Do you regularly catch yourself thinking, “Why do I suck at everything?”
There are two ways you can go about this.
You can either tell yourself that you are being too hard on yourself (like most people do). Or you can find the root cause.
Learn how different personality types sabotage their own success, and what you can do about it.
“Why do I suck at everything?” my friend asked amid tears. She had just confessed to me that she was unhappy with her job, her relationship status, and her health.
It was a question I knew all too well.
I had been struggling with achieving success too. But where she lacked discipline, I had a different problem.
I would apply myself, but only up to a point. As soon as I could spot the finish line, I would lose interest and switch to a different project. I couldn’t get myself to run the last 20 percent of the race. It felt maddening.
Then there was my other friend, who lacked drive. Having grown up overly protected, he had never pushed against his comfort zone. As a result, his health was quickly deteriorating.
All three of us were above-average intelligence, well-educated, and came from relatively privileged backgrounds. Yet, we were all not living up to the high hopes we had for ourselves when we were younger.
Acknowledge the Facts
When you are failing at life, it is tempting to make excuses.
There are plenty of justifications to choose from. You could tell yourself you are being too hard on yourself or that you are really more successful than you realize.
But self-delusion won’t help.
If you are not getting the results you want, it is time to act, not to gloss over things. Just because most people eventually make peace with a life of mediocrity doesn’t mean you should, too.
Take a long, hard look at yourself. Analyze where you have gone wrong. Then fix it.
This is what we will do in this article.
Let’s Get Real About Success
We live in a world where everybody is supposed to be eligible for anything, including success. But this is a pipe dream.
The truth is — success is the exception, not the rule. It is for the few, not the many.
That is not due to some elitist conspiracy. It’s our own fault. We could have success — but we are not willing to put the work in.
We don’t want to always be at the office and even work weekends, hardly seeing our family and friends.
We don’t want to eat bland, healthy foods, and miss out on pizza and burgers.
We don’t want to get rejected by attractive people at the bar when we could comfortably watch internet porn at home.
But most of all, we don’t want to put the reps in. We hate monotony. It makes us feel like robots.
That is why success eludes the many. It is not systemic injustice — it is you. We don’t want to deal with the grind.
The 5 Anti-Success Types
Different people weasel out of doing the hard work in different ways.
The 5 Anti-Success Types Are:
- The thrill chaser
- The couch potato
- The switcher
- The juggler
- The rule-monger
Understanding what type you are will give you a better chance of overcoming it.
1. The Thrill Chaser
This type gets easily excited about improving their lives. They will enthusiastically start a diet, join a gym, apply for a new job, etc.
But as quickly as they get excited, they get bored.
That’s because success is inherently boring. You have to do the same boring thing, day in and day out.
At the gym, you have to do your squats. In your business, you have to do your cold calling. In your relationships, you have to work on stuff.
Success feels dull. This, the thrill chaser cannot have.
Thrill chasers are junkies — they are addicted to strong emotions. They crave stimulation, ups and downs.
They have never learned to place their strategic mind above their emotions. Thus, they cannot endure feeling bored, even in service of a better life.
What to do:
When you are a thrill chaser, you must relearn your relationship with your emotions.
In the past, you were chasing excitement. Now, you must reverse that logic.
If something feels exciting, stop yourself immediately. If something feels boring, go further in that direction.
Of course, as a recovering thrill chaser, this will scare the hell out of you. What’s the point of life if there is no drama? You might as well be dead.
But this is a fallacy. Because if you consistently do boring stuff, you will eventually arrive at bigger, better thrills.
Take the rigorous training regiment of Michael Phelps. He spent years in the pool, pushing himself to the max. The result? He became a superstar athlete, getting all the excitement he could ever have asked for, and then some.
There is more and better of that stuff that you crave so badly. But to get it, you first have to go cold turkey.
2. The Couch Potato
The couch potato lacks drive.
Just the thought of improving their life — their fitness, their finances, their dating life — makes them feel exhausted.
The couch potato is the opposite of the thrill chaser. The thrill chaser is high energy, the couch potato is lethargic. Where the thrill chaser starts project after project only to abandon them shortly after, the couch potato never gets started in the first place.
