Every successful person I have come across has studied, just not the way we come to think of the word. There is a reason that universities have a commencement ceremony,  because that’s when the real challenge begins. Successful people understand that school simply gives us the foundation to succeed, but what we do with that foundation is up to us.  Unfortunately, a college degree isn’t what it used to be. In fact, for most people, even with a college degree, being able to retire early is a dream.
In his landmark book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey talks about the things successful people do differently, but as one of my mentors taught me we can learn a lot, if not more, from failure. So, I sat down the other day and drew upon my 15+ years of being an entrepreneur, went over my notes from 10,000+ hours of study, and tried to distill the seven habits of ineffective people.
This list is to be used as a warning of the things any of us can fall prey to if we are not careful from time to time.

Excusitis

Absolutely, the #1 thing ineffective people have is a list of excuses for failing to do well. It’s their partner’s fault, the government is preventing them from getting ahead, their landlord is racist, their customers are selfish, and the classics “they’re busy” and “I didn’t have time.” The list is long and they happily pull it out when they are blamed for any mistake. The last thing you’ll hear ineffective people say is, “Yes, it was my fault.” They absolutely, positively refuse to accept responsibility for any and all failure. On the flip side, when they do succeed, they like to take all the glory.

Poor / No planning

Ask an ineffective person to show you their plan and just watch them squirm. “Show you?” They will say things like, “Well, it’s up here” (pointing to their head) or “Let me tell you.” Ineffective people don’t work on paper and as such end up constantly changing things on a whim. This leads to frustration by employees because they aren’t clear on what needs to be done. Ineffective people in my experience don’t want to over-commit to anything, that way if things do go wrong they’ve got a get-out-of-jail-free card. Having things written down on paper automatically leads to accountability – something ineffective people have trouble with.

Addictions

Chocolate, video games, TV, YouTube, chat, alcohol, gambling, smoking. Take your pick, addictions are pretty much all the same. They drain our productive time, the time meant to be used to build a better future for ourselves and our families. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a time management expert, it’s that we only have so much time in the day. Jim Rohn, the great American business philosopher, called time management, “the best-kept secret of the rich.” Successful people use time as a weapon. They do so by limiting their addictions.

The  “Me” Attitude

Selfishness is a killer. It assures you that over time you will find yourself alone, isolating those people around you. Friends will resent you, employees will hate you, bosses will ignore you. Today’s economy has become a YOU centered one. It’s all about them, the customer. It’s all about how much you are willing to help other people. Corporations that fail to do this will eventually go the way of Polaroid and Blockbuster.

Poor Health

A common thread among ineffective people is their failure to understand just how important caring for their health is. This is divided into two parts: diet & exercise. You can only be as productive as you feel. Exercise requires a small investment each day; 15 minutes done well is more than enough. Diet simply requires us to limit our intake of junk food and fast food, drinking more water, and eating more fruits and vegetables. Easy to do, yes, but the statistics are telling.

Failure to Protect Their Time

Ineffective people simply don’t realize the incredible power time has. Start a child early learning anything and as long as they keep going, they will develop proficiency in it. Japanese, Karate, physics, abacus, yoga, ballet. It’s what Einstein called the 4th power – compounding. Growth starts off linear but becomes exponential. Babies are a perfect example of this. In the first three years of life, kids are limited in their growth (though they sure are cute), but from the age of four suddenly their understanding of things grows at an ever-increasing rate.

Book Allergy

Who has time to read? Not ineffective people. To them, “read” is a four-letter word. They have no trouble telling you about the latest celebrity gossip and are happy spending four hours online searching for the solution to getting their iPhone working perfectly. But read a book?! Heaven forbid. And a business book? Not going to happen. But for those that are interested, here is a good list to start with.

 Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Adrian Shepherd

Adrian Shepherd started his career as an ESL teacher in Japan, but today focuses on consulting with individuals and companies on productivity. His background in education helped him develop The One-Bite Time Management System (TMS), a revolutionary new system based entirely around simplicity: small bites that people can digest easily. He is also a contributor for the Huffington Post, Thrive Global and The Good Men Project. He is based in Osaka, Japan.