8 Things You Should NOT Do to Get Ahead

8 Things You Should NOT Do to Get Ahead

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
―J.R.R. Tolkien

Sometimes we find ourselves running in place, struggling to get ahead simply because we confuse effort with achievement.  If you’ve been feeling like you missed a door somewhere and have thus been heading in the wrong direction, it’s likely that you got caught up in this sort of confusion.

The good news is, no matter how long you have traveled in the wrong direction, you always have the choice to turn around.  So make that choice today.  Promise yourself that you will NOT…

1.  Follow a specific life path simply to satisfy others.

Sometimes we try to satisfy our parents, teachers, spouses and peers by walking a particular path in spite of the fact that our own inner GPS advises otherwise.  Then, not surprisingly, we wake up one day and we feel completely lost.  If you’re feeling a little lost now, its time to change course.

Life is too short to spend all your time trying to make everyone else happy.  Besides, it’s impossible to please everyone all the time anyway.  At some point, you’ve got to stop caring about what everyone else wants for you, and start actually living for yourself.

Make choices that take your mind, body, and soul into consideration.  You are the only person who knows what’s best for you.  It’s impossible for anyone else to know.  No matter how much you share with them, they are not connected to your deepest desires, intuition, hopes and dreams.  Always, ALWAYS listen to yourself and what you want first.

2.  Sacrifice all your present happiness for future security.

Do not fool yourself into believing that you must live the same day over and over again for the rest of your life, simply because it’s the responsible thing to do.

So many people live daily with unhappy circumstances, and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation.  They somehow believe that conforming to their current circumstances will eventually lead to a life of comfort, security, and peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to their spirit.

Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design into the present.  The very basic core of the human spirit is a natural passion for exploration and growth.  This growth originates directly from our encounters with new ideas and experiences that intrigue us; and hence there is no greater destination in life than to have an endlessly changing horizon – for each day to have a new and different sun.  (Read Buddha’s Brain.)

3.  Focus intensely on not making mistakes.

Don’t commit to making less mistakes; commit to making more of them.  Fail forward.  Mistakes in life are as certain as sunsets and detours.  So why exert energy avoiding the unavoidable?  Embrace it.  The truth is, you aren’t really free until you give yourself the freedom to make mistakes.  So liberate yourself!  Shift your energy from protecting yourself from failure to squeezing more living out of your life.

Get real comfortable with that uneasy feeling of going against the grain and trying something new.  Doing so will always take you to places you never thought you could go.  Try new things, learn and explore freely.  Your good judgment comes from life experience, and life experience comes from your past bad judgments.  You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes.  Disappointment and defeat are the tools life uses to show you the way.

4.  Spend your entire present trying to fix a broken past.

The past isn’t broken.  It can’t possibly be.  It no longer exists.  There is nothing to fix.  There is, however, a present moment that can be lived with presence and power.

Sometimes life doesn’t give you what you want; not because you don’t deserve it, but because you deserve better.  No matter how many times you break down, there should always be a little voice inside you that says, “NO, you’re not done yet!  Get back up!”  That’s the voice of presence and power, which can only speak for you in the present moment.  What you need to realize is, life is a journey, often difficult and sometimes incredibly cruel; but you are well equipped for it as long as you tap into your inner strength in the present, and allow it to flourish forward.  (Read The Power of Now.)

5.  Resist life’s realities that don’t align with your expectations.

Stop stressing over what could have been.  The chances are if it should have been, it would have been.  Life unfolds in unpredictable ways for a reason.  What happens isn’t good or bad.  It simply is.

Happiness is about trusting that what has happened has long-term positive, rather than negative, connotations.  Trust that life is happening for you, not to you.  This “inverse paranoia” of believing everything is for the greater good helps the human spirit face and welcome life’s turbulent changes cheerfully.

The bottom line is that we’re wired to expect the world to be brighter and more meaningful and more obviously interesting than it often is.  If you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself, others and the world around you, you may find the happiness that has always eluded you.

6.  Attempt to find the easy shortcut to your goals and dreams.

There is no easy shortcut to anywhere worth going.  You must be willing to make sacrifices.  It’s a process!  It’s a process!  It’s a process!  Ingrain this in your mind.  Achievement takes time.  Success, like washboard abs, is the outcome of a habit.  It’s the relentless daily practice of making small, diligent choices that add up in the long run.  It’s about following through and doing what you said you would do even when no one would notice but you, and knowing in your heart why doing so matters.

