31 Major Causes of Failure

According to Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich" there are thirty-one major reasons or failure. As you go over the list, check yourself by it, point by point, for the purpose of discovering how many of these causes-of-failure stand between you and success.

  1. Unfavorable hereditary background. There is but little, if anything, which can be done for people who are born with a deficiency in brain power. This philosophy offers but one method of bridging this weakness - through the aid of the Master Mind. Observe with profit, however, that this is the only one of the thirty-one causes of failure which may not be easily corrected by any individual.
  2. Lack of a well-defined purpose in life. There is no hope of success for the person who does not have a central purpose, or a definite goal at which to aim. Ninety-eight out of every hundred of those whom I have analyzed had no such aim. Perhaps this was the major cause of their failure. 
  3. Lack of ambition to aim above mediocrity. We offer no hope for the person who is so indifferent as not to want to get ahead in life, and who is not willing to pay the price. 
  4. Insufficient education. This is a handicap which may be overcome with comparative ease. Experience has proven that the best-educated people are often those who are known as "self-made," or self-educated. It takes more than a college degree to make one a person of education. Any person who is educated is one who has learned to get whatever he wants in life without violating the rights of others. Education consists, not so much of knowledge, but of knowledge effectively and persistently applied. 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. Discipline comes through self control. This means that one must control all negative qualities. Before you can control conditions, you must first control yourself. Self-mastery is the hardest job you will ever tackle. If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self. You may see at one and the same time both your best friend and your greatest enemy, by stepping in front of a mirror.
  6. Ill health. No person may enjoy outstanding success without good health. Many of the causes of ill health are subject to mastery and control. These in the main are, (a) overeating of foods not conducive to health. (b) wrong habits of thought; giving expression to negatives. (c) wrong use of, and over-indulgence in sex. (d) lack of proper physical exercise. (e) an inadequate supply of fresh air, due to improper breathing.
  7. Unfavorable 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. This is one of the most common causes of failure. "Old Man Procrastination" stands within the shadow of every human being, waiting his opportunity to spoil one's chances of success. Most of us go through life as failures, because we are waiting for the "time to be right" to start doing something worthwhile. Do not wait. The time will never be "just right." Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.
  9. Lack of persistence. Most of us good "starters" but poor "finishers" of everything we begin. Moreover, people are prone to give up at the first signs of defeat. There is no substitute for persistence. The person who makes persistence his watch-word, discovers that "Old Man Failure" finally becomes tired, and makes his departure. Failure cannot cope with persistence.
  10. Negative personality. There is no hope of success for the person who repels people through a negative personality. Success comes through the application of power, and power is attained through the cooperative efforts of other people. A negative personality will not induce cooperation. 
  11. Lack of controlled sexual urge. Sex energy is the most powerful of all the stimuli which move people into action. Because it is the most powerful of the emotions, it must be controlled, through    transmutation, and converted into other channels.
  12. Uncontrolled desire for "something for nothing." The gambling instinct describes millions of people to failure. Evidence of this may be found in a study of the Wall Street crash of '29 , during which millions of people tried to make money by gambling on stock margin.
  13. Lack of a well defined power of decision. Men who succeed reach decisions promptly, and change them, if at all, very slowly and change them frequently, and quickly. Indecision and procrastination are twin brothers. Where one is found, the other may usually be found also. Kill off this pair before they completely "hog-tie" yo to the treadmill of failure.
