An Attitude

Bill Abbate

While there are many ways to fail and succeed, it’s not hard to nail down the types of behavior that lead to these outcomes. Let’s look at four such behaviors and how they work for and against us.

Types of failure in the world

Everyone experiences success and failure in their lives. These experiences come in countless ways, yet some major areas of failure and success are not difficult to identify. For example, a few of these can include the failure or success:

  • you bring on yourself
  • caused by others
  • of a device or tool
  • of a system or organization
  • of a management or leadership style

Because human involvement is inseparable from each area, we can narrow part of failure or success to what every human being has in common, our behaviors. Let’s look at a few such behaviors and their effect on the outcomes we produce.

The two types of failure

A quote I came across recently spurred me to take a slightly different perspective on the subject of failure and success. Despite spending considerable time researching the person responsible for the following words, online searches turned up almost nothing. The only thing I found of substance was a company newsletter from 1940 that contained the quote, meaning the person responsible for it lived early in the 20th century.

“There are two kinds of failures: The man who will do nothing he is told, and the man who will do nothing else.” Dr. Perle Thompson

The interesting thing about the two types of failure mentioned by Thompson is while they appear as opposites, they are on the same side of the proverbial coin of failure and success.

The first will do nothing they are told, while the second does what they are told and nothing else. Both types often fail in the world. Let’s look at the extremes of these types of people.

Those who do nothing they are told This type of person is irreparable because of the chaos they often create. They win few friends on the job or in life. They cannot and will not follow instructions. They could care less and will not do what they are told. It’s best to stay away from this type of person. It sounds like they could use some serious therapy, doesn’t it?

Those who do what they are told to do and nothing else — This kind of person rarely, if ever, goes beyond what is asked of them. Because of their lack of enthusiasm, ingenuity, and drive, they lead a mediocre existence and serve a modest function in the world.

The two types of success

On the other side of this proverbial coin is the opposite of the two kinds of people Thomson mentions. They most often find success in their efforts. They are:

Those who do what is asked without hesitation — This kind of person is a steady producer. They are dependable and do their job, but little more. This is the average person who often finds modest success but success nonetheless.

Those who do what is asked of them and more — This type of person goes the extra mile, putting in more effort than is asked of them. Because they don’t hold back and work with a good attitude, they often find much success in their endeavors.

They will find ways to enhance their outcomes, often using their enthusiasm, ingenuity, and drive to create superior results. They do what they do with a spirit of cooperation, not obstinance. Their actions are sincere and not selfish. This is the kind of person every employer seeks!

While such a person may fail at times, it is rarely held against them and considered part of the road forward because of their honest effort and good attitude. This is a far better way to approach life, don’t you think?

“The key to success is not through achievement, but through enthusiasm.” Malcolm Forbes (1919–1990)

Is there a middle ground?

Plenty of people are in the middle, and this middle ground can be broad. Nothing in the world is ever completely black and white, with countless shades between them.

It is unusual for someone to be so obstinate he would do absolutely nothing he is told or who would do nothing else. Yet we all know people who have such attitudes. They are not usually good employees. Neither are those whose behaviors alternate between the success and failure sides of the coin.

This overall concept also applies in our work and throughout life. Have you ever met a spouse or an acquaintance that exhibits the attitudes of the two types of failure? Most of us have, and more often than we care to admit. Such attitudes often form when we are young and continue because of a lack of self-awareness.

“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us.” John Mitchell (1913–1988)

Final thoughts

It can help most of us to do a bit of introspection to determine where we may have fallen into one of these two failure traps. How have you or someone you know submitted to the trap of utter obstinance? How about the trap of doing barely enough to get by? Think about how selfish it is to live such a life.

The two kinds of failure are dangerous and damaging at work and, more importantly, in relationships. We would not want our spouse or friend to exhibit one of them in our relationship, nor should we.

To turn around the two types of failure, you must only recognize them and begin working on yourself and your attitude. You must put aside selfishness and immaturity and show respect by doing more than is asked. You will live a far better and happier life when you do!

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” Herm Albright (1876–1944)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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