Careers

5 ways to guarantee your own failure, according to an MIT grad who studies success

It's important not to fall into these mental traps, the entrepreneur says.
Elena Leonova/Getty Images
It's important not to fall into these mental traps, the entrepreneur says.

You wouldn't intentionally curb your chances of success. But unintentionally, you just might.

Isabel Pesce Mattos, who goes by Bel Pesce, spent two years researching what makes people successful. The MIT educated entrepreneur who has interned at both Google and Microsoft finds that our biggest obstacles can be ourselves.

In an inspiring TED talk given last year, Pesce explains the self-defeating mental tricks we play on ourselves. Today, she runs a for-profit school in Brazil that teaches people how to follow their dreams.

Here are five ways to guarantee your own failure:

1. Believe in overnight success

Thinking someone got rich or became a star quickly is one of the most effective ways we kill our dreams.

Take, for example, the stories we hear about a tech entrepreneur selling an app overnight for millions of dollars. That entrepreneur likely created 30 unsuccessful apps before that, Pesce says.

"Your overnight success story is always a result of what everything you've done in your life through that moment," the entrepreneur says.

Believing the myth that someone else enjoyed instant success often makes you feel like your dreams are unrealistic or unlikely. Worse, it may make you feel that you simply have to wait for your own lucky day.

2. Believe someone else has the answers

Family and friends may have good or well-intentioned advice for you, but only you know what you want from your career, according to the entrepreneur.

"No one else has the perfect answers for your life," Pesce says.

To help figure out your long-term goals, one former Google career coach has a counter-intuitive suggestion: Start fun projects either at work or in your personal life.

Bel Pesce, entrepreneur and former Microsoft and Google fellow.
Magnus Höij via Flickr under Creative Commons License, 2.0 Generic
Bel Pesce, entrepreneur and former Microsoft and Google fellow.

3. Believe failure is someone else's fault

There are a million reasons why a project, idea or a business could fall flat. But not pursuing a career dream is ultimately your fault, Pesce says.

"If you have dreams, it's your responsibility to make them happen," she says.

When faced with failure, try a new route or learn from your mistakes, several famous entrepreneurs have said.

"Be responsible to your dreams," Pesce says.

4. Believe that, after initial success, you should relax

When you've made a breakthrough in your career, whether it's publishing a book or landing your first great job, it's tempting to settle with what you've got.

But that's when dreams fade, Pesce says.

Once you've reached a peak, look for the next one. "There's no time to settle down," she says.

5. Believe that life is only about fulfilling your dreams

"People think that [...] whenever you reach of the dreams, it's a magical place where happiness will be all around," Pesce says. "But achieving a dream is a momentary sensation. And your life is not."

Instead of only focusing on the large end goal, take pride in the small achievements along the way. It will make you happier, according to the entrepreneur.

"Every step of your journey is a chance to learn something or to celebrate," she says.

If you're holding back because you're afraid of failing, check out the fix one highly cited career coach recommends.