10 Sure-Fire Ways to Be a Complete Failure At Everything

By Ali Luke

January 28, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Whatever that word means to you, it’s probably something you’ve been chasing for a while. By now, you’ve read about scrambling to the top of your career ladder, how to get the partner of your dreams, how to achieve your goals. You’ve mastered Getting Things Done, and learned every Zen Habit in the handbook.

But, let’s face it, success is hard – and uncertain. It might mean putting in long hours. It might mean learning new skills or doing things that scare you. It might mean some uncertainty and discomfort.

Failure is much simpler. If you want to be a complete failure at everything you do, read on: I’ve got ten easy-peasy steps for you. Heck, if you’re like most of us, you’re probably managing some of them already.

(And if you’re still set on being a big success? Read on anyway. You’ll know what to avoid…)

    1. Chase Other People’s Dreams
      The best way to be a complete failure is to get your definition of success utterly wrong from the start. Base your dreams on those your parents have for you, or on your friends’ ambitions. Decide that you, too, should want a 6 figure salary (even if it means working 14 hour days). If you’re really lucky, you’ll meet your goal – and then you’ll realise that it means nothing to you. After years of hard work, you’ll still have failed. Clever you.
    2. Start 17 Projects, Finish None
      If you want to be a failure, get great at starting things. An idea hits (“I’ll start a blog about making money on the internet?”) You jump straight into it. Two days later, you’re bored. Another idea hits (“I’ll take up martial arts and become a black-belt!”) You get lessons. A week later, another idea hits (“I could play guitar in a rock band!”) You buy all the equipment. … Are you seeing a pattern? One great way to fail to ever meet your goal is to keep starting on new ones.
    3. Give Up When It Gets Tough
      Most long-term goals have their tough patches. Sure, it’s easy going at first, when your motivation is running high. But pretty soon, you’ll get bored, or tired, or fed-up. If you want to be a complete failure, that first period of discomfort is the time to quit. Don’t ever try to see something through to the end. It’s just too much work.
    4. Persist At All Costs
      Of course, there’s a more spectacular way to fail than by flaking out early on. Once you’ve started something, don’t even consider giving up. Your business has been floundering for months? Borrow more money to keep it afloat. You’re writing a novel that bores you to tears? Don’t give it – see it through to the bitter end. Rejected a dozen times by the girl/guy you’ve been asking out? Keep pestering them. You’re no quitter. (Though you’re well on the way to having a breakdown.)


  • Never Ask For Help
    To be a failure, you have to insist on doing everything alone. Don’t ask for help. Struggle on with a far too heavy workload, because “if you want a job doing right, you have to do it yourself.” You should never admit to anything that smacks of weakness. And, of course, you wouldn’t dream of asking for directions.
  • Trample On Other People
    One great way to fail in many areas, from relationships to friendships to work, is to treat other people like scum. If they’re in the way of your goal, step right on top of them. If they ask you for anything, refuse point-blank. If they make a mistake, scream at them. If they disagree with you, sulk for a week. To really fail in life, you need to alienate everyone who might help, support or care about you.
  • Never Say No
    If you’re a bit too touchy-feely to crush heads underfoot on your descent into failure, then try this method instead: always say “yes” to whatever you’re asked to do. Your kid wants a present you can’t afford? Put it on your credit card. Your boss asks you to stay late and work Saturday? Be a martyr. Your community association needs a new secretary and they think you might like the job? Sure, you’ll do it. In fact, the only things you’ll say “no” to are your own hopes and dreams.
  • Be Disorganized
    To increase your chances of failure in any venture, make sure you’re as disorganised about it as possible. Forget to invoice people who owe you money. Lose important documents. Turn up late, or in the wrong place, or ideally both. Don’t bother keeping a diary or calendar. Make sure you never have any healthy food in the house, so you can resort to expensive and greasy takeouts yet again.
  • Stay In Your Comfort Zone
    If you ever get the opportunity to do something new, avoid it at all costs. New things are often scary – and scary is no fun at all, right? Stay right inside your cosy comfort zone, and never stretch or challenge yourself. A big part of being a complete failure is making sure you never have the chance to realise what your full potential is … let alone reach it.
  • Procrastinate
    My final tip, before you get started on your lifetime of complete and utter failure, is to procrastinate. Put everything off till the last minute … then put it off a bit longer. Not only will you fail (your report/essay/tax return will be crap), you’ll also make yourself feel stressed. Your procrastination techniques should be things that hold no real interest for you – silly online games, rearranging the jars in the kitchen cupboard, watching paint dry … That way, you’ll fail to accomplish anything and you’ll fail to have any fun. Make sure you add in a good dose of guilt, too.


These are just ten ways to be a complete failure – I’m sure there’s more! If you’ve got a good one, let us know in the comments!

Written on 1/28/2008 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university. Photo Credit: salimfadhley


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