Wellbeing / Work styles

Three ugly habits of successful people

Success can be wonderful, but it’s costly and not always pretty.


I know people who’ve achieved great things by behaving in ways that do more harm than good to themselves and those around them. The result is: they reach their goal, but at a cost.

Does it have to be this way? Or is it possible to find the beauty in these ugly habits, and adopt them without collateral damage?

Here are the three red flags:

Talking big

Hearing someone bang on about their latest financial wins, the big-name investor they just met or the far-fetched opportunities lining up at their feet makes me cringe (and makes me want to hang around them less or ‘unfriend’ them on Facebook).

I see the logic: Announcing their goals and activities to the world makes those things more real and forces the person to follow through with making them happen.

But while confidence is attractive, boastfulness is repellent. Don’t cross the line while sharing your aspirations and successes with others will and you’ll realise your dreams without losing friends.

"While confidence is attractive, boastfulness is repellent."

Fear of failure

It can be an excellent motivator, but it can also lead to obsessive perfectionism or complete inertia. Like resisting a riptide, fearing failure can drag high achievers underwater. The trick is to go with it – a bit of fear never hurt anyone – but not to let it paralyse you.

Want more articles like this? Check out the work styles section.

Disappearing act

Successful entrepreneurs often talk of a time before their ‘big break’ when they shut themselves off from the outside world and devoted their waking hours to their work. Certainly, periods of intense focus can do much for productivity and business performance, but if they come at the expense of relationships – does the result really count as a ‘success’?

If you’re down a rabbit hole of self-absorption, consider whether you’d be okay emerging to an empty nest or deserted friendship circle. No? Then stay connected with the people that matter to you. Keep the bursts of intensity short and frequent rather than long and drawn out. Manage expectations by communicating your commitments with loved ones. 

Stay on the sweet side of these sour habits, and success will ultimately look a whole lot better.   

Are there any habits you don’t admire in successful people, and could they be turned around to work to your advantage?

Jodie McLeod

is a freelance copywriter, editor and journalist, and former Editor of Flying Solo. If you're after an intelligent crafter of catchy copy who has loads of experience with words, ads and ideas, get in touch.


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