Learning From Mistakes

25 Mistakes Successful People Never Make Twice

Everybody makes mistakes. Failure is when you make the same mistake over and over.
25 Mistakes Successful People Never Make Twice
Image credit: Deagreez | Getty Images
VIP Contributor
Author of A Paperboy's Fable: The 11 Principles of Success
10 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Everybody makes mistakes -- it’s part of life. In fact, it’s through our mistakes and failures that we acquire the experiences and insight that allow us to succeed.

Some people have a hard time admitting it when they make a mistake. However, successful people recognize when they’ve made a blunder. They learn from it, grow and then move on. They know that if they ignore a mistake they can get caught in a negative cycle that will leave them defeated. That would be true failure.

In order to help you avoid failure, here are the 25 biggest mistakes successful people may make once, but not twice.

1. Ignoring your gut instinct.

Sometimes we just sense something is off without being able to explain why. It’s easy to discount these instincts, perhaps because we’re not really sure if we should trust a hunch over our rational mind. But successful people only make that mistake once before they realize that their gut instincts should never be ignored. Taking your instincts into account will give you a broader perception of what’s going on and make you more confident of your decisions.

Related: The Many Logical Reasons to Lead With Your Gut Instinct

2. Not asking tough questions.

Sometimes we’re uncomfortable prying into every detail because we fear being intrusive. But there are times when you have to ask the tough questions. Successful people may fail to do that once, but when they get burned, they’ll ignore the awkwardness and make sure they have all the information they need.

3. Playing it safe.

If you constantly play it safe in life, you’re probably hoping to avoid making mistakes by going along with the herd. But this is one of the biggest mistakes of all, because sweeping success only comes to those who are courageous enough to strike out on their own. Successful people may initially allow themselves to fall into this trap, but something in them propels them to take risks. They would rather try something new and fail than take a safe bet and lead a boring life.

4. Believing in perfection.

It’s easy to fall for a promise of something that seems like a wonderful opportunity. It’s easy to believe in someone who seems to have charisma and charm. But if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. No one is perfect. Successful people may be duped once, but they will be sure to remain skeptical and objective in the future.

5. Blaming others.

Failing to take responsibility for your mistakes and trying to blame others instead is incredibly destructive to yourself and those around you. Yet it is among our most human tendencies because we don’t like to admit the part we played in failure. Successful people are accountable, and this earns them the respect of others. They take responsibility for their mistakes and subsequently grow beyond them.

6. Letting emotions drive decision-making.

Emotions sometimes have a way of taking over, even if in the back of our minds we realize we should step back. Negative emotions like jealousy, doubt and anger can plague even the most logical people, clouding their judgment and leading to poor decision making. Successful people don’t allow themselves to fall into this trap more than once.

Related: Can You 'Feel' It? How to Use Emotional Decision-Making in Marketing

7. Hitting burnout.

No one achieves their dreams and becomes successful without a lot of hard work and persistence. But successful people quickly learn they need to find balance in life. Becoming a workaholic will only lead to long-term stress and ultimately burnout. Take time to recharge and relax -- it will pay off when you go back to work.

8. Taking a shortcut.

There are no fast passes in business or in life. Trying to cut the line or jump ahead will likely result in failure, or at the very least less-than-optimal results. Successful people may try to take a shortcut once, but when that blows up, they’ll learn the hard way that you can’t skip the line.

9. Trying to please everyone.

We all seek approval from others, and we all want to be well liked. But successful people learn early on that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. Everyone has an opinion and some people will never be pleased, no matter how hard you try. Successful people know that trying to please everyone makes them less effective at their job. They focus on their core customers and have clearly defined targets.

Related: You Can't Be Everything for Everybody, So Stop Trying

10. Refusing to change your mind.

Tenacity is crucial to gaining success, but there can be a fine line between being determined and having a hard-nosed, unyielding outlook. Persistence will help you reach your goals. Being obstinate and refusing to change your mind or see the reality of a situation will cause you to fail. Successful people would never become successful if they kept making this mistake.

11. Opting for instant gratification.

Delaying gratification is hard for a lot of people. After all, we live in a world where waiting any length of time for something we want seems absurd and unnecessary. But achieving any major goal in life takes hard work and persistence. Successful people learn the value of delayed gratification early on, and their determination to succeed is greater than any instant pleasure they could have.

12. Doing something you’re not passionate about.

It’s true that even successful people may not love every part of their job, but they’re certainly deeply committed and passionate about their ultimate goals and dreams. Successful people may have once found themselves stuck in a dead-end job or doing something they hated, but they would never go back, no matter how big the paycheck.

