Success Myths Busted: Why Most Of The Common Success Advice Is Wrong

Table of Contents

Most people never reach the level of success they desire. One key reason is that they follow the wrong advice.

You might be thinking, ‘But isn’t success advice supposed to help us succeed?’ The truth is not all advice is created equal.

Much of what is commonly touted as ‘success advice’ is wrong and can actually hinder your progress.

It is diffused by people who do not have the results they claim to help people achieve with their advice. Following this advice can lead to wasted time, effort, and even financial loss.

Let’s debunk the most common success myths together.


1. Work Hard

Hard work alone doesn’t guarantee success. It’s possible to work hard on the wrong things or in inefficient ways and not make any progress towards your goals.

Imagine someone trying to start a business by working 18 hours a day but focusing all their energy on perfecting a product that nobody wants. Despite their hard work, the company will fail because they didn’t validate their idea with potential customers.

I was about to be interviewed on a podcast. The host warned me that when he would ask me the secret of my success in my field, I should offer something easily replicable by others, like hard work.

I should not say luck, for example, as this, according to him, would not be “motivational” enough for his listeners.

Lucky serendipities were a part of my journey and everybody’s journey. Why should we have to hide it?

All the successful people I know have plenty of white space in their calendars. They create the systems and teams that allow their impact to scale without them having to work harder.


2. Follow What Works for Other People

Success is not one-size-fits-all. Strategies that work for one person might not work for another due to differences in skills, resources, and circumstances.

I built my business by writing. Another coach asked me how he could do the same, even though he did not like writing.

I told him that he shouldn’t force himself to write if he doesn’t like it. There is no way this would work for him.

Potential clients can taste the love or the resentment on anything we do. Instead, he should find a different way that he enjoys and that is aligned with his interests.

He should find a different way aligned with his interests and passions.

Also, even coaches who enjoy writing cannot follow the exact same steps that I did. The algorithms of the publishing platforms have changed, as have reader preferences.

You can learn from other people. The people who took my Thought Leader course improved the reach of their writing significantly.

But that is mostly because they learned to enjoy it and approach it playfully rather than following specific techniques.

The secret is to learn from people who have the result you want to have but adjust the strategy to you and your current circumstances.


3. Balance is Impossible

Promoting the idea that you can’t have a balanced life if you want to be successful is harmful.

It suggests sacrificing your health, relationships, and well-being is a necessary price for success.

I have noticed that the opposite is true. My most professionally successful clients take good care of their body and their relationships.

These aspects support and sustain long-term success rather than detract from it.


4. Take Big Risks

The biggest risk is not taking any risk at all because that means you haven’t really lived.

However, successful people know how to mitigate their risks. They do everything they can to minimize potential losses.

Warren Buffet’s rule number 1 is: Never lose money. His rule number 2 is: Never forget rule number 1.

When Richard Branson launched Virgin Airlines, he negotiated a deal to allow him to return the plane if the idea did not work out. This strategic move allowed him to launch his venture with minimal risk.

Success requires staying in the game long enough, and that can happen more easily when you do not have big losses. Successful people look for opportunities that offer big rewards and minimize risks.


5. Network

Networking for the sake of networking can lead to superficial connections that don’t benefit your career. The quality of connections matters more than quantity.

Attending every networking event and collecting business cards might seem productive. Building deep, meaningful relationships with a few key people in your industry is much more valuable.

I don’t like building relationships in case I need someone in the future. I like to build relationships that bring me joy and fulfillment in the now. When I need something from a contact, I am upfront about it.

I cut to the chase and make my ask; I do not force a connection for the sake of self-interest.


6.  The Best Way To Improve Is To Follow Other Peoples’ Feedback

While feedback can be valuable, it’s important to discern which feedback to take on board.

Not all feedback is created equal; some can lead you astray if it doesn’t align with your vision or goals.

In many corporate environments, the leaders receive contradictory feedback.

