals.    

I have also witnessed very smart people “fail” or take significantly longer time to get where they want to go.  And I always wonder why is that?,  what is it about these smart and great individuals that fall short of reaching their goals?.   That is a question I always wanted to answer, for the benefit of my clients and my own,  and here is what I have observed.

They think they have all the answers   

They reality is, we don’t know what we don’t know.  When people believe they have all the answers, they start to feel that they have the right to hurt people or even belittle them.  And when people challenge them, they start defending their position rather than trying to see the world from a different perspective.  They believe they are the smartest people in the room.

They are "self made"

When people say, I am a self-made man it really cracks me up.   We are where we are because at one point or another someone gave us an opportunity.   Successful people have attained success because they have had the help of others.  Mentors, Coaches, peers, competitors, critics they all play a part in our success.

They don’t use failure as a learning opportunity   

People fail because they have an unrealistic demand for perfection and when things don’t go they way they envision, they can’t let go.  They seek perfection rather than an opportunity to improve and grow.

They blame others 

People fail because they tend to blame others for their shortcomings, if something goes wrong, then someone other than them must be identified and vilified for causing the situation.  They will throw people under the bus to save face.

 They don’t empathize:

People fail because they lack the ability to see the world as other people see it, understand other people’s feelings, needs, and wants and tend to make snap judgments of others.   

They are afraid

People fail because they are scared of becoming irrelevant and invisible; they fear the competition, and they fear their inability to control everyone and everything.  Being defensive is their coping mechanism, a shield they use to mask their own insecurities and fears.

So what is the main reason?

The number one reason why people fail,  they are not aware;  they don’t look inside and recognize their weaknesses and their strengths.  They don’t see the needs and wants of the people around them, and they have glaring blind spots.

It is my belief that the most important thing we can do to achieve our goals is becoming more aware. The quality of our lives and how we behave is pretty much a product of our perceptions and how we interpret those perceptions.  So if we want our interpretation to match reality and work in our favor, we need to know ourselves, our strengths, our weaknesses and how we affect the behaviors of others.

My coach Gary Ranker helped me make the connection between these behaviors and the lack of awareness.  And as he puts it, to make progress, achieve our goals, reduce mistakes, and make relationships much better, we need to pay more attention.