In a nutshell, when it comes to working hard to achieve a big life goal of any kind – earning a degree, building a business, or some other personal achievement that takes time and commitment – one thing you have to ask yourself is:  “Am I willing to live a few years of my life like many people won’t, so I can spend the rest of my life like many people can’t?”

7.  Win the approval and admiration of the wrong people.

You cannot make someone respect you; all you can do is be someone who can be respected.  The rest is up to them.  No matter how much you care some people just won’t care back.  It’s not the end of the world.  At some point you have to realize the truth – that they no longer care or never did, and that maybe you’re wasting your time and missing out on someone else who does.

Likewise, don’t waste too much of your time with people who are not supportive of your goals and abilities.  Surround yourself with those who believe in your potential.  Anyone who inspires you to make your half-hearted attempts more whole-hearted through passion and love, is a precious friend and teacher.  These people are out there.  Find them and conquer the world together.  (I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

8.  Keep waiting for the right time.

You cannot wait for the perfect time; it will never come.  If you think now feels like the wrong time, think again.  It’s just uncertainty messing with your mind.  Most of the time you must simply dare to jump.

Today is the first day of a new beginning – the conception of a new life.  The next nine months are all yours.  You can do with them as you please.  Make them count.  Because a new person is born in nine months.  The only question is: Who do you want that person to be?

Right now is the right time to decide.


If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never get it.  If you don’t ask yourself the right questions, you’ll always get the wrong answers.  If you don’t take a step forward, you’re always going to be in the same place.  Life is a journey full of choices.  I hope this short article got you thinking differently about the choices you make every day.

Your turn…

What would you add to the list?  What’s something you should NOT do to get ahead?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Photo by: Thomas Hawk


  1. Dev says

    This is a great list, especially the “Win the approval and admiration of the wrong people.” One which I am usually guilty of.

    I would also like to add to the list:

    1. Being jealous/angry/vengeful of others: Just don’t do this. The only person you’ll ever harm (or the person you harm the most) is yourself and your loved ones. Let go and move on. You have so much more in your life that needs focusing on.

    2. Eating too little or too much, etc, just to look a certain way: Don’t fall for society’s standard of beauty and try starving yourself. There is a real reason why you feel hungry, don’t deny yourself. However, eating too much or unhealthy junk food makes you feel sluggish and lethargic. Eat only what you need, and choose healthy options whenever you can.

  2. says

    Hi Marc – I think item 4 is essentially where I’ve been in my life for the past couple of years; trying to come to terms with recent life events. I have read the Power of Now and trying to practice more presence in my life. We can’t change the past or predict the future – only the now is in our immediate control. I’ve also started asking myself what lessons I can take from the past and use the past as a teaching moment to go forward.

    Another thing I would add which you’ve touched on is only doing things in life which correlate to our values. Often, when we do tasks or work which contradicts our values, we’re unhappy and usually trying to find the nearest exit. Being more aware of our value system helps us forge ahead knowing what we need to succeed in the long run.

  3. J.J. says

    As others said on your previous post, your book and your blog posts have been helping me in a huge way – specifically, your words have helped me overcome #1 and #2 on this list. Thanks so much for everything.

    Also, I would add that you should never deliberately hurt someone to get ahead.

  4. says

    This articles comes at a wonderful time. #3,4, and 5 ring true right now.

    #3 was a problem in the past but not so much anymore. #4 is a biggie for me:
    “The past isn’t broken. It can’t possibly be. It no longer exists. There is nothing to fix. There is, however, a present moment that can be lived with presence and power.”

    Thanks Marc and Angel, keep it up!

  5. drcha says

    Nice list. I would like to add:

    “Finish something just because you started it.”

    If you find you are on a path that is not right for you, search out a better one.

  6. Kamilla says

    Thank you Universe for your website!! :-) Another post so spot on! I have spent countless time stuck in #4 & #5 recently… No, all of the above probably actually!! Thank you for making me feel less lost and uncertain of myself.

  7. says

    Wow! I had not read anything of yours before – so I really did not expect this to be a deep and extensive of a list as it turned out to be. Love it.

    I think my #9 would be – get away from toxic people that feel they are ‘saving you’ by giving you negative feedback.

    BTW – as a person that is north of 50 years old, #2 on your list is very important to me. Many of my friends think I’m crazy for taking a week off every 5 or 6 weeks to go surfing, etc. But it’s what makes me happy and puts a big grin on my face. For that reason, my productivity goes up, not down.

