Paul Haarman: The #1 Way You Can Fail At Just About Anything (And What to Do Instead)

When I was a kid, my dad told me something that stuck with me: “If you want to win the rat race, doesn’t be a rat.” explains Paul Haarman

What do I mean by this? Well, if you look up the definition of ‘rat race’ you’ll see it’s a never-ending pursuit of materialistic things and social status.

(Rather, see the below image which is what pops up if you search ‘rat race’ on Google Images.)

While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having nice things or being successful, my dad meant something different when he said this. What he was getting at is that our society tends to reward people who are all about greed and ambition…but these are also some of the qualities of your average rat.

He used to tell me that if all you’re doing is trying to get money and power, without ever taking time out for family, fun, adventure or just being alive—you’ll end up old and regretful. You might have a lot of toys but you won’t have very many adventures. You might have a lot of money, but you won’t appreciate how beautiful the world is.

Not following this advice has cost me plenty of times, and I’ve seen it cost other people too. The good news is that if you’re willing to give up some ambition, materialistic things are much easier to attain. So I started thinking about what I could do that would be different…and eventually came up with the following list!

5 Reasons you’ll fail at Life If YouDon’t watch out… And What to Do Instead

1 – Not Being Willing To Take a ‘Big Hit’ To Attain Your Goals

What Is Going Around Comes Around—and Will Bite You in the Ass?

To achieve your goals, you might need to sacrifice time, money or relationships. You’ll need to set boundaries and say ‘no’ more often than you say ‘yes.’

If you try to succeed in every area of your life, but never prioritize anything—you won’t accomplish much says Paul Haarman. Sometimes you need to be willing to fail (and lose) in order to ultimately win.

2 – Not Understanding the 80/20 Rule

80 percent of what you do brings 20 percent of the results, which means only 20 percent is giving you 80 percent of the reward…while the other 80% of your work gets very little back for all your effort.

This can show itself as getting easily distracted by trivial things that are actually not important at all. For example, watch this TED talk where Derek Sivers explains how he got rid of most of his possessions, and gave up his apartment to go travelling. Instead of working more at the things that were only giving him 20%, he shifted focus onto the things that offered 80%.

3 – Forcing Things That Don’t Want To Happen

You can work hard for something all you want…but if it doesn’t really ‘want’ to happen, then you’re probably out of luck. You can use your ambition and energy in two different ways: pushing against resistance or pulling in the direction of growth.

The problem with pushing against resistance is that it takes lots of effort—which usually gets you half-way there…then when you run out of steam, you fall flat on your face says Paul Haarman. However, if you use your energy to pull in the direction of growth…you can get to where you want faster than you would have by just pushing against resistance alone.

4 – Believing You Can Get To the Finish Line Fast

There’s this saying that I find helpful: ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ It’s not possible to achieve everything at once, and sometimes it takes years to really see results. No matter how ambitious or ‘successful’ someone is, they’ll usually admit they wish they had started earlier.

We all tend to be impatient—but instead of thinking about what we might gain by giving up too soon (like time), we think about what we might lose (like money). Just remember, the best things come to those who wait.

5 – Telling yourself you’re ‘Just Being Practical’

This is a new one that I just learned about this week while watching an interview on YouTube with James Altucher. He’s known for being very successful…but he didn’t just get lucky explains Paul Haarman. He says he had several failed businesses before finding success, but what helped him get through it all was having something else going on—meaning another source of income.


Under-appreciate what you have, prioritize your goals, be willing to lose some things in order to win bigger things, don’t push against resistance all the time, and give yourself enough time.


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