10 Steps You Can Take To Guarantee Failure

by Brad Isaac on May 24, 2006

In the hustle and bustle of this technologically packed world you may decide you really don’t want to achieve any lasting success in your lifetime. Sure, you can find a lot of strategies and tips here that can help you increase your success rate. But what about the people who are perfectly happy not achieving anything? Is it fair that I keep pushing and prodding if someone is content leaving behind a legacy of debt and mediocrity? hmmm…maybe not. So this is for all the people who want to have goals but not achieve them.

1. Make your goals vague – When setting your goals, use adjectives such as “more” and “some.” Goals like “I want to make more money” or “I want to lose some weight” virtually guarantee your progress will be minimal. Be as wishy-washy as possible. And while you’re at it, you might want to set a goal of getting a job doing something.

2. Make your goals difficult to visualize - A good way to do this is to keep changing your mind on the details of your goal. If you are thinking a goal such as: “I want to own a red, blue or yellow Corvette or just a Mustang”, then you are definately on the right track. If you kept that goal planted firmly in your mind, you are virtually guaranteed you’ll never go above a used Hyundai.

3. Think and speak negatively about your goals - Try using words like “I can’t” and “It’s too hard”. Goals such as “I can’t get a promotion, It’s too hard to take on more responsibility” will certainly keep you at the bottom of the food chain. If you can put it in writing or work up enough courage to tell your boss directly, he or she will almost definately avoid promoting you from that point on. Who knows, you might get lucky and get fired! It’s worth a shot anyway.

4. Avoid planning incremental steps - It’s likely that if you have made it this far you are already following this rule already! Take a goal – even a specific goal like “I will double my income by this time next year”. Then simply leave it as-is. Don’t write down any tasks or steps you’ll need to complete in order to achieve it. Just consider the goal a wish and nothing more. Creating a step-by-step plan will only confuse matters because it’s all too easy to take action on simple steps. Action in the direction of your goal would lead to success and you definately don’t want that.

5. Don’t Do – Talk - Because talk is easier than action, this step one of the easiest steps for you to take. Try to fill up as much of your day with socializing as possible. Talk about all the things you will do someday or that you were gonna do. Just make sure you don’t mess it up by doing anything productive. Action is your enemy. Embrace your excuses!

6. Wait until you are motivated - Let’s face it, it’s much too difficult to go jogging or open a mutual fund account when you simply don’t feel like it. So just wait. Waiting gives you the peace of mind that someday, you might do something. But not yet, the timing isn’t right and you aren’t motivated anyway.

7. Don’t set a date - Setting a date when you expect to achieve your goal is too much pressure. Who needs it? Definately not you if you want to avoid progress. You know that goals with dates get done, so by not setting a date you avoid making a commitment. You can keep putting off stuff. Even though people may ask “When are you ever going to get around to reaching your target?”, you have a wild card. By not having a date, you can put off actually doing anything.

8. List why it’s impossible - Now we are getting into the mental game of failing. This is quite possibly your greatest weapon against achievement because it destroys hope and optimism. So as soon as possible, set aside some time to create a long list of how impossible your goal really is. No matter what your target is, I am sure you can come up with plenty of reasons why it’s impossible. Be creative, make up some if you have to (i.e. “It’s impossible for me to lose weight because I was kidnapped by space aliens and injected with a fat-serum.”) Bonus: You get extra points if you can come up with an excuse using UFOs, ghosts or the Bermuda Triangle.

9. Don’t research your goal - You’re the kind of guy or gal who likes to “wing it.” Reading about how others have succeeded achieving a goal similar to you is just a waste of time. Instead of standing on their shoulders, they should be standing on yours! Sure, they might have overcome unbelievable odds to get from homelessness to CEO or 450lbs to a 180lbs – but they were probably just “lucky” anyway. Don’t read anything that promises to help you get to your destination.

