The Failure of Smart People

Picture of lazy dog
But wait…I’m totally smart!!

You’ve been successful at most things you try, right? Whether it was in sports or fitness, career, marriage, crafts…whatever you set your mind to, you made it happen.

Now you have this new idea. And it’s probably really brilliant. And you could turn it into a successful business. You’re smart! Why can’t you make it happen?

The truth is, smart people tend to fail in business – a lot! Why? Here are three reasons your brilliance can work against you (and how to make it work FOR you instead).


1. You’re asking for advice.

“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t” – Erica Jong, American Author and Teacher

That pretty much sums it up. You’ve stopped listening to yourself and are seeking advice from others.

There is a big difference between seeking advice and getting help, or coaching, or counsel, or mentoring. The thing with “advice” is that it comes from somebody else’s story of success, what worked for them, or worse, stories about their fear of failure. And people give advice for free so you usually get what you paid for.

Coaching, mentoring, seeking counsel or asking for help can be powerful ways to advance your dream because the right professional is not invested in your success or failure. She can ask you the tough questions that friends, family and you are not willing to ask; he can challenge your ideas; uncover patterns of behavior that stand in your way; and hopefully has, or has helped others, achieve the results you are looking for.

But smart people often think they know all the answers so they look for advice to confirm, or counter, a thought they already have. And one can ALWAYS find support of argument on the planet – no matter the brilliance or stupidity of it.

2. You’re flying solo.

Like we just said, smart people think they know everything. And that often leads to thinking they can DO everything. So smart people tend to try to “go at it alone.” Flying solo can be driven from many aspects.

Perhaps they can’t be bothered with everyone else’s s slow pace…or “dumb questions”…or need to know details…or need for chit-chat…or need to launch a product before it’s ready…

So smart people tend to fail because they don’t know how to build a team to support them. You can and will hear the most successful people say “I surrounded myself with people smarter than me” at least in some area of their life.

3. In theory, you’re smart.

ZigDog Tongue
The smartest dog in the room!

Have you ever met a person that has been a genius in school, but can’t seem to survive the day-to-day basic activities of life? Or heard of that person who dropped out of high school or college only to go on to become a rockstar business owner?

Book “smart” is different than experience “smart”. And we need both kinds of “smart” to succeed. You need to understand the theory of what you want to accomplish – like the marketplace, or the way your spouse sees the world, or your goals or vision – AND you need to take action – early and often.

Most people who identify with “being smart” have succeeded in school or corporate business. The problem is these environments often do not require people to truly learn to think – only how to perform from memory or learned behavior. And when you set out to do something new – like follow your dreams – you must learn to take ACTION.

That requires being willing to look foolish, be wrong, be uncomfortable…or in short, being WILLING TO FAIL! And smart people don’t like failing.

4. You’re asking the wrong questions

Finally, more often than not, “smart” people are asking questions about why they can not do something. It is a natural habit that stems from being used to…being good at stuff. So when smart people go try something new, they often scratch their heads and ask “why is THIS not working?” or…

“Why can’t I make sales?”

“Why don’t I have enough money?”

“Why am I not successful?”

“What is wrong with my plan?”

Do you see the fundamental problem with these questions? The problem is…you’ll get answers to your questions! Our brains do not distinguish between CAN and CAN’T, or DO and DON’T. So if we ask “why CAN’T I do something?” you will see all the reasons you can’t do it.

So be smart. Ask a question you really want to know the answer to. How CAN I do this? What else do I need to know to be a success? Where is the opportunity to make more money?

This is a subtle practice with powerful results. The new results can be immediate, but it is a practice to stick with for life.

Conclusion: Look forward to failing!

If you continue to seek advice rather than ask for real guidance and learn to trust your gut, if you keep flying solo rather than build a team of experts, if you insist on relying on your theoretical academic brain rather than taking action…you will fail. It’s guaranteed.

And, if you take action early and often, you are bound to make mistakes. In other words, you will fail.

So look forward to it. Redefine failure as the only way to learn.

Here’s another article written by my business partner and husband that outlines the Keys to Causing your own Success…

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