People in this category often suffer from some kind of addiction. It might be junk food, alcohol, drugs, internet porn, or a combination of these. The common theme — all these vices provide instant pleasure. No effort necessary.
The couch potato will never question others in any way. “Live and let live,” is the maxim they live by. That makes them nice to have around.
They do, however, have an opportunistic streak. They will jump on freebies, just to avoid work. This freeloader tendency is less endearing.
What to do:
The first thing you must realize as a couch potato is that things are only going to get worse.
When you always do as little as possible, you regress. You get fat, your finances deteriorate, and you have fewer romantic options. Add the natural decline that comes with age, and you are facing a gloomy future.
Only if this realization fully sinks in do you stand a chance at turning things around.
The trick is to find the right levers. Because you have so little energy to start with, it’s crucial to create positive momentum early on. This will carry you through.
For that reason, I recommend starting with a health-related or dating-related goal.
When you improve your health, e.g., by eating better, you will experience an energy boost. You can then utilize that surplus energy for other, more ambitious goals.
With dating, it’s a similar story. If you are normally the lethargic kind but suddenly find yourself in an exciting relationship, that energy will rub off on you. You will have more drive to improve other areas of your life, too.
Also, find role models. Attach yourself to people with a higher energy level than yours. This way, you get to observe first-hand how ambition can make a positive difference in someone’s life. It’s learning through osmosis.
3. The Switcher
At first glance, the switcher is doing a lot of things right.
They are dedicated to a project. They understand that the initial excitement will eventually give room to routine. They realize that they must still get their reps in.
And so they grind away, day in and day out.
But only up to a point. There comes a fateful day in every switcher’s life when they prematurely think that they have already done enough.
This inflection point is not arbitrary. It occurs several years into their journey.
So far, they have done well for themselves. They have acquired some serious skills in their chosen area. Other people seek out their expertise and are willing to pay for it.
But the switcher is not a true master yet. They have gone 80 percent of the way, but the last 20 percent are still ahead of them. They are good, but not world-class.
The problem is that these last 20 percent are exponentially costly. To get from good to world-class, you have to invest just as much energy as you have already invested.
This disproportional effort irks the switcher. Why work so hard for so little gain? It seems like a waste.
Also, there are shiny objects to distract them. They think to themselves, “Instead of trudging on, I could make great strides with this new project.”
Then there is the social component.
The switcher has a strong need to feel superior. By having gone 80 percent of the way, they have surpassed the average practitioner. The switcher revels in that triumph.
But if they decided to push further, they would now have to compare themselves to the true high performers, the best of the best.
In this context, they wouldn’t feel special anymore. On the contrary, they might come up short.
By taking on a new area of focus, they can avoid that risk. They now compete against the average practitioner again, which they know they will outdo again.
For all these reasons, the switcher keeps switching. But in rare moments of truth, they too, ask themselves, “Why do I suck at everything? Why can’t I see anything through, just like these truly elite performers?”
What to do:
If you are a switcher, you need to realize that while the last 20 percent are exponentially costly, they are also exponentially rewarding.
We are all smitten by true mastery, exactly because it is out of our collective reach. We are willing to pay good money simply to be near it.
Athletic coaching comes to mind. I have seen clients shell out thousands of dollars per hour just to be trained by a world champion. It doesn’t even matter if that person is a good coach; the client simply wants to bask in their greatness.
Also, going all in on one thing is not as restrictive as it might seem to the switcher. There is a bleeding-over effect. When you become extremely good at one thing, this will carry over into other aspects of your life.
For example, if you become an extremely successful businessperson, this will also increase your chances in the sexual marketplace.
Likewise, being rich will allow you to hire a private trainer, a personal chef, and the best doctors, thus improving your health.
Or you could employ the best teachers to quickly pick up a new area of knowledge.
So, stop worrying you will stuck in a box.
But most importantly, come to grips with your fear of competition.
What is the point of comparing yourself to the incompetent masses? Do you really want to settle for being the one-eyed king of the blind?
Get over your ego and become comfortable around competition. Instead of avoiding high performers, actively seek them out. They will take you to new heights.