10. Think of anything except your goal - Here’s another mental strategy that will put you on the fast track to failure. Think of anything except for your goal. Why visualize success when there’s plenty of clouds, teddy bears, and TV reruns to think about? And while you’re at it, take action on these flights of fancy instead of your goal. I know what you’re thinking…you’re thinking “I wonder if there are any green teddy bears out there?” Now you’re getting it! Focusing on your goal for long periods of time can be difficult and challenging. Thinking about unicorns is easy and fun. Take the easy path, that’s the only way you can fail in record time.

To conclude, I know you might be a bit overwhelmed with all the work you have to do to avoid reaching your goal. You might even think it’s even more work. Never fear! You can do it. Print out a copy and hang it on your bathroom mirror. Post it in your office. Read it every day. Internalize these principals and you can reach depths of failure you have possibly never imagined!

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B. Riley May 25, 2006 at 9:47 am

This is an excellent article! Very well written, and very true!

May 25, 2006 at 12:05 pm

The reverse psychology approach to getting folks off their butts can be very effective. And this article is well written.

Funny thing is I wrote something very similar for comic artists about a month ago called How to Fail as a Comics Artist.


Great minds think alike! XD

May 25, 2006 at 1:42 pm

I am guilty of at least: 1,2,4,6,7 and maybe 10 when it comes to writing my book.

For me, it happens because of 1)Anxiety and 2)Old Crappy Habits that are very easy to fall into. -No excuse for the crappy habits. Anxiety is a little harder to deal with, though.


May 25, 2006 at 1:44 pm

Nice article – one of the best motivational articles I saw so far. Keep going. ;-)

May 25, 2006 at 5:10 pm

Regarding point #3:

“If you think you can’t — you’re right.”

May 25, 2006 at 5:55 pm

Reverse motivation, like Despair.com !

May 25, 2006 at 10:53 pm

Thanks for the comments. :)

It’s interesting how different people have been zeroing in on different items in the list seemed to target them personally.

May 26, 2006 at 12:22 am

That’s the funniest post I’ve seen in a very long time! Distressingly, I can see so much of myself in it… especially #2 and #10: “Think of anything except for your goal. Why visualize success when there’s plenty of clouds, teddy bears, and TV reruns to think about?”

Anonymous May 26, 2006 at 10:53 am

Definately misspelled. Definitely

May 26, 2006 at 1:07 pm

11. Never learn to spell “definitely”.

I know, Anonymous beat me to it.

Eric May 26, 2006 at 3:13 pm

Lol, great article! Thanks for writing something that actually brought clarity to my life right now.

I think its so effective because it shows that those type of thoughts (that everyone has) aren’t always just you deciding to put off success, but can actually be you leading yourself to failure. Maybe not for everyone, but definitely sometimes for me.

Squealer May 26, 2006 at 3:27 pm

Sounds like a good recipe to become a robot. If this is success, give me failure.

Javier May 27, 2006 at 10:49 am

Haha! Perfect description of the perfect procrastinator!
I am very impressed, probably the best article I’ve read in months.
As for me it’s No. 5; btw, what about with thinking of “What may have happened if I had…?” or the classic “When I get…, I’ll sure as hell do…!”?
Thanks for the article

Silvia May 27, 2006 at 6:43 pm

Very good tips! ;-)
I have visited your blog long ago, in the very begining, and now it has so many good articles!

June 3, 2006 at 9:04 am


Peter Hickman October 26, 2006 at 9:50 am

How about:
1) Wait until you horoscope says that the times are optimal for what you want to do
2) You can never do too much research before starting something (the flip side of rule 9), research, research, research. You’ll never get anywhere but you will be too busy to get anything done anyway (this is one for all Universiry students).

October 26, 2006 at 11:12 am

11. Make lists about what NOT to do, like this one. (I think your list is great, but would be better if it was changed to a list called “10 things that guarantee success.”)

Brad Isaac October 26, 2006 at 12:18 pm

Good ones Peter, don’t do anything unless the horoscope says it’s ok.

