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7 Reasons Why Smart, Hardworking People Don’t Become Successful

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smart unsuccessful people

For the longest time, I believed that if smart people worked hard and grew up in a reasonably nurturing environment, success would come eventually.

I looked at other people and thought, “Wow, that person’s going to go on to do great things.”

But as I grew older, I realized that’s not necessarily the case. A few people I know who are intelligent and have a strong work ethic have gone on to do notable things, while many others are doing fine. Unfortunately, there are some that drift along, unsure about what to do.

I then realized that there are a lot of factors when it comes to success, whether it means having a fulfilling career, having great relationships, or staying healthy. Yes, smarts are part of it, and so is work ethic. But there’s more at play than just these two factors.

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

1. You don’t reach out to new people

It’s easy to stick to people you’ve known for a long time. You know each other’s histories and can laugh at inside jokes together. The problem with old friends, though, is that the same ideas are recycled over and over again, and you don’t get to learn new perspectives outside of your bubble.

It can be tough to reach out at first to new people, but starting small can help. Aim for a low goal initially, such as introducing yourself to one person a week.

“You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it.” – Lionel Messi

2. You are averse to change

Being in the same environment for a long time makes it hard to adapt to something new. The good news is that change presents a chance for opportunities and innovation.

Instead of resisting changes, see how you can make the best of them. Maybe you can cater to a growing businesses need or see a different perspective. Be open to new concepts and curious about the world around you.

 

3. You’re not willing to take risks

Smart people often choose the safe route. They might follow the same path as their peers or choose a career because it’s considered acceptable by their peers.

While this guarantees a degree of security, it can be mundane. I hear so often from smart people that they find their jobs unfulfilling and that they want to do something else, but are afraid to do so.

If you’re thinking about branching out into unfamiliar territory, consider what your life will be like decades from now if you opt not to pursue something. Will you regret it, or will you be happy with your decision?

 

4. You believe you deserve success based on credentials

People that worked hard in school are used to being at the top and told how much potential they show. This seems good initially, but there are some negative side effects.

I’ve heard people claim they deserve something because of their intelligence or where they went to school. They expect things to pan out automatically because of their credentials. Sadly, though, life doesn’t work like that.

In the real world, you don’t get results based on the work you put in. You get results based on the combination of hard work, strategic thinking, and some luck involved. You can increase that last factor by working on the first two.

 

5. You constantly go after whatever’s exciting at the moment

One thing I hear often from high achievers is that they hate wasting time. Smart people are all too aware of the value of their time, as time and effort spent on one thing means that they could potentially be missing out on something else.

While this is a strong attribute, it also means chasing the next big thing and not following through. Starting out in any field or endeavor is tough, and getting through the initial obstacles requires patience.

Focusing effort on one goal yields much better results in the long run than going after one thing, getting bored, and then going after something new.

 

6. You can’t commit to a decision

Being smart and working hard can open up numerous doors. Unfortunately, having too many options can be as restricting as having few choices.

An abundance of choices makes it difficult to decide what to do. As a result, it’s tempting to jump around and “see what suits you”. I knew someone who attended numerous graduate school programs, one after another. Over ten years later, she still can’t figure out what to do.

Rather than dabbling in many endeavors, I suggest testing things out first. Talk to other people and do the research before making a big decision, so that you know whether or not an option suits your personality and lifestyle.

 

7. You don’t believe in yourself

Surprisingly, smart people can underestimate their own abilities. They are their own worst critic, causing them to believe that they can’t accomplish as much as they can.

Smart people have high standards when it comes to their work. Whenever they work on a project, they tend to scrutinize and second-guess the final product.

This seems like a good thing on the surface, but it’s often more debilitating than helpful. Perfectionism can hinder people from progressing forward in their goals or starting on anything in the first place.

“It’s difficult to believe in yourself because the idea of self is an artificial construction. You are, in fact, part of the glorious oneness of the universe. Everything beautiful in the world is within you.” – Russell Brand

So instead of letting fears of “what if” or “I’m not good enough” keep you back from something new, think of how you want your life to look like years from now. Getting started beats waiting for something to happen anytime.

What will you do today to get closer to your success? What are some things that have been holding you back?

Melissa Chu is the founder of Jumpstart Your Dream Life, where she helps people get productive and incorporate positive habits into their everyday lives. You can download the guide that shows you how to achieve your goals (without giving up). So get started today. Download the guide here.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Jan Odegaard

    Jul 18, 2017 at 3:51 am

    Great article! Thanks.
    I find that very hard working / smart people never seem to get enough so success perhaps in their mind is never achieved. I also believe that their social skills (arrogance/lack of humility) can be a major factor blocking their way to success.

  2. Yvonne Pacella

    Sep 19, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you so much that was a beautiful writing and so true. I have suffered all my life with not being focused on just one thing maybe the fear of succeeding has been stronger than I thought

  3. Sourish

    Sep 16, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    What a brilliant explanation!! Although I am doing some of them, but will make immediate amends to my life to meet the rest. Many thanks once again

  4. Julie

    May 24, 2016 at 3:03 am

    This is totally me!

  5. Rob Malone

    May 18, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    Great article.

    I have got to believe self-doubt to be one of the biggest sabotaging things for success. Most people are much more capable than they give themselves credit for.

  6. Allison Hayes

    May 6, 2016 at 4:02 am

    Awesome piece! So incredibly helpful!!

  7. Tim Denning

    May 3, 2016 at 5:05 am

    I know plenty of people Melissa who are very smart but if there psychology is not equally as smart, they end up struggling to find jobs. Thanks for your article!

    • Melissa Chu

      May 3, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      Thanks Tim, yes often it’s not about just hard work or doing well academically. Many other factors are important to consider such as understanding people, finding a strategy that works, etc.

      Melissa

  8. Rishabh Jain

    Apr 30, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    Well that’s pretty much the same case with me, i am running a successful blog but still i lack interaction with people around me that’s why i am exploring more ways to be successful.

    • Melissa Chu

      May 3, 2016 at 5:13 pm

      Thanks Rishabh, connecting with others and learning how you can help them is key to helping yourself.

      Melissa

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