The 30 Causes of Failure

The 30 Causes of Failure by Napoleon Hill

Think & Grow Rich is a In 1937 bestselling self-improvement book written by Napoleon Hill. This book has been key to numerous people’s success and if you ask high performing and successful people who are lifelong learners, more than likely have read this book. In chapter seven Hill outlines a short list of causes of failures. He later expanded this list to include 54 overall.

This book is bought by most to learn and understand techniques, examples and reasons for success. 

Hill lays out thirteen principles for success in any line of work, summarized from interviews with many individuals who have amassed great wealth. Think of his work as a dissertation from a qualitative longitudinal research project. The science he presents may go a long way to understanding why this book is still a household name, long after his death in 1970

However, I’m a firm believer in success through trial, failure, & trial again. Failing shows us the way by showing us what’s not the way (if that makes sense). So instead of reviewing the book I wanted to break out the 30 reasons Hill outlines as to why people fail, in any line of work. Being conscious of these may at least help us battle against them when & if we come to face them ourselves.

1. Unfavourable Hereditary Background

The reason why this was put first on the list, was because Hill says it’s one of the toughest issues for people to overcome. Hill advises the use of a Mastermind Group to increase brain power by surrounding yourself with more intelligent people.

2. Lack of a Well Defined Purpose in Life

If you don’t have a definitive goal that you’re setting out to achieve, a purpose that you’re trying to fill, you won’t become successful.

3. Lack of Ambition to Aim Above Mediocrity

Personally I don’t see much hope for people that have zero ambition to improve. Any individual that wants to be successful needs to put in the effort to rise above mediocrity. 

It seems a much easier way to live, but the cost appears much higher in the long run.

4. Insufficient Education

Hill suggests that the most successful among us are those that self-educate. A lack of education can be overcome with ambition and passion

“men are paid, not merely for what they know, but more particularly for what they do with that which they know”.

5. Lack of Self-Discipline

I heard Mike Tyson recently define discipline as “Doing what you hate doing, but doing it like you love it”. I think nowadays this “self-discipline” pertains more toward delayed gratification. Putting off the instant reward is harder now in a culture of uber-fast everything.

6. Ill Health

Pretty self-explanatory. I’d draw some parallels here with self-discipline. Eat right and exercise, consistently.

7. Unfavourable Environmental Influences During Childhood.

“As the twig is bent, so shall the tree grow.” Most people who have criminal tendencies acquire them as the result of bad environment, and improper associates during childhood.

8. Procrastination.

THE most common cause of failure. Timing will never be right, start where you stand.

9. Lack Of Persistence

History of business people and entrepreneurs is littered with stories of how persistence was cause of success. Getting up after every knock.

10. Negative Personality

Not so much an unlikeable person, more so a person that thinks negatively. These people repel others and without a mindset change, there is little hope of success.

11. Lack Of Controlled Sexual Urge.

Hill goes into great detail on how sex energy is the most powerful stimuli of all for moving people into action. Lack of control here proves to be very self-destructive

12. Uncontrolled Desire for “Something for Nothing”

Business is an exchange of values. I believe you become successful when you are able to help other people or other businesses. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

13. Lack of a Well Defined Power of Decision

Hill refers to Henry Ford a lot in this section saying Ford had a great ability to make decisions fast, and change them very slowly.

14. One Or More Of The 6 Basic Fears

Poverty, Criticism, Ill health, Jealousy, Old age, Death.

15. Wrong Selection of Mate in Marriage

Apparently, a very common cause of failure. It does make sense than an unhappy marriage and home life will lease to the destruction of ambition though.

16. Over Caution

Probably as dangerous as under caution. But, with over caution, you will never take risks. No risk, no reward.

17. Wrong Selection of Associates in Business

You can imagine the litany of ways this will produce failure, we don’t need to state the obvious here.

18. Superstition and Prejudice

I think this comes back to fear. Successful people are afraid of nothing.

19. Wrong Selection Of A Vocation.

There’s no way you’re ever going to really succeed in a role you hate. Even if you made it to the top of your totem pole, can you deem yourself successful whilst being miserable in your job?

20. Lack of Concentration of Effort

Shout out to my generation that apparently have the attention span of a potato these days. But no matter the age, concentrating on something for a long period of time is hard, it just is. We’re back to discipline again.

21. The Habit of Indiscriminate Spending

Wants Vs Needs. Also, there’s just plain wasting money! The successful reinvest, mostly in themselves.

22. Lack of Enthusiasm

This seems to be where those simply chasing money will start to fall off, unless you are passionate and have enthusiasm for the way in which you earn money. Also, enthusiasm is contagious, people will naturally want to work with you and for you.

23. Intolerance

“The person with a “closed” mind on any subject seldom gets ahead. Intolerance means that one has stopped acquiring knowledge.”

24. Intemperance

Excess of anything usually is bad. The three worst kinds of intemperance that one should remember are connecting with eating too much, drinking (alcoholism), and sexual activities.

25. Inability to Cooperate with Others

The only way to get what you want, is to help other people get what they want; and that won’t happen for anybody who refuses to cooperate with others.

26. Possession of Power Not Acquired Through Self-Effort

Power seems to be a very delicate thing to master, a very difficult thing to attain and  something that takes a great deal to keep. If you’ve acquired power without having worked for it, you most likely lack the skills, habits, experience and knowledge to know what to do with it.

27. Intentional Dishonesty

Come on, your Mother thought you this one!

28. Egotism & Vanity

People can spot these two traits in others quite fast, which will warm them to keep away. What have we learned so far? You need people in order to be successful.

29. Guessing Instead of Thinking

There are going to be times when gut feeling wins out, but here Hill speaks about those that are simply too indifferent or lazy to go and find the facts and information needed to make a well informed decision.

30. Lack Of Capital.

You have to spend money to make money! Usually this is a big cause of failure for new businesses. You’ll inevitably make mistakes and mistakes cost money. Also, you need some capital to carry you though the reputation building stages.

Think and Grow Rich is the combined wisdom from more than 500 of America’s most successful individuals. Their insights were then narrowed down into 13 principles and contribute to what Hill refers to as an overall “Philosophy of Achievement.” 

However, refusing to let Think and Grow Rich be defined purely as a method or system for success, Hill stated that the goals of his book were:

  1. To help the reader become self-aware.
  2. To help the reader understand how to become more effective amidst the immutable laws of the universe.

Napoleon Hill Quotes on Failure

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