Feedback reveals more about the giver than the receiver.

The best way to improve is not via feedback but via experimenting and testing—your ideas, your work, and your impact. By trying out different approaches and strategies, you can learn what works best for you and make continuous improvements.

You can ask for feedback from a mentor or a person who has achieved what you want to achieve.

Also, what is considered a weakness in one environment might be your superpower in a different one.

One of my clients was given feedback that she was too sensitive. Her sensitivity is a superpower in her new career, where she works with people.

In my corporate life, I was given feedback that I was too honest. My honesty is a superpower as a writer and a coach.

If Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb, had listened to the feedback of the initial VCs that there was not enough market for his startup idea, he would have given up, and Airbnb would not be around.

JK Rowling would not have published Harry Potter if she had listened to the feedback of the first 12 publishers she sent it to.

Successful people became successful because they learned to ignore a lot of the feedback. They improved via experimentation and mentoring, and played on their strengths.


If the above advice does not work, what does?

Here is the best advice I would give anyone who asks me about the secrets of success.

  • Connect with your vision and define success on your terms.
  • Have the courage to let go of everything that does not align with your vision.
  • Build meaningful relationships with people who lift you and aid your growth.
  • Keep on growing.

The most successful people forge their own path rather than follow conventional wisdom. One step at a time.

What other “conventional” success advice do you believe is primarily wrong?


Download my free guide about How To Let Go Of Everything That Does Not Align With Your Vision.

Discover how to:
Identify what to let go of first.
Choose one of the 7 strategies to let go with grace and without burning any bridges.
Ensure unwanted activities do not creep back in.

Link here.

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Picture of Caterina Kostoula

Caterina Kostoula

Caterina Kostoula is an executive coach and founder of The Leaderpath.

Her mission is to coach pioneering leaders for impact and fulfilment.

She has worked as a Global Business Leader at Google where she was
also a 5-star rated internal coach. She has coached leaders and teams from Google, Amazon, Stripe and Workable, as well as a number of startups.

Caterina teaches the popular Life Vision Programme at INSEAD Business School.

Her work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company and Thrive Global. Her best-selling book, “Hold Successful Meetings”, was published by Penguin in 2021. Her TEDx talk is called “Do your goals prevent your success?”

Education

– MSc in Executive Coaching from Ashridge Business School (EMCC-accredited)

– INSEAD MBA

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Success Myths Busted: Why Most Of The Common Success Advice Is Wrong

Most people never reach the level of success they desire. One key reason is that they follow the wrong advice.

You might be thinking, ‘But isn’t success advice supposed to help us succeed?’ The truth is not all advice is created equal.

Much of what is commonly touted as ‘success advice’ is wrong and can actually hinder your progress.

It is diffused by people who do not have the results they claim to help people achieve with their advice. Following this advice can lead to wasted time, effort, and even financial loss.

Let’s debunk the most common success myths together.


1. Work Hard

Hard work alone doesn’t guarantee success. It’s possible to work hard on the wrong things or in inefficient ways and not make any progress towards your goals.

Imagine someone trying to start a business by working 18 hours a day but focusing all their energy on perfecting a product that nobody wants. Despite their hard work, the company will fail because they didn’t validate their idea with potential customers.

I was about to be interviewed on a podcast. The host warned me that when he would ask me the secret of my success in my field, I should offer something easily replicable by others, like hard work.

I should not say luck, for example, as this, according to him, would not be “motivational” enough for his listeners.

Lucky serendipities were a part of my journey and everybody’s journey. Why should we have to hide it?

All the successful people I know have plenty of white space in their calendars. They create the systems and teams that allow their impact to scale without them having to work harder.


2. Follow What Works for Other People

Success is not one-size-fits-all. Strategies that work for one person might not work for another due to differences in skills, resources, and circumstances.

I built my business by writing. Another coach asked me how he could do the same, even though he did not like writing.