    Thanks for the article – really loved it. – JR

  8. Jane says

    #4: It’s because, I keep telling myself to hold on to what’s already gone. It can’t be undone or change anymore and the only thing that I must focus is the present moment, I just have to let go of what’s already gone.

  9. says


    The only thing I can say after reading this is “God Bless You!”. You always make it easy for me to think clearly. #6 is surely for me – ‘Achievements take time’ and we have to put all our efforts and time to get to the place or thing that is worthy for us.

  10. Hemendra Kumar says

    All my years in life I have tried to be someone who can be liked by others. In that process I kept on pleasing and accepting ‘only’ others. I did what they would like. I believed in them instead of believing myself. I kept on judging myself depending on the response of others. If some one who has been very near to my heart misunderstood me or hurt me (even unintentionally), then this completely shattered me in to small pieces. Not able to express myself resulted in much worse things. A lot of doubting, blaming and punishing myself is the process. I kept on struggling to be someone so that those who i love can feel good for me. The reason is just that they mattered to me a lot.

    I don’t regret anything, but one thing I have lost is MYSELF. Now, everyday is like boiling water where nothing is calm and different thoughts are bubbling every now and then. I feel confused in almost every aspect in life. Sometimes I doubt the importance of being alive. But I am trying to build trust in myself and trying to know myself. It drives me restless often, but even though in this phase of life where all my hopes, beliefs, trust has broken, I am trying to establish trust in ME. It’s a lone journey, a tough one, nothing bright seems near but trying to slowly light a candle of hope in me.

  11. nash says

    Number 5 is a biggie for me. Thanks for a great article. Makes me aware of it and I will use it to try and let go and just be.

  12. Puneet says

    It’s a very nice article… Very much useful for youngsters indeed who are yet to step in different phases of life.

    Awaiting More!!

  13. Sakhile says

    This was a good ‘slap in the face’ article. For me, I would have to say that I have been greatly affected by the past and by family that has disappointed me.

    I would add, blaming others, to the list. When we blame others we turn ourselves into victims and give up the power to change.

  14. says

    I would also add hang on to people that you don’t respect and who don’t respect you. I see a lot of people doing this and it is not helpful at all.
    Thank you for the blog. I love it!

  15. says

    A list of pretty overwhelming mistakes that I’m sure we have all been guilty of. A combination of 3, 5, 6 and 8 is what worked against me last time I tried to achieve something, perhaps especially looking for a shortcut, and waiting for the right time… so this time around I’m just getting to work.

    I would perhaps add that money is not a problem solver, trying to get ahead by throwing money at a problem, or striving to make more money (unless it’s about paying the rent) won’t help you become happier for example. Or feel a sense of purpose in your life.

  16. says

    Great post.

    Number 6 is crucial.
    We live in a ‘must have it now’ culture and very few have the staying power to win in the end.

    I’d rather spend the rest of my days trying for something I believe in rather than sit and watch what may of been.

  17. says

    Wow! So many of these resonate with me. #4, 5, and 8 in particular I feel like I’m always working on. Thanks so much as usual for the inspiring words!

  18. says

    3. Focus intensely on not making mistakes.
    Once, when someone was berating me, I countered “Well, I’m just making mistakes as fast as I can!” Now I call it “research” or “an experiment.”

    8. Keep waiting for the right time.
    I have a book on my shelf about damage control titled “Now Is Too Late!”

    Finally: If you don’t ask yourself the right questions, you’ll always get the wrong answers.
    As Dr. Lanning said, “Ah, THAT is the right question!”

  19. Tolu Ajayi says

    #7 really tops the list for me, since this is a moment I am having to let go. To be sincere it’s been hard but what I have found out is that all of a sudden I am getting better.

  20. says

    Great post! I was thinking about this yesterday. I would add the following:

    1. Stop following the crowd.

    Do your own thing. Take risks and go for the gold. Following the crowd can lead you down a path that is not for you.

    On a personal note, it’s taken me a while to realize that I’m exhausted from seeking approval and admiration from others, especially the wrong people. I know my talents and abilities and what I bring to the table. If some people can’t see this, it’s okay. I can release those people and attract and work with those who realize I am an asset to their team. More importantly, I approve of me. :)

  21. Stephanie says

    Hello everyone,

    Wowsers… number 5, number 5, number 5… I need this message to seep DEEPLY into psyche. I’m workin’ on it.

    As always thank you Marc and Angel.

