These 6 Factors Are the Difference Between Success and Failure

16 May 2024

In all our endeavors, success is a desired end state. It brings a moment of exhilaration, joy, and pride that’s hard to explain. Failure on the other hand is disappointing, and frustrating and can even demotivate some people from trying to reach for their goals.

Multiple setbacks, challenges and obstacles are inevitable when you’re doing something worthwhile. It may appear that they’re blocking you from reaching your destination, but look at them another way and you’ll find that they provide helpful signals to carve a path to your goals.

You also get a continuous stream of feedback from other people and the things in your environment. Depending on how you process these inputs, they may either give you just the cue you need to keep moving forward or distract you from your goals.

There’s no playbook to success because it’s often a culmination of many different factors—depending on not only what you’re trying to do but also your circumstances, knowledge, experience and luck.

These 6 critical factors don’t guarantee success, but they can definitely shift the balance in your favor. They provide a blueprint to success to guide you in your journey towards your goals.

Within you is the power to succeed, but you must express that power to succeed in actions toward achieving your goals.

— Jeffrey G. Duarte

1. Clarity on success criteria

We all want to succeed. Yet, we fail to define what success means to us. Leaving the criteria open-ended or having only a vague sense of what success means to you can make it hard to determine when you have achieved your goal.

When you don’t clearly know what you want, the more time, effort or energy you put into something, the less it appears within your reach.

Achieving success starts with defining what it means to you—what matters to you, what do you wish to achieve, why is it important, how can you measure it?

Define success by answering these questions:

  1. What does success look like?
  2. What would be different once you achieve it?
  3. What would stay the same if you don’t achieve your goal?
  4. What metrics, parameters or other inputs are required to track your progress?
  5. How would you know when you’re on the right path and when you have diverted from it?

Be clear, concise and specific. Vague definitions like happy family, satisfying career, financial security will only leave you feeling stuck, unhappy and dissatisfied.

Success is personally defined. It's subjective and it's what YOU decide it will be.

— Sarah Centrella

Define your success. Let your “why” come from deep within.

2. Consistency in action

A solid strategy and a good execution plan is important to succeed, but plans are of no use if you never put them into action.

Lack of clarity, fear of failure and the sheer volume of the task ahead of you can prevent you from getting started. But without committing to overcome these daily battles, you cannot succeed.

You need to work on your plan every single day. You need to show up even when you don’t feel like it or even when it gets tough—no whining, no complaining, no excuses. Consistency in execution turns small daily achievements into big results. You can turn the impossible to possible only when you stick with something long enough.

Here are a few essential practices to stick to your daily goals:

  1. Break down your goal into small tasks. Small steps turn off your brain’s alarm system that resists and fears change.
  2. When working on a task, use Pomodoro technique to keep distractions away and stay focused.
  3. Schedule your most important tasks to align with the time of the day when your mental energy is at its peak. You can’t make good decisions or do quality work when you’re tired or under the effect of decision fatigue.
  4. Set aside 15-20 mins at the end of each day to reflect on your progress and identify ways in which you can improve. Self-reflection is a great tool to learn and course correct.

Small consistent daily actions over time mount up to truly massive results in your life, because they act as a bridge to the future you want to create.

— Mike Pettigrew

Turn your dreams into reality by aligning your daily actions with what you wish to achieve.

3. Reaction to unexpected events or outcomes

When you’re doing something worthwhile, failures and disappointments come along for the ride. Unexpected situations, change in your circumstances or not getting the desired results despite putting your best effort can throw your balance off a bit.

Things are going to get hard. New problems are going to crop up. Instead of giving up, you must learn to dust yourself off, stand back up and keep pushing ahead. You need to persevere and stay on the path without quitting.

Success can be achieved only by stretching yourself and practicing courage to step into the unknown, not by playing safe and staying inside your comfort zone. Give yourself permission to feel disappointed, but don’t let temporary setbacks turn into permanent excuses.

\When confronted with an obstacle:

  • Try a different strategy if whatever you’ve been doing hasn’t been working.
  • Experiment with multiple options to determine the one that works.
  • Challenge traditional methods and explore new ways of doing things.
  • Practice multi-disciplinary thinking to get ideas from other domains and functions.