Related: Passion, Freedom and Impact: The 3 Ingredients of Business Success

13. Lying.

We (hopefully) all know that honesty is the best policy, but sometimes even good people make bad choices. Sometimes successful people slip, but they won’t do it again because they value their reputation and understand that no price is worth destroying their respectability and trustworthiness.

14. Not setting boundaries.

Setting boundaries with others is all about asserting your ability to say no and pushing back when need be. Without healthy boundaries, you’re at the mercy of others and you’ll be spending time and energy doing things you really don’t want to do. Successful people know what their limits are, and they politely but clearly let others know where the line is drawn.

15. Trying to be someone you aren’t.

It’s tempting to want to mold yourself in an image you believe others will like. But successful people quickly learn that when you try to come off as someone you aren’t, it’s apt to end badly. Trying to be someone other than who you are will come off as inauthentic and disingenuous.

16. Having a victim mentality.

Successful people may fall into the trap of playing the victim and allow themselves to wallow in self-pity once. But they will quickly realize that having a victim mentality means giving up control in favor of gaining attention and sympathy from others and avoiding responsibility. Successful people aren’t going to wallow in perceived wrongs or helplessness. They’re going to overcome and prevail against the odds.

17. Over-promising and under-delivering.

One of the golden rules for any business is to under-promise and over-deliver. That way you’re always exceeding client or customer expectations. But even successful people have at one point found themselves making grandiose promises they were unable to keep. This major blunder will come back to bite you, and successful people make sure to never do it again. Your word is your bond. If you’ve made a commitment, make sure you can meet that expectation.

18. Not asking for help.

No one becomes wildly successful without the help of others, and yet so often we seem to want to do it all on our own. Initially, successful people may be stubborn to the point of not allowing anyone to help them. However, they soon learn the lesson that we all need a helping hand, and we all need to be willing to help others as well.

19. Losing sight of the big picture.

It’s easy to get lost in the daily hustle and bustle of life; to lose sight of the big picture and your main goals. But successful people quickly course correct. They understand they have to keep their primary goals at the forefront of their minds at all times. They set daily priorities and ensure they are making headway toward those overarching goals.

20. Thinking competitors are your enemies.

One of the most common mistakes we make in business and in life is focusing our energy on “beating” the competition. Successful people know that the real key to winning is to focus on making your customers happy. Yes, you need to pay attention to industry trends, but when you stop seeing your competitors as enemies, you can start focusing on better understanding and improving your weaknesses.

21. Trying to fix what’s irreparably broken.

You’ve invested a lot of time, energy and money into something, and you’re determined to see it through. The only problem is that the thing, whatever it is, is irreparably broken. You’re hanging on because you don’t want to “lose” what you’ve already invested. This is called a sunk-cost fallacy. Successful people learn to let go when the writing is on the wall, no matter how painful it might be. The sooner you can move on, the less you will continue to waste resources on something that’s not going anywhere.

22. Not sticking to a budget.

Financial blunders are common, and even successful people make money mistakes. But anyone destined to succeed will also quickly learn the value of having a budget and sticking to it. Whether it’s having their personal finances squared away, or making sure their business has a solid operating budget, successful people have a financial plan based on income and expenditures.

23. Putting other people’s priorities ahead of your own.

It’s one thing to be helpful and support those around you when they need it. It’s another to constantly put everyone else’s priorities ahead of your own. Successful people understand they have to invest in themselves and make sure they aren’t constantly coming in second. It’s important to stand up for yourself and your priorities.

Related: 7 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Invest in Themselves

24. Not being honest with yourself.

It seems like knowing yourself should be the easiest thing in the world. After all, we live inside our own minds. But sometimes we hide the truth, even from ourselves, because we just don’t want to see the harsh reality in front of us. Successful people know that self-deception will lead to patterns of self-sabotage. Being truly successful hinges on your ability to know and accept yourself at the deepest level.

25. Sweating the small stuff.

Life is too short to spend obsessing over trivial matters or worrying about all the small stuff. You’re wasting precious time and energy if all you’re doing is focusing on the little things and failing to see the major issues right in front of you. Successful people focus on what their business does best, and they work to grow those habits.

More from Entrepreneur

Whether you are launching or growing a business, we have all the business tools you need to take your business to the next level, in one place.
Enroll Now

In as little as seven months, the Entrepreneur Authors program will turn your ideas and expertise into a professionally presented book.
Apply Now

One-on-one online sessions with our experts can help you start a business, grow your business, build your brand, fundraise and more.
Book Your Session

Latest on Entrepreneur

My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.