Charlie's Blog: Why People Fail


Why People Fail

Make sure your worst enemy is not living between your ears.

People think they fail because they lack motivation, discipline, virtue, intelligence, and other things relating to their character. This is not true. This sort of stuff sells a lot of motivational pep talk material meant to boost confidence and inspire people and make money for the talker. Yet, the people who consume this nonsense still fail. Why?

People don't fail because they lack discipline and virtue and motivation. They fail because they are overwhelmed. That's it. If you think about it, you will find this to be correct. In the fog of complexity and confusion, people surrender. They give up. Great leaders, soldiers, and fighters know this which is why they endeavor to create confusion in the minds of their enemies. They are also helped in this by their enemies who allow their thoughts to go wild. When the enemy is overwhelmed in his own mind, he will be defeated.

The key to avoiding failure is to avoid being overwhelmed. The key to avoid being overwhelmed is to embrace simplicity. You embrace simplicity by knowing what to eliminate and what to ignore. If that seems overwhelming to you, it shouldn't be.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones faces off against what appears to be a very skilled man with a sword. Jones pulls his pistol from his holster and shoots the man dead. It is a famous scene, and people love it. What we must focus on is the moment before Indy pulls the gun. Were you scared? Were you wondering what Indy was going to do? That is overwhelm. For a brief moment, our hero was defeated. Did he use cunning, daring, and motivation to overcome the bad guy? No, he just shot the guy. Indy did not overthink the situation. In fact, you could say Indy was a bit of a coward for not giving the swordsman a fair fight. Whatever.

People fail when they think an overwhelming situation requires an overwhelming solution. It doesn't. If you fight the enemy on his terms, he will win every single time. If you fight the enemy on your terms, you will win every single time. Every battle is a struggle to force you to fight on the enemy's terms. This is why every battle is a battle for your mind.

This concept I have just shared with you is the fundamental essence of Sun Tzu's Art of War. Here is a sample of quotations from that great mind:

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

I can go on and on with these quotations. They seem mysterious and inscrutable with its ancient Chinese wisdom. The mystery is erased when you grasp that they all say the same thing. You win when you create confusion in your enemy and eliminate confusion in yourself. That's it.

For the vast majority of us, we have no enemy to fight except ourselves. This makes our task much simpler. You don't need to create confusion in your enemy. You just need to eliminate confusion in yourself. When you do this, you will no longer feel or be overwhelmed.

Simplicity is the tool for success. This is because simplicity eradicates confusion and overwhelm. You don't need sophisticated solutions because these will only compound the problem. You will fail. Put down the sword. Pull out the gun.

Some people are never going to get this. No matter how simply you explain it, it eludes their grasp. They are trapped in a mental prison with no clue that they are holding the key to their escape.

I once tutored a fellow for an English class for college. He was failing the class because he could not write well. I taught him to write in simple declarative sentences. They sounded like something from Dick and Jane. His instructor loved it and read his papers aloud in class. She could not believe the transformation in his writing. His classmates took to calling him "Hemingway" after the writer known for his spartan prose. Yet, he succumbed to his own lack of confidence and returned to trying to sound like a genius in his papers. He was failing again. Fortunately for him, the Fs and the As averaged out to a C which was all he needed to make for his pharmacy degree.

This guy was never going to get it. He could not embrace the simple answer I gave him. He returned to being overwhelmed and confused. This is why he failed. If you allow yourself to be overwhelmed and confused, you will fail, too.

Simplify your life. Simplify your thoughts. Simplify your strategies. Simplify your mind. In that simplicity, you will find success. Simplicity is the antidote to overwhelm. Simplicity is the antidote to failure.

Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.