30 Things That Will Make You Fail at School (and Life)

by Dominick Cooper, Director of Launch Academy, Nominee for Tulsa Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Winner of the DaVinci Scholar Award, and University Guest Speaker

If you enjoy failing at life, then turn away from reading this.

Because it will RUIN your failure.

Sir Isaac Newton (anyone with a “Sir” name is a good source in my book) said,

“If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants.”

This list is adapted from Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich – which, by the way, is the most successful self-improvement book of all time.

If you pay attention to this list, you will not only do amazingly well in academics, but your life will be exponentially elevated – financially speaking, success speaking, and personal gratification.

and how to overcome them 

1. Bad Genetics

Whether you lean more towards “nature” or “nurture” in our individual abilities, genetics does still play a part.  However, genetics is a VERY small part that is often magnified into a crutch.  If you were to look at many of the things you blame on your “genetics,” most can be controlled by changing a habit.

2. Lack of having a purpose

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” – John F. Kennedy. If you don’t know where you want to go in life or have something to aim at, then any path will seem like the right path.  And many of them lead to unhappiness and destruction.

3. Lack of ambition to be more than average

There are so many students in schools are fine with “just getting a C.”  They say to themselves, “grades don’t really matter” and “My parents are paying for college anyways.”  But this attitude goes deeper than grades.  No successful company wants to hire an average employee.  And those who do hire only average employees soon go under – bringing you with them.

4. Insufficient education

Knowledge and experience learned allows you to think critically and creatively.  It’s what allows you to solve problems.  Without knowledge though, you can’t solve problems.  So learn as much as you can because the more you learn, the fewer problems you will have in your life.

5. Lack of self-discipline

This is probably one of the biggest causes of failure for students.  The ability to put “work before play” is often times what separates the A students from the B students.  How do you solve this issue?  Make new habits.  Get your work done first.  No matter what.  Just like any habit, whether its good or bad, it becomes easier over time.

6. Bad health (or health habits)

Some health issues can’t be helped – cancer, missing limbs, etc. But, more than often, they can helped and sometimes even overcome.  Look at people like Claude Monet, Christopher Reeves, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and others – they all overcame.  I don’t need to tell you the disadvantages of overeating and smoking either.  Be smart. Be healthy.

7. A bad environment

I once heard a great quote – “Your environment sets the ceiling on your success.”  If you live in an environment that promotes curiosity and discovery, chances are that you will be successful.  If it stifles them, the opposite is true.  Environments can also be psychological.  If your physical environment is not conducive to your academic and life success, then find a place, whether mentally or physically, where you are free to be curious and discover.

8. Procrastination

Procrastination is the vice of all humans.  Humans are naturally lazy.  It takes effort to get up and do something (or finish something).  Don’t let this keep you from success.  Keep the end goal in mind, and push forward.

9. Lack of Persistence

Many individuals miss opportunities simply because they give up (often right before the finish line).  Ask any running or swimming coach and they will tell you that you are never to slow down, no matter how close you get to the line.  Don’t slow down until AFTER you have passed.

10. A negative personality

Nobody likes hanging out with a bad person.  That includes your friends, teachers, future bosses, and individuals who can lead to your ultimate success.  Being a good person is a choice.  Don’t go back to #7 and blame it on your environment.  Choose to be better than your environment.

11. Lack of controlled sexual urges

WOAH! But it’s so true.  With high schoolers and college students, being guy crazy or girl crazy can lead you astray from success and distract you from so many opportunities.  Don’t let it happen.  Go back to #2, find a purpose, and focus on that.  The girl/guy will come naturally.

12. Gambling

There’s a saying that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  This is so true.  Don’t expect to get great success from little effort.  That almost never happens and is even less likely to stay for those who do get it.  Work hard, work well, and success will overtake you in your academics and in life.

13. Slow at making decisions

Ever go out with somebody and you ask them, “where do you want to go?” and they reply, “I don’t know where do you want to go?”  And this conversation continues forever. ANNOYING!  And counterproductive.  Great leaders have been shown to be able to make decisions quickly and you must train your brain to do the same.

14. Fear of rejection

This is often rejection by your friends.  “If I study more, then my friends won’t want to hang out with me anymore.” or “If I take harder classes, then none of my friends will be in them.”  These fears are holding you back from greatness and success. DON’T LET THEM.

15. Wrong selection of a spouse

While for most teens, this isn’t really an issue, it is vital your success.  A good spouse (or boy/girl friend) can encourage you, be real with you, and actually sacrifices “you and us” time to push forward your vision and purpose in life.  And you must do the same.  On the same token, a bad one could ruin you.  Choose wisely.

