10 Habits Of Unsuccessful People You Don’t Want To Copy

Do you really think you’ll be successful if you simply copy other people’s habits? If that was the case, success was easy.

I never met a successful person until I was 24. I grew up in a working-class family—I was more around people who were the opposite.

The first successful person I met was an entrepreneur in his forties. When I started my first real business, he was one of my first clients. When I met him, he was slightly overweight, had more money than he could count, and was merry all the time.

But he also lost his wife, the love his life, a half decade before. We became friends. He told me that he never got over it. Even tough he experienced tragedy — he still had a positive outlook on life and did good things.

He truly cared about others. I have to be honest, my first business wasn’t great, but he still gave me a chance to do business with him.

He always said: “I just try to avoid being unsuccessful.” That is the number one thing I learned from him. He said that you should study what makes you unsuccessful, unhappy, broke, fat, stupid. Then, eliminate those things out of your life.

To this day, I still live by that advice. I like his concept of trying not to be unsuccessful. Because what is success? The second best definition that I’ve found comes from Bob Dylan, my favorite musician of all time.

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”
– Bob Dylan

You’ve probably read articles that discuss the habits of successful people. The problem with those type of articles is that they give you conditional promises.

“Eat three eggs with bacon, wash your hair with soybeans, do ten push-ups, and do your daily affirmations, AT THE SAME TIME.”

We have to let go of the “if I do x, I’ll be successful or happy” way of thinking. It does exactly the opposite: You do what other people do. Live the way other people live. I might not know a lot about success, but I’m sure as hell that’s not success.

What follows is a list of things that we shouldn’t do. If you have one of these bad habits, don’t worry, no one’s perfect. If you have two bad habits, you should worry.

Do you have three or more? You might want to change — because one thing is sure: No one wants to be unsuccessful.

1. They Are Always Distracted

Essentialism by Greg McKeown is one of my favorite books. McKeown shares the story of when he met his former classmate, years after graduating.

He told McKeown that he was in between jobs and asked if McKeown could help him. Twenty seconds into the conversation the guy got a text and started looking down to his phone and started responding.

McKeown says: “Ten seconds went by. Then twenty. I simply stood there as he continued to text away furiously.” After 2 minutes he gave up and walked away from the obsessive texter.

Don’t live your life in the future or past, lost in thoughts and worry. If that guy from the example was present, he might have got an awesome job recommendation from Greg McKeown.

2. They Only Talk The Talk

You know what’s better than talking about something? Doing it.

In 2010, Derek Sivers gave a TED talk called Keep your goals to yourselfwhere he presented scientific evidence that talking about your goals is counterproductive.

We see it all the time in real life and on social media: “I’m training for a marathon.” “I’m starting a business.”

The crazy thing is how people react. They applaud you for announcing something. Let’s pause for a second: Saying you want to run a marathon and actually running a marathon are two different things, right?

In your brain, those things are actually not that far apart. Derek Sivers says:

“When you tell someone your goal and they acknowledge it, psychologists have found that it’s called a “social reality.” The mind is kind of tricked into feeling that it’s already done. And then because you’ve felt that satisfaction, you’re less motivated to do the actual hard work necessary.”

Be someone that does things, not someone who talks about things.

3. They Spend Time With Losers

Spend enough time with losers, and you’ll become one. Apply this analogy to any type of person.

Do you want to get fit? Hang out with fit people. People feed off each other’s energy.

What’s better, your friend asking when you’re going to the gym, or your friend asking to go out for the third time that week?

4. They Hate Everything

They especially hate people that are doing well. Why can’t you be happy for other people? Don’t worry, you won’t be a Pollyanna. You can still be cool and be positive.

Give people some love, it won’t kill you. They even hate things that just ‘are’. “Ugh, it rained this morning, and my hair got all messed up. I hate rain.” Common, really?

Having a bad day is ok—everyone get’s irritable once in a while. But if you always hate everything, you’ll have a bad LIFE.

5. They Procrastinate

What’s the benefit of putting things off? I once asked my college professor to extend a deadline for an essay.

He said: “I’m perfectly happy to extend your deadline by a week. The only thing I’m asking you is “will your essay be better if you hand it in a week from now?”