4. The Juggler
Jugglers falsely assume that they can always squeeze in more — more jobs, more fun activities, more lovers. Not wanting to miss out on anything, they try to juggle all of these.
In the juggler’s mind, there are no limits. Whatever you want, you can have it. Just muster a little bit more willpower.
When that doesn’t work out for them — as it never does — they resort to a hack mentality. They will now try to find ways to game the system.
But if there really were such hacks, wouldn’t we all soon be using them? This is a question the juggler has no answer for.
The juggler suffers from a massive case of FOMO. They cannot stand the idea that someone is doing something interesting that they are not part of. They must have been there.
Also, the juggler is highly susceptible to marketing. They enjoy attending seminars where some guru is sharing a powerful “secret method” with them.
In general, the juggler loves authority figures. If someone is standing on a stage, it means they must be an expert.
The juggler is stuck in an infantile stage. They don’t want to face the ultimate truth behind growing up — that you must choose. They want everything.
But it’s hard to constantly be at war with reality. Sometimes, even the most deluded juggler will ask themselves, “Why do I suck at everything? Why am I not experiencing success, as the gurus promised me? Might it be that I have stretched myself too thin?”
What to do:
If you are a juggler, the first step is to develop an appreciation of reality.
You must stop referring back to gurus whose claims you cannot justify. Instead, start basing your assessments on your own life and the lives of those you personally know. If they are struggling with cramming it all in, maybe it’s just not possible?
Also, start thinking of self-restriction as a benefit. If you give yourself permission to go all in on one project, you also give yourself permission to be bad at other things. That is liberating.
Overcome the FOMO fallacy. By splitting up your resources over too many projects, you will never gain critical mass anywhere. By trying to experience everything, you will experience nothing.
Turn this into an experiment. Make a pact with yourself to focus on one thing for the next six months. Put everything else on hold. Then see what happens. If you don’t like the results, you can still go back to your old ways.
By doing so, you keep the jitters at bay. Six months is not too long; even a juggler can keep his feet still for that long. But once you see the progress, you won’t go back. You will get addicted to the feeling of success.
5. The Rule-Monger
Rule-mongers lack imagination. They follow the trodden path.
For example, in business, they will only choose business models that already exist. If everyone around them is starting a SaaS company, that’s what they will do.
Another example is health advice. Rule-mongers will go vegan simply because everybody else is doing it.
Rule-mongers are often hard workers. Where every other type has issues with consistency, the rule-monger will keep doing the same thing indefinitely. It is not in their nature to question the process.
The rule-monger’s lack of imagination is not due to stupidity, but due to fear. Deep down, they feel insecure about themselves and their place in the world.
Sticking to “common sense” is their way out. It makes them feel safe. It also allows them to feel superior to those who don’t play by the rules, all these weird dreamers.
But if you lack any appetite for innovation, there is a ceiling to what you can achieve. You don’t get extraordinary results by doing what everybody does; you get them by going against the grain.
Occasionally, the rule-monger will have to face this truth. They will encounter people who are not afraid to try things, and hence get better results with less effort. In those moments, even the most conservative ruler-monger will ask themselves, “Why do I suck at everything? Why are other people surpassing me, even though I’m putting more work in?”
What to do:
If you are a rule-monger, you must understand that your ostentatious strength is an illusion. You must acknowledge your deep-rooted insecurity.
Just admitting your insecurity to yourself will improve things. You can work with that fear. Whenever you get scared, you can remind yourself that this is what you do — you get scared. It is your normal reaction to everything, and therefore nothing to be worried about.
It is also crucial to start small. Your steps into the unknown must be tiny.
For example, instead of implementing a daring new business idea, just talk to people about it. Maybe you keep doing this for six months until you finally feel comfortable with the idea.
Then your next tiny step might be to write a business plan. Take your time; give it another six months. Then, you might show this hypothetical business plan to somebody.
To most people, just reading about this snail-passed progression will make them impatient. But unlike most people, as a rule-monger, you have no problem sticking things out. If you learn to manage your fear, you will become like an underpowered tank — slow, but unstoppable.