  14. One or more of the six basic fears. These fears have been analyzed for you in a later in a separate blog. They must be mastered before you can market your services effectively.
  15. Wrong selection of a mate in a marriage. This is a most common cause of failure. The relationship of marriage brings people intimately into contact. Unless this relationship is harmonious, failure is likely to follow. Moreover, it will be a form of failure that is marked by misery and unhappiness, destroying all signs of ambition.
  16. Over-caution. The person who takes no chances generally has to take whatever is left when others are through choosing. Over-caution is as bad as under-caution. Both are extremes to be guarded against. Life itself is filled with the element of chance. 
  17. Wrong selection of associates in business. This is one of the most common causes of failure in business. In marketing personal services, one should use great care to select an employer who will be inspiration, and who is, himself, intelligent and successful. We emulate those with whom we associate most closely. Pick an employer who is worth emulating.
  18. Superstition and prejudice. Superstition is a form of fear. It is also a sign of ignorance. Men who succeed keep on minds are afraid of nothing.
  19. Wrong selection of vocation. No man can succeed in a line of endeavor which he does not like. The most essential step in the marketing of personal services is that of selecting an occupation into which you can throw yourself wholeheartedly. 
  20. Lack of concentration of effort. The jack-of-all-trade seldom is good at any. Concentrate all your efforts on one definite chief aim.
  21. The habit of indiscriminate spending. The spendthrift cannot succeed, mainly because he stands eternally in fear of poverty. Form the habit of systematic saving by putting aside a definite percentage of your income. Money in the bank gives one a very safe foundation of courage when bargaining for the sale of personal services. Without money, one must take what one is offered, and be glad to get it.
  22. Lack of enthusiasm. Without enthusiasm one cannot be convincing. Moreover, enthusiasm is contagious, and the person who has it, under control, is generally welcome in any group of people.
  23. Intolerance. The person with a closed mind on any subject seldom gets ahead. Intolerance means that one has stopped acquiring knowledge. The most damaging forms of intolerance are those connected with religious, racial and political differences of opinion. 
  24. Intemperance. The most damaging forms of intemperance are connected with eating, strong drink, and sexual activities. Over-indulgence in any of these is fatal to success.
  25. Inability to cooperate with others. More people lose their positions and their big opportunities in life, because of this fault, than for all other reasons combined. It is a fault which no well-informed businessman or leader will tolerate.
  26. Possession of power that was not acquired through self-effort. (Sons and daughters of wealthy men, and others who inherit money which they did not earn). Power in the hands of one who did not acquire it gradually is often fatal to success. Quick riches are more dangerous than poverty.
  27. Intentional dishonesty. There is no substitute for honesty. One may be temporarily dishonest by force of circumstances over which one has no control, without permanent damage. But, there is no hope for the person who is dishonest by choice. Sooner or later, his deeds will catch up with him, and he will pay by loss of reputation, and perhaps even loss of liberty.
  28. Egotism and vanity. These qualities serve as red lights which warn others to keep away. They are fatal to success.
  29. Guessing instead of thinking. Most people are too indifferent or lazy to acquire facts with which to think accurately. They prefer to act on "opinions" created by guesswork or snap-judgments.
  30. Lack of capital. This is a common cause of failure among those who start out in business for the first time, without sufficient reserve of capital to absorb the shock of their mistakes, and to carry them over until they have established a reputation.
  31. Under this, name any particular cause of failure from which you have suffered has not been included in the forgoing list. 
In these thirty-one major causes of failure is found a description of the tragedy of life, which obtains for practically every person who tries and fails. It will be helpful if you can induce someone who knows you well to go over this list with you, and help to analyze you by the thirty-one causes of failure. It may be beneficial if you try this alone. Most people cannot see themselves as others see them. You may be one who cannot.

