The Top 7 Traits of Unsuccessful People

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Succeed or fail—it’s all about habits and mindset. Not only is it good to learn from those achieving on high levels, but it can be even more beneficial to study the people who “failed” and understand the reasons why. Watch out for these common traits of the unsuccessful. Know what successful people do differently. Adopt winning habits so you can be successful too.

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The Top 7 Traits of Unsuccessful People

1. They’re sometimes unethical.

Unethical people all eventually fail. It may not seem like it right now, but it’s true. Whether it is presidents, CEOs of billion dollar startups, or real estate investors and agents, a lack of ethics will catch up in the end. When they crash, they crash really hard. Just ask Bernie Madoff.

It’s just not worth scamming others, doing dirty business, or taking illegal shortcuts. That’s just short-sighted. If you want to be in a great position in five and 10 years from now, keep your eyes on the long game. Put the blinders on, ignore other people’s fake successes, and play the race that matters.


Related: The #1 Key to Success According to a Self-Made Real Estate Billionaire

2. They embrace the scarcity mindset.

This typically leads to number one on the list. Some people operate out of a mindset of scarcity. That leads them to act greedily. They believe they have to take things from others in order to get ahead.

Successful people are those who are generous and believe there is a abundance in the marketplace. They share their ideas, time and, experience.

Even as the market heats up, there are still plenty deals in each market. Waiting until another market dip can keep you on the sidelines and have you miss many opportunities.

3. They may complain and attempt to shift blame.

Some people always have someone else to blame and something to complain about. They are always the victim. You can’t constantly play that card and expect to succeed. Life does happen. People will do you wrong. Things are not fair. Maybe it’s hard. Still, the successful take accountability. The most accountable are the most successful. They know that succeeding is up to them.

No matter what’s happened or what you’ve got to work with, you can take some positive steps in the right direction—even if it is reading a few more blog posts to learn something.

4. They stop learning.

After school, most people think the learning is over. In reality, it’s just the opposite. If you want to keep getting better results, you’ve got to keep trying new things—and that requires learning. Even once you are on top, you have to keep learning if you want to stay there. The average CEO reads 50+ books a year. The average person reads less than five. Do the math. If the only thing you can do to change your circumstances is read, do that.

5. They’re quick to give up.

You only fail when you quit. Some people quit trying altogether. Others just quit at one thing after another. They quit at direct mail campaigns, wholesaling, trying to make smart investments, and cultivating relationships. They quit far too soon to see the good results coming.

Everyone faces the same challenges. The winners are those who stick it out and keep trying when everyone else quits.

Related: I Asked Landlords for Their Best Tips: Here Are 6 Recurring Secrets to Success

6. They engage in negative self-talk.

Some people are always negative. They thrive on negativity. In contrast, the successful are very intentional with their thoughts and words. They have hard days too—but they know that thoughts become words, words become actions, and actions become results.

A hack I use is not watching the news. It is constantly negative and mentally draining. Using this hack alone will help cut out a good amount of negativity throughout your day.

What do you spend your time thinking and speaking about?

7. They lack focus.

You can’t stay on the path to success for long if you lack focus. Some can’t stick with things and are reactionary. They let the world dictate their lives. The successful stay focused and choose their own schedules and agendas.


There are clear differences in the habits and mindsets of the most successful and everyone else from my perspective. These factors are more important than whether you went to college, where you were born and grew up, your IQ, and how much money you have right now. What’s great is that all of these things are within your power to change. We can adopt these success traits anytime we want.

We’re republishing this article to help out our newer readers.

What traits would you add to this list?


About Author

Sterling White

With just under a decade of experience in the real estate industry, Sterling currently manages over $10MM in capital, which is deployed across a $26MM real estate portfolio made up of multifamily apartments and single-family homes. Through the company he co-founded, Holdfolio, he owns just under 400 units. Sterling was featured on the BiggerPockets Podcast and has been contributing content to BiggerPockets since 2014, with over 200 posts on topics ranging from single-family investing and apartment investing to wholesaling and scaling a business.


  1. Cindy Larsen


    Wow, great article. Great list of whalt NOT to do.

    I’d add
    They Don’t Value Other People.
    Some people are so focused on success, and on themselves and their own problems or concerns that they don’t take the time to build and maintain relationships.

    They may have great personal relationships with family and friends, but not treat other people as well.
    Making sure that intereactions with everyone you come into contact with are positive and friendly will go a long way to making you successful. I am not taking about being falsely friendly. Just about being yourself, and treating each person like they matter (because they do), whether it’s your barista, or the clerk at the planning department.

    This can be hard to do, because it is not only about your attitude and intention, it is about how you actually act. I am a multitasker, and am always thinking about a multitude of things. I can do this, and actually listen to the person I am talking to, and be reading a text message at the same time. But if I am not careful, I can appear distracted, and they may not think I am paying attention to them. So, I have to focus on body language that people read as listening, or they can think that I am not hearing them. Spending the time to be aware of people’s feelings ends up with a universe of people around you who are on your side. That is pleasant, but is also good business, and can help make you successful.

    • jason pinkerton

      I’ll add to that saying they don’t think win-win. Successful people think win-win. As to multitasking, it’s not actually possible, you’re merely switching from one task to the next in rapid succession, becoming less effective on all of them. As a frequent multitasker myself I have found that when I very specifically focus on one task even if it doesn’t take a lot of focus, I’m able to get much more done. I am still overcoming the habit of multitasking but I have noticed improvements since focusing on one thing at a time and not trying to get it all done at once. That one I actually took from Darren Hardy who learned it from some of the most successful people in the world (Bill Gates, Warren Buffet) and agencies like NASA. I can trust that, haha.

  2. Tom J.

    Good one, Sterling. Even positive, motivated people get caught up with item seven–a lack of focus. I believe setting priorities and maintaining focus is a learned skill to some degree. So we should constantly strive to develop our focus. Cheers!

  3. John Murray

    Unsuccessful people lack self discipline, this is the biggest factor in failure. Most successful people will do 3 things early in life. These are 1. Graduate High School, 2. Serve in the military, 3. stay married. If a person can accomplish these 3 hallmarks success will almost be guaranteed. All have the common denominator of self discipline. The other factor is luck, you have luck too.

  4. Erika G.

    Great list of what not to do to be successful. Thanks, Sterling. These are some of the things even a successful person overlook, so it is nice to be reminded of what we should not be doing to be able to keep that positive mind way of living.

  5. Johannes Schunter

    Good write-up, and I honestly wish your list was accurate. Unfortunately, the world is not always as it should be. Our current president is the literal embodiment of traits 1-3, yet he made it to the very top despite them (or even because of them).

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