Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Milli Vanilli — I’m not talking about those lies.
I’m talking about the lies society teaches us about becoming successful and living a great life. In reality, they keep you stuck and sabotage your results—and only by unlearning and replacing them with the truth can you finally move forward in life and avoid the same traps as everyone else.
While there are countless lies, I want to share the 7 biggest ones holding you back from success right now.
7 Lies You Have to Unlearn To Be Successful
1. Money Is The Root of All Evil
You often hear things like, “Money doesn’t buy happiness,” “Money’s not important,” or “Money is the root of all evil” (which is actually a misquote).
I’ve also noticed many people resent wealthy people and rationalize their hatred by alleging that all rich people are crooks who profit from the suffering of others. Yet often, this contempt is just “sour grapes” or “cognitive dissonance:” When something is difficult to get, people often despise it.
“Let me put it bluntly: anyone who says money isn’t important doesn’t have any… No rich people believe money is not important. And if I’ve failed to persuade you and you still somehow believe that money’s not important, then I have only two words for you, you’re broke, and you always will be until you eradicate that nonsupportive file from your financial blueprint…
Like many of us, I was told by friends, teachers, media, and the rest of society that rich people were somehow bad, that they were all greedy… But I can safely say the idea that all rich people are somehow bad is nothing more than ignorance. The fact is, resenting the rich is one of the surest ways to stay broke.”
— T. Harv Eker
If you despise wealth, you will never be wealthy — after all, how can you get what you despise? If you think all wealthy people are criminals who didn’t earn their money (never mind the fact that 88% of millionaires are “self-made”), you will always find a way to subconsciously sabotage your own success.
Don’t let anyone teach you that boosting your wealth comes at the expense of others or your happiness. Yes, “greed” is harmful, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting more. And while money might not be the most important thing in life, it’s still pretty damn important.
Money isn’t evil. Strive for more, work for more, and give more, but be able to let it go at a moment’s notice without fear or suffering—that’s the key.
2. Do Well in School and You’ll Do Well in Life
Since I was a kid, I was told: “Get good grades and you’ll do well; get bad grades and you’ll work at McDonald’s.”
Your success in life has less to do with your grade point average (GPA) and more to do with your courage, social skills, ability to adapt, street smarts (versus book smarts), work ethic, willingness to learn, and resiliency.
School, however, often teaches you to be a cog in a wheel—everything is regimented, your self-worth (and the positive attention you get) is based on your grades, and success comes more from “falling in line” than being intelligent. (In fact, GPA and innovation are inversely correlated: people with lower GPAs are more innovative than people with higher ones.)
Now, I’m not advising you to skip school and flunk; I’m just explaining it doesn’t directly correlate to your success (unless you want to be a doctor, professor, etc.). Instead, prioritize real education, not just academia. Be okay with taking a risk and not getting an A+. Roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and get real-world experience. That’s how you succeed.
“No schooling was allowed to interfere with my education.”
— Grant Allen
3. Work Hard And You’ll Succeed
This lie is so cliched that you think all you have to do is work hard and you’ll be successful.
Hard work means very little in life. Sure, it’s necessary to achieve great things, but it’s the most basic requirement. Instead, your hard work must be combined with the correct strategies, focus, courage, the willingness to improve, and — dare I say — a little bit of luck. Without those things, you’ll be working your ass off while wondering why you aren’t moving up in life.
If you’re struggling at something despite your best efforts, admit your strategy isn’t correct and get help. Anyone can work hard and “try their best,” but you must apply it in the right direction to get results.
4. Knowledge Is Key
Knowledge can prepare you for a better future, but knowledge isn’t the key to success — action is. Because even if you study countless books, if you don’t use what you learned, someone who reads zero books but takes action will beat you every time.
“There comes a point in your life when you need to stop reading other people’s books and write your own.”
— Albert Einstein
Don’t fall into the trap of consuming information: It seems virtuous because you’re trying to improve, but the problem is it feels like you’re taking action when you aren’t. Instead, you’d learn more by trying (and failing) than you could possibly learn from just acquiring information.
As much as I love self-help books, I don’t care how many I’ve read; I care about my results. Knowledge is a means to an end, not the end itself. Always take action on what you’ve learned because it’ll shift your focus to create, not consume — only then will you see real progress.
5. It’s Never Too Late
You always hear, “You have plenty of time to do X, Y, and Z,” or it’s never “too late” to do something. Well, it’s certainly possible to wait too long—and by deferring things, you might make your goals a lot less realistic.
“Many twentysomethings assume life will come together quickly after thirty…that if nothing happens in our twenties then everything is still possible in our thirties… but not making choices is a choice all the same. When a lot has been left to do, there is enormous thirtysomething pressure to get ahead, get married, pick a city, make money, buy a house, enjoy life, go to graduate school, start a business, get a promotion, save for college and retirement, and have two or three children in a much shorter period of time. Many of these things are incompatible and, as research is just starting to show, simply harder to do all at the same time in our thirties.”
— Meg Jay, Ph.D.
The longer you wait to start, the longer it’ll take you to get to where you want. And if you wait too long—and listen to everyone who tells you it’s okay to do so—your best window of opportunity will slam shut. That’s why it’s important to avoid wasting time and to earnestly use each day because you don’t get them back.
6. You Need to Succeed to Be Worthy
While I’ve met many successful entrepreneurs who were great people, I’ve met many who weren’t—they just wanted to prove themselves, they used “success” to avoid deeper problems, and they were arrogant, conceited, and narcissistic.
But maybe that’s what made some of them “successful” in the first place.
“It said that every great person always had a tragic side, a tragic story, a secret wound that became the hole in the soul…the really great people I’ve met, when they (late at night) start telling you their story, there is always a big wound there or a big mistake or a dark side that they’ve never talked to anybody about… and you can’t help but think that that very boxing ring they live in is part of what’s made them great.”
— Richard Rohr, OFM, “Quest for the Grail”
Society bases your worth on your bank account, your achievements, and more. So we drink the Kool-Aid and believe we need to do amazing things and be “extraordinary” to finally become “worthy,” never realizing that no level of success will ever solve our insecurities and emptiness.
Before you try to become a “great success,” look inside and consider your motivations before you start—it can save a lot of pain and turmoil. Strangely enough, once you stop needing approval or validation, your odds of success—however you define it—will skyrocket.
7. Be Yourself
The common advice is to “be yourself” (or “be true to yourself,” “do what feels right,” “listen to your gut,” etc.) and everything will work out fine.
It seems helpful to trust yourself and your instincts, but this can limit your results and stunt your personal growth because reinforces a fixed mindset and justifies your poor results:
“People believe they have an “authentic” self — their “truth” — which is who they should be true to. This self is seen as innate, the “real” them… Although well-meaning, this thinking reflects a fixed mindset… I know many people who now, as maturing adults, are choosing limiting lives in the name of “authenticity” and being “real” with themselves.”
— Benjamin Hardy, Ph.D.
What if you’re unambitious, awkward, or unpleasant? What if you have self-destructive behaviors? Then, you probably shouldn’t “be yourself” or “listen to your gut” because, if you do, you’ll get the same results you’ve always gotten.
Also, “being yourself” doesn’t motivate you to go beyond your comfort zone and try new strategies. Instead, here’s better advice:
Be the person you want to be.
Who is your ideal self and how do they act? It’s far more powerful to behave like them than to just “be yourself” and stay stuck in your current way of life.
Ultimately, the best way to get the life of your dreams is to become the person of your dreams.
Because once you become the person you want to be, you’ll have all the things you want to have.
And to me, that is the best path to success there is.
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