29 thoughts on “31 Major Causes of Failure

  1. Wow! I never thought of the others listed here. I mean, we would probably realize these reasons only when we really think it over.

    I guess the most common of these are numbers 2, 3 4, 9 and 10.

    Great post Raymond! This is an eye-opener for those who feel like a failure. May this post lead them to solutions that would turn out prosperous. πŸ™‚

    1. Thankful that this made you realize some points. In order to win in a battle, we need to know our enemy. And one of the greatest enemies is our self. We need to have an inventory of which traits we posses that is actually a cause for failure so we can shun away that trait. πŸ™‚

  2. Wow so many causes of failure- each very well defined. Hope this can inspire everyone to help someone who's IN the situations mentioned. NOBODY wants be a failure.

    JeniG of Kalikotpepot

  3. Awesome Post! I can definitely see some steps that I still struggle with and some that I have overcome. What a great way to evaluate oneself. Sometimes we can become comfortable and that can stunt our progress in life. I will surely print this list out and apply to myself. This is useful knowledge that can make us all better. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. I am glad to have shared these points to you Gourmetress. πŸ™‚

      This would somehow give us the alertness as to whether we are bound to succeed with our current actions, or we have to change some of our course because it hinders us to succeed. πŸ™‚

    2. I’ve been surfing on-line more than three hours lately, yet I never discovered any faiicnatsng article like yours. It is pretty worth sufficient for me. Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web might be a lot more useful than ever before.

    1. You have a point, the author of this book actually call it, "temporary defeat" but not failure. We will only encounter failure when we say that it's the final defeat. If we fail and choose to continue fighting, then we make the situation a mere "temporary defeat" and hence is not final.

  4. I think success is just about not giving up. Doing something consistently, diligently, even if it takes years is the key to make it all happen and your dreams come true. Another thing is luck, is you are not lucky whatever you do, no matter how hard you try, it turns out a failure.

    1. You are right!

      Although as to luck, that would be the universe conspiring to make us succeed, it's what we desire that the universe will conspire to make true. And our desires are expressed in our thoughts and emotions. πŸ™‚

  5. I may have failed at some points in life because of certain reasons (and most are definitely self inflicted). However, that does not mean I have given up... I may not have succeeded in finishing my education first time around but 10 years later I'm half way through completing a degree... Without failure, I would never have discovered the one thing I want to succeed in!

    Fantastic post and very thought provoking!


    1. Some failures, the author would call temporary defeat, but some circumstance are not really failure but are necessary event to make you get what is really best for you.

      Some are blessings in disguise. Some are just the way of the universe saying "something is better for you"... πŸ™‚

    1. And another way of looking at it is that you'll be warned, and will stimulate you to change whatever it is that you realize has hindered you to succeed. These points are aimed at making us realize that some of the things that we do or not do actually blocks our way towards success. πŸ™‚

  6. I have failed several times for several reasons. But most of time I can honestly say, base from this post, that my failures usually because of Lack of concentration of effort. Those moments when I felt everything is not right and noone to speak off. Instead, I fpund my self doing something off track to somehow forget. Thanks for this wonderful post!

    1. I happy to hear you've identified some of the causes of your failure. Yet I would not say it was a total failure because you were able to rise above those failures, thus now converting it as a necessary event, a "temporary defeat" or part of your gestation period. Whatever you may call it, those event made you realize some things that made you a better you right now.

      As the famous song goes, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

  7. I think I just read one of the most (and also, should be) the most important blog posts. I mean, these 31 pitfalls are actually factual.

    At some point, we need something like this to ponder on, especially if at times we are suffering one bad happening another, especially on #s 2, 5, 9, 14, 21 and (sometimes) 29.

  8. I have to partial disagree.

    Lack of a well-defined purpose in life.
    Lack of ambition to aim above mediocrity.
    ==> I have met people with no aim to climb higher or get richer, but I don't deem that they fail, they just want to have a simple life.

    Insufficient education:
    ==> Not exactly true. There are too many well-educated douches out there.

    The list may be definitive, but its ties in more on the comparison of personal success against the benchmark of society's perception, but not everyone thinks or need such success.

  9. While getting deeper into the list, I had this weird thought that " I am bound to fail" as I can relate to so many things in the list. God forbid! Thinking aside, it has been an eye opener for me and I have decided to try to set aside all these negative things if I am to succeed. What an interesting post. Everything in the list makes sense to me.

  10. When I came to the USA, everyone I met advised me to read Mr. Hill's book and so I did. There is a lot of wisdom in it even if some of the ideas are questionable. Nevertheless, it's a good thing to revisit his beliefs and you did a great job outlining them. Failure is a great teacher, it is humbling and makes us appreciate our successes even more.
    About ill-health, there are lots of diseases that have nothing to do with mastery and control. Some people inherit a gene that simply opens them to certain genetic illnesses. The best habits might help the person manage the illness, but it has nothing to do with the things he mentioned. Just my two cents. πŸ™‚


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