  22. says

    There’s a good deal of peace in Number 5, “Stop stressing over what could have been. The chances are if it should have been, it would have been.” It’s so true. When I look back on my life, I know, without a doubt, I have learned something valuable from things that didn’t go “my way.”

    Thank you again, for the insight!

  23. David Rapp says

    Great feedback! I would add a quick few:

    1. Plan for everything. You will never predict all the different challenges, setbacks and trauma coming your way. It cannot be predetermined, prepared for or predicted. Trust you can handle it, even if it means failing (which is a temporary setback).

    2. Take advantage of someone to their detriment. Leveraging realtionships is great, taking advantage is not. It almost always will come back to haunt you.

    3. Focus on the problems, issues or challenges. They are very easy to spot when they occur. They bring about negative thoughts and emotions. Books have been written about how to handle them.

    Try focusing on what is going right, better than expected, faster than you thought. Who offered great advice? Who helped out when you were in a jam? When did a delay actually help more than it hindered? Did you stumble on a great solution by sticking to it longer than you originally thought you should have?

    4. Share the victory. If you proceed with “getting ahead” make sure you intend to help others get ahead as well. If you get promoted, who are you going to endorse to replace you? If you start your own business, what other businesses do you intend to use to grow, and how will you help them?

  24. says

    Another to add: sacrifice your core values. Your values are the proverbial rock upon which everything else is built.

    My core values have been challenged and there have been times times when they have slipped away from me–this is part of the human condition.

    I do my best to stand tall again with a renewed sense of commitment for that which matters most deeply.

  25. says

    “Anyone who inspires you to make your half-hearted attempts more whole-hearted through passion and love, is a precious friend and teacher. These people are out there. Find them and conquer the world together.”

    It’s this exactly. The person I found like this, because of a serendipitous moment, inspired such a profound transformation in me, it took my writing to a whole new level, and made me stronger, braver and more confident. I thrived in ways I never had before just from knowing [of] him and his work. So much so, I mourned the loss of it for months when it reached the height of its progression and I knew it was ebbing away.

    Though we’d met a few times, he never knew me and didn’t know his impact on my life. Now, instead of mourning the loss of that profound inspiration, I’m holding onto the best part of it by trying to approach everything I do with passion, love and gratitude. And hopefully, one day, I’ll get the chance to pay his gift forward to someone else with potential, who simply needs a similar kick in the pants.

  26. says

    I would like to add “Blindly follow even your own principles and values.” – Although these things may seem as unchanging certainties, even our core values and beliefs are often influenced, and altered, greatly by our surroundings. While they may feel like they’re completely our own, and perhaps even serve as cornerstones of who we are, our moral values are primarily a product of our social conditioning, and should be questioned like everything else.

    While it is important that you have a strong foundation of beliefs and morals, you still need to review them and make sure they’re right for you personally. If you never question your principles or beliefs, there is a big chance you’ll end up with a lot of limiting, or even contradicting, beliefs which will do nothing but hold you back in life.

  27. Lauren Botney says

    While you’re going through the process, do not give up on the relationships and activities that make you smile and bring you joy. Don’t feel like you have to wait to get that job or accomplish that task until you deserve to have fun. You are fine the way you are and should embrace each day mindfully and whole heartedly.

  28. says

    These are some good tips to follow. My favorite to not spend all your time trying to fix a broken past. There are somethings you have to accept of yourself and your life to be able to move forward.

  29. says

    One of the things that has always held me back is my desire to “get it right” before I even try. But what I’m coming to realize is that I will never be “good enough” to start. What I should be doing is starting, and then continuing, so that I can reach the level of living that I want. For me, it’s really about practicing my path.

  30. Jack says

    Numbers 4 & 5 in particular stick out to me.

    “if you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself” This is the one I most suffer from. It’s been an all or nothing outcome for me, either I’m perfect or I’m worthless. Yet how can that be? Who is perfect? NO ONE. Not even me. It’s time I accept that I’m better in some things than others, and I can improve in some areas (or even all areas), but the FACT that I’m not there yet does not disqualify me as a (worthwhile) person.

  31. Elanza Pitre-Wilson says

    Great insight. I will add that “not acting” because of the fear of lack of resources. Chances are the land fall will not fall from the sky. Experience has taught me that taking the steps to put a plan in motion will position you to meet the resources along the journey. If you never get moving you never reach your appointed destination! Be bold and persistent in your journey. I enjoyed all the feedback as much as I enjoyed the article!

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