12 Qualities of Highly Unsuccessful People

The world is full of people. Over 7 billion of them. Some are successful. Others are not. And many people might conclude success is like the lottery. In the right place at the right time. And maybe there is a parallel between circumstances and success.

But I also believe decisions play into those circumstances. What are they? I am certainly not an expert. Not even close. But I have talked to many people. Read books. Experienced situations. And through these, I have seen traits and qualities that are pretty consistent across the board.

So, what marks the difference? What distinguishes a successful person from an unsuccessful one? Well, there are many traits and qualities that breed success, but I want to give you a few.

Here are 12 qualities of highly unsuccessful people.

1.) You are controlled by fear or failure.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.J.K. Rowling
Look, no one is immune from fear. It is a product of humanity. Decisions larger than us will breed fear. The difference between success and failure comes in the response to fear. Some trust in the Lord to handle situations larger than themselves. Others allow the situation in front of them to take control.

Successful people are not scared of failure. God is greater than any mountain. And faith is made real when we stand in front of a mountain with a decision to make. Will we trust God or rely on our abilities? Successful people do the former.

2.) You allow everyone into your inner circle.

Love your neighbor. This is the second greatest commandment (Matt. 22:39). Who’s my neighbor, you ask? Look around. Everyone.

But you are misguided to think Jesus meant this as an invitation to allow everyone into your circle. Jesus loved everyone. Tax collectors. Pharisees. Prostitutes. But he was very selective about his “inner circle.” He spent much of his ministry with twelve men. He even had a tighter “inner circle” of just three (Peter, James, and John).

Successful people are careful about their “inner circle.” I once heard you are an average of your five best friends. So, look at the five people closest to you. What do they value? Do they have ambitions? Goals? Are they life-givers or life-takers?

Love everyone. Choose your friends wisely. They will determine your future.

3.) You try to live a balanced life.

Ah…the balanced life. What a great thing to strive for. Except that it is unattainable. And exhausting. It is also not in the Bible. Yeah, a balanced life sounds good. But a dozen donuts every morning for breakfast also sounds good. Be careful following what sounds good.

The American ideal says, “Go ahead. Add it to your plate. Just stay balanced.” So, we imitate a circus act with 20 plates spinning all around. We try to balance all of them while maintaining our composure. Exhausting. At least to me.

And the broken pieces of our lives reveal that balance isn’t exactly an achievable or desired state.

What’s the answer then? One word…rhythm. Rhythm allows us to operate in the flow of life. Gives us the space to say, “No”. Allows for a Sabbath. Celebrates successes. Rhythm is the life Jesus modeled, not balance.

4.) Your default outlook is “glass half empty.” 

Successful people try to look at situations through the lenses of optimism. They learn from everything. Good and bad. They look for God’s faithfulness and righteousness. “Glass half empty” people are exhausting to be around. No one wants to follow a person who sees the worst in every person and situation.

The world is broken. This is why Jesus came to redeem us. And our role now is to be restorers. But we can’t restore unless we see beauty in the midst of despair. See hope in the midst of sorrow. Successful people look at the world with a Christ-focus. They are eternal optimists. Because God is able to take the worst of situations and birth beauty.

5.) You believe you can do it alone.

Going alone is easier at times. But it is not best. It is not sustainable long-term. Not for people who desire to grow into the image of God. We were created for relationships and community.

Many people believe inviting others into their life is a waste of time. And these people will never be successful. Why? Because these people fail to see they are limited. Just a person. And no individual has all the answers. There is something you can learn from everyone. If you allow yourself to learn.

Having a community of people around you only adds to your insight and wisdom. They share ideas that never would have been on your radar. They point out faults. Even Jesus had a community of people around him. And Jesus is God. If God desires community, maybe you should too.

6.) You are inconsistent.

Long-term consistency will always trump short-term intensity. Write that down. The most successful people are consistent. They show up. They move forward. Crawl. Walk. Run. Doesn’t matter how. They move forward. They don’t take the easy road. They don’t quit.

Consistency often trumps talent. Believe it. The people at the top are not always the ones with the most talent. They are the ones who are left. They continued to show up while everyone else bowed out of the race. Threw up the white flag. Inconsistent people will never be successful. They give up before success has an opportunity to meet them.

Just keep showing up.

7.) You take any criticism as a personal attack.

Haters gonna hate. #truth. But even the most hateful critics give you an opportunity to grow and learn.

Criticism is necessary for growth. It purifies. It exposes inconsistencies. Successful people accept criticism because they value growth. And successful people are always trying to get better. Be a more effective leader. Be more reflective of Christ.

Prideful people look at criticism as a personal attack. Don’t be one of those. It doesn’t promote growth. And we all need to grow.

8.) You strive for perfection.

Strive for excellence. Desire to be the best. But throw this perfection garbage in the trash. It’s a pipe dream. And many talented people fall short of their potential because of an unattainable fantasy.

Only God is perfect. You should strive to be like Him. Praise God for that pursuit. But if you could be perfect (at anything) Jesus would not be necessary. And He is absolutely necessary.

So stop believing you can be perfect. Work from the reality that you are flawed. Strive for excellence. But never for perfection. It will cripple you.

9.) You allow those who know you the least to affect you the most.

Successful people never allow leeches to suck the life out of them. And leeches are out there. If you desire to do anything good, leeches will come. Stomp on them. Do not treat them with disrespect. But never allow their words to impact your job, ministry, or calling.

The people who know you most should be the ones whose words impact you the greatest. Why? Because they know your heart. Your motives. Your intentions. Listen to them. They will tell you what you need to hear.

10.) You are crippled by your past.

Raise your hand if you have made stupid mistakes? I raised both of mine. Past failures should have no bearing on present circumstances. Especially for followers of Jesus. He has wiped those failures away. Completely. Any other whisper you hear is from Satan.

Clinging to past mistakes will cripple your current and future success. Rest in the cross. Jesus said, “It is finished.” And that is what He meant. Learn from your mistakes. But never allow your past to determine who are today.

11.) You believe everyone exists to serve you and meet your needs.

Successful people are not constantly looking for people to serve them. Or meet their needs. They are servants. Jesus said, “The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matt. 20:28). Now if Jesus came to serve people, shouldn’t it tell us something about our approach to life?

Be the friend you want others to be. Be the leader you want others to be. Be the minster or pastor you want others to be. Successful people don’t call people to get in the trenches. Then watch from the sidelines as people dig. They get in the trenches. Start digging. Then encourage others to dig with them.

12.) You neglect the people who matter most.

This is a struggle of mine. Being in ministry, the tendency is to save the world…even at the expense of your family. But I hold to this mentality…You can save the world, but if you lose your family, you are a failure.

Seriously, what have I gained if my ministry is successful, but my family despises me and walks away from Jesus? You have to answer that question for yourself. But I contend you gain nothing. The same is true in the business world. You can become CEO. But if you sacrifice your family in the process, have you gained anything? Successful people never forget the ones who matter most.


I understand this list is not comprehensive. This is where you come in. Leave me your feedback. What are some traits you have seen that characterize people who are not successful?

I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!

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