Photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com
Think back to when you were in high school, when things were simpler. Do you remember that person who stood out amongst the class? That person everyone thought would change the world one day? They got straight A’s on their report card and were praised all the time. People would talk about the things that person would go on to do one day.
Fast forward a decade or two to the present day. You haven’t seen anything spectacular the person has done. In fact, you haven’t heard anything at all.
Maybe you know someone like this. Or…maybe you are that person.
I used to think that intelligence and a strong work ethic were all you needed to be successful. But it turns out that’s not always true. Both are important, but they aren’t a guarantee for success in life. A number of other factors come into play.
Here are seven reasons smart, hardworking people can’t find success:
1. They don’t reach out to new people.
Let’s face it. It’s easy to stick to people you’ve known for a long time. You know each other’s histories and can laugh at inside jokes together. However, only staying with familiar people means that the same ideas are recycled over and over again, and you don’t gain new perspectives outside your bubble.
While old friends are great to have, getting to meet new people is equally as important. It can be tough to reach out at first, but starting small can help. Aim for a low goal initially, such as introducing yourself to one new person a week. Meeting new people helps you gain insight into perspectives that might not be the same as yours.
2. They can’t adapt to new situations.
A change in environment, whether it’s a change in circumstances or events, means that there’s a sudden need to adapt. Sometimes being in the same environment for a long time means it’s hard to suddenly make the best of a different situation.
The good news is that changes are also a chance for opportunities and innovation. Instead of resisting changes, see how you can make the best of them and allow them to work for you. Be open to new concepts and stay curious about the world around you. I like to apply the Page-Turner Technique to keep myself motivated and excited to learn.
Maybe there’s a new business opportunity or a life-changing event around the corner. Learn to adapt and you’ll be more successful.
3. They don’t take calculated risks.
There are two types of risks. Blind risks, where something is done simply to seek thrill or excitement with a potentially long-term disastrous effect; and calculated risks, where there is potential loss, but the upside is great and could be life-changing.
I think we can both agree that calculated risks are what we’re aiming for.
Smart people often opt for neither, though, because they choose to follow the safe route. They might follow the same path as their peers or choose a career because it’s considered acceptable by everyone else. While there’s a degree of security in doing so, it also means that there’s less chance of achieving great success by branching out.
4. They think they deserve success because of their credentials.
People who worked hard in school frequently have an impressive alma mater, numerous achievements, and high grades. They’re used to being at the top and told about their potential.
All these things can feel good, but they also have a detrimental effect. 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, results matter. Getting results means that there is hard work, strategic thinking, and some luck involved. You can increase that last factor by working on the first two.
5. They always chase the next big thing.
One thing I hear often from high achievers is that they hate wasting time. Smart people are all too aware of the value of their time, as time and effort spent on one thing means that they could potentially be missing out on something else.
While this is a strong attribute, it also leads to a bad habit of 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 better results in the long run rather than going after one thing, getting bored, and then going after something new.
6. They can’t commit to a decision.
Being smart and working hard can open up numerous doors. People normally see this as a good thing, but it can be as restricting as having few choices.
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 10 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 decision, so that you know whether or not an option suits your personality and lifestyle.
7. They don’t believe in their capabilities.
Surprisingly, smart people can underestimate their own abilities. They are their own worst critic, causing them to believe that they can’t accomplish as much as they can.
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 in their goals or starting on anything in the first place.
So instead of letting fears of “what if” or “I’m not good enough” keep you back from something new, just try it out. Getting started beats aiming for perfect every time.