Why Some Smart, Hardworking People Never Become Successful

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I believed that if smart people worked hard, they would eventually become successful. But as I grew older and began my career, I realized that this is not necessarily the case.

Many people I knew who were intelligent and hard-working have gone on to have notable careers or start their own businesses. However, there were some that drifted along, having made nothing of themselves.

There are a lot of factors that determine success:

(1)  Having fulfilling careers

(2)  Great relationships

(3)  Being healthy

Smarts and work ethic are part of it. However, there is more at play than just these two factors.

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

1.  You Do Not Get Up After a Major Set-Backs

I remember the first time I lost my job. The bank was doing a round of lay-offs because of unprofitability, and I was let go. It took me a few months to find another job, but I used my unemployed time to create another source of income.

I used what little financial capital I had to invest in two foreclosed properties. I then repaired them from scratch. I also started contributing to corporate finance courses on Coursera. During my three-month unemployment stretch, I built two income sources that are still generating cash today!

Looking back at the LinkedIn profiles of some of my colleagues who were let go from the same bank, some are still unemployed, while others have left the industry.

Often, the best revenge is moving onward and living well.

2.  You Do Not Reach Out to New People

It is easy to stick to people you have known for a long time. The problem with old friends is that your same ideas are recycled over and over again. You do not get to learn new perspectives outside your bubble.

Initially, it can be tough to reach out to new people. Aim for a low goal initially, such as introducing yourself to one person a week. Who knows, you may find a new business associate or life-long partner!

3.  You Are Afraid of Change

Instead of resisting change, make the best of them.

Lose your job? Start a new side-hustle or business. Or maybe, you can make a career switch to add depth to your resume.

Being in the same environment makes it hard to adapt to something new. Be open to new concepts and curious about the world around you.

4.  You Are Not Willing to Take Risks

Smart people like me are often risk-averse. We like to be secure in our jobs, the partner we choose, and the foods we eat. While this guarantees security, it is mundane. I hear from my smart and hard-working colleagues that they find their jobs unfulfilling, but are afraid of doing something else.

Picture the man or woman you want to be in 10-years? Does your current job get you there? If not, reconsider and then pivot. By the age of 35, I want to be self-employed and living in Latin America. As a result, I have started learning Spanish and Portuguese and diversifying my income streams.

5.  You Think Success Is Based on Credentials

People that were successful in school are used to being at the top and told how much potential they have. Here are the negative side effects of this. They become entitled to something because of their SAT scores or that they went to Harvard.

Life, however, does not work like that. In the real world, you do not get rewarded based on the work you put in. You get reward based on results.

6.  You Cannot Commit a Decision

Being smart and working hard can cause you to overanalyze things.

And when you do so, delaying the decision is a decision within itself. And oftentimes, delaying the decision yields a worse outcome than making the incorrect decision before! Therefore, when you have 70% of the information, make an informed decision based on the data and forget about it. I had written about this extensively here.

I knew someone who attended several graduate schools, one after another. Ten years later, she still cannot figure out what to do. Rather than dabbling in many endeavors, gather data first. When you believe you have 70% of the data, make an educated decision and stick with it.

Hello and Welcome!

My name is William. I am a private equity investor and the owner of Million Dollar Tips. Over the last 5 years, I have been committed to growing both as a person, and as a professional.

Look at where you want to be in five years, and commit yourself getting there today! Want to learn a new language or earn a million dollars? We’re a community dedicated to help you getting there.

We are here to assemble a central depository of tips, tricks, and life hacks to help people take control of their personal, professional, and financial goals.

Our mission is to empower you to elevate your life, one tip at a time.


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