If we don’t change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are going. – Chinese proverb
Steven McDermott, author of How to be a Complete and Utter Failure in Life, Work and Everything, begins his book with a warning about his self-unimprovement guide: “The quickest, most concise, most complete guide to complete and utter failure ever written. This book will help you flop at leadership, communication, teamwork, customer service and more. You’ll find dozens of techniques guaranteed to help you fail and disappoint everyone in your life.”
McDermott true purpose with such an absurd statement is to get the readers of this book to begin thinking differently. Too often we get locked into a prescribed way of what we “think” we need to be successful and happy.
We fall into the bad habit of not thinking clearly about what success really means to us. With no written goals or game plan in hand, we continue to struggle and act surprised when success is never realized. Remember, the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things over and over, but expecting different results.
How to be a Complete and Utter Failure in Life, Work and Everything provides 44 steps to lasting underachievement. Through humor, and with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, McDermott provides some wonderful and proven reminders of how to become truly successful. You just have to remember to do the opposite.
Of the 44 secrets that are guaranteed to take you to the brink of total failure, here are ten of my favorite and the actions not to take in order to fail:
- Don’t do things on purpose. Don’t think about the legacy you want to leave. Don’t think about what you would want a letter to your grandchildren to say about the life you led. Don’t think about leaving your song unsung.
- Don’t know what you value in life. Don’t decide what your five most important values in life and work are. Don’t specify the rules, or conditions, you’ve determined that will easily allow you to feel each of these emotions. Don’t make all your decisions based on your values.
- If you do have goals, don’t put them in writing, and if you do, don’t think too big. Don’t join the 3% of the people who design their life rather than go with the flow. Don’t think big. Be modest. Never think: “If not you, who? If not now, when?
- Don’t get advice from people you’ve never met or who are dead. Don’t talk to your heroes dead or alive. Don’t buy autobiographies or biographies of people who have led successful lives. Don’t seek advice from the most likely, and unlikely sources. For example, here is a piece of wisdom from Rosemary, age seven: “Never try to hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.”
- Don’t take action right now. Don’t think about what you would do, how you would change your life, if you won $1 million cash today. Also, don’t think about what you would do, how you would spend your time, if you learned today you have only six months to live.
- Don’t stop having a deep fear of failure and of making a fool of yourself. Forget that “Why Not!” is a slogan for an interesting life. Don’t understand that if instead of aiming for perfect you were to focus on being outstanding, you would free yourself to be the best you could be.
- Don’t take personal responsibility for your life and results. Don’t ever say, “I am 100% accountable and responsible for my life, for my feelings, and for every result I get.” Don’t put yourself at cause rather than at effect.
- Don’t expand your comfort zone. Don’t write in your “to do” list, “Step outside comfort zone today” – that way you’ll never forget to do it. Don’t go and do the thing you fear the most, first. Don’t step into the land of uncertainty at least twice a week.
- Don’t talk and think about what you want. You become what you think about. You become what you focus on. That’s why your entire life, right up until this moment, is a reflection of the quality of questions you ask yourself. Remember all unimprovement is a result of asking terrible questions.
- Don’t be grateful. Don’t live with an attitude of gratitude. Don’t see everyday exchanges as opportunities to express gratitude.
As irreverent as How to be a Complete and Utter Failure in Life, Work and Everything appears to be to the personal development space, its style, crisply-written chapters and intelligent and effective strategies make this book very worthwhile.
Underneath the satire and humor, McDermott delivers a serious message of the need to be willing to change how you think if you want your life to go in a different way; a more successful way; a happier way. The author challenges you not to fail.