16. Afraid to take risks

Anybody who has done something great in history had to deal with the possibility of failure.  I have found that for many things, the amount of risk involved relates directly to the degree of success at the end (except for the case of bungee jumping in a barrel).  Failure is inevitable in life and should be welcomed.  Failure leads to learning, which leads to success.  You must take risks to be successful.

17. Wrong selection of friends

Often times, you can tell what kind of a person somebody is by observing who they hang out with.  Sucky friends drag you down – they fill your day with unproductive activities,  nonsense conversations, and a heavy dose of procrastination.  Good friends build you up – they encourage you, study with you, teach you, call you out when you’re in the wrong, and make you into a better person.

18. Superstition and prejudice

Superstition and prejudice is the fallback of the ignorant.  If you don’t know the real cause of something, you blame it on things like “lucky numbers” and “grandpa’s lucky watch.”  True success is found in work. Not luck.

19. Wrong selection of a goal

The life goal that you choose to yourself is directly affected by your level of determination.  If you want to be a pro skateboarder, you can’t just put in 1 hour of skateboarding a day.  If you want to be a bodybuilder or triathlete, you can’t go to the gym for only 30 minutes and then get a shake from Baskin Robbins.  The bigger your life goal is, the bigger your determination needs to be.  If they don’t match up, you’ll have to change one of them – either your determination or the goal itself.

20. Lack of concentration of effort

People pay for specialized knowledge, not general knowledge.  While being exposed to a wide variety of things is crucial for creativity, understanding in an area is determined by how in-depth you go with it.  If you want to do well in school, then concentrate on school.  If you want a better social life, focus on social life.  But you can’t have a concentrated effort in both.  You must choose. Choose wisely.

21. Bad Money Habits

You won’t be very successful at anything if you don’t understand the value of a dollar bill.  Bad money habits ruin people, marraiges, and your chance of success.  Be smart! If you need to, take a Dave Ramsey course!  Often times, individuals are poor because their parents taught them poor money habits.  Teach yourself and take care of your money (even if you’re in high school!).

22. Lack of enthusiasm

If you’re not enthusiastic about something, you won’t put all your effort into it.  Sir Ken Robinson discusses how an individual is “in their element,” when their talents intersect their passions.  Find enthusiasm in what you do.  And, if you don’t have enthusiasm for school, concentrate on the end goal.  At least, have enthusiasm in that.

23. Being closed-minded

Asking questions is vital to any growing brain – just look at toddlers!  If you want your brain to continue to grow, you must ask questions and realize you’ll never have all the answers.  Learning and success are two, intertwined journeys.   Choose to learn and you will also choose to be successful.

24. Too much hedonism

I wrote a whole article on how you should take time for yourself, but too much of that is a TERRIBLE thing.  Success, 99% of the time, comes with sacrifice.  You have to give up certain time now, so you can have the future you desire later.  Try making a list of things that “make you feel good” but aren’t very productive to your goal, and see what you can eliminate.

25. Inability to cooperate with others

If you don’t get along with people, you won’t go very far. Period. If you struggle with getting along with people, I highly recommend reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friend’s and Influence People.”

26. Silver Spoon Syndrome

Just because your parents were successful doesn’t automatically qualify you for success.  The ability to set goals, have dreams, work hard, and pursue a vision is something that is learned, not inherited.  To get anywhere in life, you have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.

27. Dishonesty

Dishonesty in any form is an instant KO to success. Cheat on a test and you’ve done far more than be dishonest – you’ve shown your integrity.  If your environment sets the ceiling on your success, then your integrity determines the floor.  If it’s weak, it will one day fall through.  Take some maintenance of your own integrity and start strengthening it today.

28. Egotism and Vanity

Thinking highly of yourself is not only annoying to others but detrimental to yourself.  If you believe that “you’ve arrived,”  then you won’t see any point in pursuing greater things or doing more.  It’s the drive to better ourselves and push our limits that turns B students into A students and average students to honor roll scholars.

29. Guessing instead of Thinking

There is a difference between “guessing” and making an “educated guess.”  Learn from mistakes.  Learn from examples.  Use this knowledge to better your decision making and every area of your life, from school to work to relationships will be better.  You can practice this by thinking “two levels deep” into the consequences a certain action may have.

30. Your other causes of failure

If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you are doomed to repeat them.  Take note of them.  Use them as a stepping stone.  Failure is inevitable but it is necessary for success.


Again, this is an excerpt from Think and Grow Rich, a book I HIGHLY recommend.  Launch Academy teaches its students these principles but you can learn them yourself!

Are there other things that have hindered you from success and you wish others knew?

Share them in the comments below!

Stay Smart.


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