My answer was “no”, so I worked my ass off to finish it on time. Only delay things when you’ll do a better job later.

What’s the point of delaying something if you get the same outcome? Do it now, or do it better later.

6. They Don’t Listen To Others

Unsuccessful people love themselves. To be honest, we all love ourselves, but if you’re unsuccessful, you ONLY love yourself.

We listen to others because we care about them. How else can you show you care? Everyone can give a hug, but not everybody calls you just to ask “How are you?” Ask, listen, care, repeat.

7. They Are Lazy

Never feel like doing anything? We’ve all been there: Not feeling like going to dinner with your partner, or not feeling like buying an awesome present for your mother’s birthday. Let’s face it, it’s all because you’re lazy.

Be a sport and get off your couch — participate with your family, friends, partner. The beauty of life lies in new and novel experiences.

When you’re lazy, you don’t even give yourself a chance to experience new things. It’s also not fair to the people in your life.

8. They Don’t Learn

Learning is one of the most difficult things in the world. It’s not a surprise many people never read a book, never finish school, or never learn from their mistakes. Learning is a struggle.

But think about it: We live in the most exciting time in history for learners. The access to information has never been this easy. In the past, if your dad was a farmer, you became a farmer. Things were like that.

Now, you can be anything you wish — you just need to learn how to do it.

9. They Are Not Nice

Somehow, people think it’s cool to be a jerk. Honestly, it’s way cooler to be nice. You don’t have to be a Buddhist Monk or anything, just be a nice person.

Try it some time, you might make a few new friends. And if you have difficulty defining what a ‘nice person’ is, you’re likely a jerk.

10. They Are Quitters

I saved the worst for last. If there’s one thing you take away from this article, I hope it’s this:

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” — Thomas A. Edison

There’s nothing I can add to that. Actually, there is: Never Give Up.



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  1. I’m so touched by this article. I have all the habits, I just read. You told that one habit is fine, but possessing two habits, I should be worried. Should I begin one by one because I have all of them. I think I should read this article everyday so that I don’t forget this. If possible, I will memorize this verbatim.

    1. Thanks for reading Syed. One habit that defeats all bad habits is self-awareness. Once you are aware of something, you can improve it. So you have nothing to worry about as long as you keep learning.

  2. The sentence “But he also lost his wife, the love his life,” was it “the love of his life”.. I guess.

  3. Thanks to u sir that today i realised my mistake.I am an Indian and a student and preparing for govt sector exams.even after being a good student at college ,I continuously failed to clear it.today I realised that I have adopted the above qualities and honestly speaking each and everyone.now it has become clear for me to work on correcting it

  4. D. you nailed it on the head! I am reading this awesome book on teaching and learning reviewing and comparing some 30 models of teaching. I found this quote that resonated with your detailed essay: “The environment for personal growth is greatly enhanced when people can define their present situations and see the alternatives” B. Joyce & m. Weil, Models of Teaching, 1980.
    Thank you, I will use your blog in my classes. Eduardo

  5. OMG This really hit the nail on the head. I feel so guilty about these habits except for being nice and hating everything. Thank you for this article, very engaging as usual. I’m sure this will help me, I think I’m gonna bookmark this page. 🙂

  6. I can agree with some of the stuff you’re saying but I have met plenty of smart unsucessful people that work hard and are nice – AND dumb sucessful people that are horrible, don’t listen and won’t learn new things. The world isn’t black and white, more a shade of grey where you have to analyse everything.

  7. I appreciate the direct honest way you write. I am most comfortable speaking this way myself. Throughout my life I have received much criticism for being direct and honest. I’ve been called callous and bombastic. How refreshing to read something that I have thought about – those compulsively unsuccessful folks we run into – and read how another person lays out just exactly why an unsuccessful life happens. The weirdest thing I have experienced being around unsuccessful people is their aversion to certain words, like the word ‘require’. Just this morning I was shut down in conversation when I told my spouse that I required something from him. Blam, the conversation stopped after he said back “require is the wrong word”. No surprise we don’t talk much. Nothing has changed over the 50 years we have been married. As long as I don’t “require” anything it’s all good. What a joke.

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