Eric, thanks for the feedback. There is a year’s worth of posts on how to be successful on this site. :) I invite you to stick around and check them out.

Chad October 26, 2006 at 2:06 pm

This is basically the story of my life.

October 26, 2006 at 2:32 pm

Right on, great article. I try to adhere to as many of these as I can everyday, but its not always easy. But this list pretty much breaks down what it takes to be more successful than the average joe.

Karet Sullivan October 26, 2006 at 3:05 pm

Are this person’s goals shallow or what? Buying in to the cultural obsession with weight loss as the author does is another good way to fritter away your time and energy without actually accomplishing anything.

October 26, 2006 at 5:18 pm

yep, this is my course of action n a nutshell.

spelling police October 26, 2006 at 10:58 pm

This guy could definately use some help with his spelling.

kavau October 26, 2006 at 11:01 pm

This is a great 10-step program to avoiding success! I’ll get started with it tomorrow. No, next week. Or whenever I feel like it.

October 28, 2006 at 8:47 am

Oh yes and don’t forget to let little problems like the misspelling of words like ‘definitely’ get you into a do-nothing funk. You most definitely want to let error detectors bring you down.

Great article marred by moron commenters who masquerade as helpful.

Brad Isaac October 29, 2006 at 2:42 pm

I threw in the misspellings on purpose. Next week, I plan on writing an article with a grammar mistake, let’s see if you can find it. jester

October 30, 2006 at 4:52 pm

[...]10 Steps You Can Take To Guarantee Failure[...]

Jose Aies November 5, 2006 at 5:18 am

“threw in the misspellings on purpose” That’s what I would say too. Also, if you are going to go and bash others’ blogs after something like that, I don’t know what that says about you.

December 5, 2006 at 1:40 pm

I have to say number 6 is my favorite demon. It’s pretty much what I believe has held me back in life. It’s why I am constantly tired, unhappy, and as redundant as it seems – unmotivated!

Tonight, the first thing I am doing is to take a walk even though it will be the last thing I want to do!

December 14, 2006 at 2:38 am

Hey Brad, thanks for posting to my site and thanks for contributing to the mass of sources for amusing anecdotes we are compelled to link to. May your legend precede you!

January 28, 2007 at 11:08 am

Hi Brad, I just wanted to let you know that I trasnlated your post into Turkish. You can see the translation here

Brad Isaac January 29, 2007 at 11:03 am

Thanks Atschikura! Thats cool…I went ahead and linked back to you in the post above. :)

Any other translations are welcome too and I’ll link back to you as well.

anna February 20, 2007 at 8:14 am

I love this! I really thing How not to guides can be so much easier as rather than telling what to do, i find it easier to just be told what I odn’t need to do.

It’s like How to lose a guy in 10 days

June 6, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Excuse me folks, but I was compelled to add the following:

3. Think and speak negatively about your goals
Doing this is like patting your face with your right hand and punching it with the left. It gets you nowhere. Set goals, and passionately love and pursue them

5. Don’t Do – Talk
Life happens when you ACT–on principles, ethics, morals, and goals. Talking and wishing only keeps you further away. Doing brings you closer to achievement. I’d rather have ONE goal each day and achieve it than several in a day and achieve piece-mills of each of them.

6.Wait until you are motivated
Individual drive and effort is gets things done, and if applied persistently and consistently, then success almost comes naturally. If you really have to achieve that goal, then apply enough effort, so much so that you can’t help but succeed.

4cuseds last blog post..Effort

June 30, 2008 at 3:04 am

old post, but still worth to think about … thanks for sharing :)

WatchUOnlines last blog post..johntv.com

March 2, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Excellent post. Very thought-provoking. Another thing you can do is focus on the 80% of the activities that don’t really get results instead of the 20% that matter. This will make it look like you are moving forward but you won’t ever achieve your goal.

January 15, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Hi Brad, I just wanted to let you know that I trasnlated your post into Turkish

Brad Isaac January 15, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Thank you :) . Where can we see it?

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