When you keep searching for ways to change your situation for the better, you stand a chance of finding them. When you stop searching, assuming they can’t be found, you guarantee they won.

— Angela Duckworth

Learn to stretch your abilities. Don’t let setbacks get in the way of your success.

4. The story you tell yourself

Your mind is a meaning-making machine. It likes to explain things by stitching stories that align with your beliefs and expectations.

When you achieve something, do you consider the role of internal factors like your effort, skill and grit that contributed to that success or do you ignore your accomplishment by attributing it to external factors like luck, other people or situational factors?

Likewise, when you fail, how do you respond? Do you take responsibility and look internally to your own behaviors and actions or do you blame external circumstances or other people for not achieving the desired outcomes?

Your beliefs about success and failure significantly impact your perception, feelings and ultimately the way you act.

When you fail to acknowledge your strengths that made success possible or feel inadequate for failures even when things were outside your control, your self-limiting beliefs get in the way of your growth. Tune your beliefs to align with your goals and not against them.

To stay in touch with reality:

  1. Identify things within your control and those outside it.
  2. Expand your circle of influence by working on things within your control.
  3. Stop wasting time and energy on things outside your control.

Your beliefs affect your choices. Your choices shape your actions. Your actions determine your results. The future you create depends upon the choices you make and the actions you take today.

— Roy T. Bennett

Choose your beliefs wisely because they affect your choices and the results you achieve.

5. Ability to separate signal from noise

When working on a goal, you’re bound to get a lot of feedback—both directly and indirectly—from the things in your environment.

A lot of this feedback is noise though—it doesn’t help you achieve anything significant or it distracts you from your goals. However, hidden within all this noise is a gem—that rare piece of advice, wisdom or knowledge that will help you move forward and take you closer to your goals.

In order to succeed, you need to open yourself to the idea that others have valuable feedback to share. You need to learn to take criticism constructively:

  1. Don’t take feedback personally or tie it to your value and worth.
  2. Don’t refuse to acknowledge the gaps in your knowledge.
  3. Don’t treat others as inferior or refuse to trust their judgment.
  4. Don’t let your ego get in the way.

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.

— Winston Churchill

Feedback is often the missing link to traverse the path to your destination. Implement a solid feedback loop into your process to get solid results.

6. Getting the right help at the right time

All successful people have one thing in common—they don’t shy away from asking for help when they need it. Instead of trying to fly solo, they utilize the knowledge, expertise and instincts of the people around them.

\Not asking for help when you need it not only prevents you from getting ideas and advice to move forward, it’s also a foolish mistake. No one is going to look down upon you if you ask for help. No one is going to question your abilities.

Rather, it shows that you believe that an answer is out there and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. Being resourceful is a value much appreciated in the workplace. People who know how to get their way around problems and those who look for efficient ways to overcome challenges are always in high demand.

When asking for help:

  1. Explicitly ask for it. Don’t assume others can read your mind.
  2. State it as you need it. Be specific and direct.  Don’t try to manipulate others by being vague.
  3. Act on it to see what works.

I think the most successful and accomplished people are those who can show courage and admit they can’t do it alone. It’s pointless to struggle silently behind a fake smile.

— Brittany Burgunder

Ask for help. Get the support you need. Treat your vulnerability as a strength and you’ll be surprised to see how many people are willing to help out.

\Success is possible and it’s within your reach. Turn your dreams into reality by defining what success means to you, act on your plan every single day, don’t let obstacles stop you, work on things within your control, use feedback to your advantage and get all the help you need.


  1. Many factors play a role in determining where you end up—whether you succeed in achieving your goals or whether you give up.
  2. One of the biggest mistakes when trying to achieve something is not clearly defining it first. When you don’t know what you want, it’s impossible to reach for it.
  3. A great strategy and execution plan isn’t enough to succeed. You also need to build the discipline to act on it every single day.
  4. Setbacks are disappointing and may even hurt, but don’t let them turn into permanent excuses to stop trying and give up.
  5. Your beliefs play a crucial role in your experience, feelings and ultimately the way you act. Use your beliefs to move you towards your goals and not away from them.
  6. Put in the hard work to get corrective feedback, let go of your ego and do what it takes to adjust, adapt and make corrections.
  7. When you don’t know how to do something on your own or lack the knowledge and expertise, there’s no shame or harm in getting the help you need.

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