I told him that he shouldn’t force himself to write if he doesn’t like it. There is no way this would work for him.

Potential clients can taste the love or the resentment on anything we do. Instead, he should find a different way that he enjoys and that is aligned with his interests.

He should find a different way aligned with his interests and passions.

Also, even coaches who enjoy writing cannot follow the exact same steps that I did. The algorithms of the publishing platforms have changed, as have reader preferences.

You can learn from other people. The people who took my Thought Leader course improved the reach of their writing significantly.

But that is mostly because they learned to enjoy it and approach it playfully rather than following specific techniques.

The secret is to learn from people who have the result you want to have but adjust the strategy to you and your current circumstances.


3. Balance is Impossible

Promoting the idea that you can’t have a balanced life if you want to be successful is harmful.

It suggests sacrificing your health, relationships, and well-being is a necessary price for success.

I have noticed that the opposite is true. My most professionally successful clients take good care of their body and their relationships.

These aspects support and sustain long-term success rather than detract from it.


4. Take Big Risks

The biggest risk is not taking any risk at all because that means you haven’t really lived.

However, successful people know how to mitigate their risks. They do everything they can to minimize potential losses.

Warren Buffet’s rule number 1 is: Never lose money. His rule number 2 is: Never forget rule number 1.

When Richard Branson launched Virgin Airlines, he negotiated a deal to allow him to return the plane if the idea did not work out. This strategic move allowed him to launch his venture with minimal risk.

Success requires staying in the game long enough, and that can happen more easily when you do not have big losses. Successful people look for opportunities that offer big rewards and minimize risks.


5. Network

Networking for the sake of networking can lead to superficial connections that don’t benefit your career. The quality of connections matters more than quantity.

Attending every networking event and collecting business cards might seem productive. Building deep, meaningful relationships with a few key people in your industry is much more valuable.

I don’t like building relationships in case I need someone in the future. I like to build relationships that bring me joy and fulfillment in the now. When I need something from a contact, I am upfront about it.

I cut to the chase and make my ask; I do not force a connection for the sake of self-interest.


6.  The Best Way To Improve Is To Follow Other Peoples’ Feedback

While feedback can be valuable, it’s important to discern which feedback to take on board.

Not all feedback is created equal; some can lead you astray if it doesn’t align with your vision or goals.

In many corporate environments, the leaders receive contradictory feedback.

Feedback reveals more about the giver than the receiver.

The best way to improve is not via feedback but via experimenting and testing—your ideas, your work, and your impact. By trying out different approaches and strategies, you can learn what works best for you and make continuous improvements.

You can ask for feedback from a mentor or a person who has achieved what you want to achieve.

Also, what is considered a weakness in one environment might be your superpower in a different one.

One of my clients was given feedback that she was too sensitive. Her sensitivity is a superpower in her new career, where she works with people.

In my corporate life, I was given feedback that I was too honest. My honesty is a superpower as a writer and a coach.

If Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb, had listened to the feedback of the initial VCs that there was not enough market for his startup idea, he would have given up, and Airbnb would not be around.

JK Rowling would not have published Harry Potter if she had listened to the feedback of the first 12 publishers she sent it to.

Successful people became successful because they learned to ignore a lot of the feedback. They improved via experimentation and mentoring, and played on their strengths.


If the above advice does not work, what does?

Here is the best advice I would give anyone who asks me about the secrets of success.

  • Connect with your vision and define success on your terms.
  • Have the courage to let go of everything that does not align with your vision.
  • Build meaningful relationships with people who lift you and aid your growth.
  • Keep on growing.

The most successful people forge their own path rather than follow conventional wisdom. One step at a time.

What other “conventional” success advice do you believe is primarily wrong?


Download my free guide about How To Let Go Of Everything That Does Not Align With Your Vision.

Discover how to:
Identify what to let go of first.
Choose one of the 7 strategies to let go with grace and without burning any bridges.
Ensure unwanted activities do not creep back in.

Link here.