November 7, 2008 Tony Morgan

10 Reasons Why You’re Probably Going to Fail

I’ve experienced failures. I’ve watched others fail. I’m guessing you’ve seen plenty as well. This morning I tried to think through some common reasons why failure happens. I’m looking forward to some healthy conversation on this one. With that, here are:

10 Reasons Why You’re Probably Going to Fail

  1. It’s not your passion. If it doesn’t make your heart beat fast or cause your mind to race when you’re trying to sleep, you’re probably doing the wrong thing.
  2. You don’t have a plan. You need a vision, and you need to identify specific steps to make that vision become reality. That includes a financial plan. (I happen to believe you need direction from God on this.)
  3. You’re waiting for it to be perfect. Test-drive it. Beta-test that new idea. You’ll fall into the trap of inaction if you think it has to be absolutely right from day one.
  4. You’re not willing to work hard. Everything worth pursuing in my life has involved discipline and perseverance.
  5. It’ll outgrow you. Keep learning. Keep growing. But more importantly, build a team of people including leaders that can be who you’re not.
  6. You’ve had success in the past. I’ve watched organizations hang on to a good idea for too long. Time passes. Momentum fades. It’s risky to let go of the past and jump on the next wave.
  7. You’re unwilling to stop doing something else. Complexity is easy. Simplicity takes discipline. You can’t build a healthy marriage if you’re unwilling to give up dating other women. Who/what do you need to stop dating?
  8. You won’t build a team of friends. Anyone can hire from a resume. You need to find people you want to share life with. In the long run, great relationships will get you out of bed in the morning.
  9. You won’t have the tough conversations. When breakdown happens (and it always does), someone needs to put on their big-boy pants and initiate the difficult conversation that leads to relational healing.
  10. You’re afraid of failure. When fear consumes you, it will cause you to do stupid things. You’ll let negativity distract you. You’ll embrace the known, and grow comfortable with mediocrity. The more often you fail, though, the more often you’ll find success.

Here’s the deal. I don’t think this list is just about personal failure. This is about organizational failure (your ministry, your church plant, etc.). This is about business failure (your start up, your turnaround effort, etc.). This is about relational failure (your marriage, your dating relationship, etc.). The same principles apply.

Now it’s your turn. What else should be on the list? What are some other ingredients for failure you’ve experienced or witnessed? What would you add/delete from the list?

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

Comments (29)

  1. Brian Goodban

    I feel uncomfortable giving additions to an already great & tough list to swallow and to a guy I admire…but, since you asked I’d put these on my list: #11. You won’t make the exception (if everyone you come across is truly unique, then there’ll always be an exception you must flex with.); #12. You have bad hygiene (brush & floss daily, trim your nose & ear hair, use a mint for goodness sake! This is America.). That’s it for now! PS. #12 doesn’t apply for those outside America. :-)

  2. I would add the flip side of #8 as the dreaded #13… Don’t just hire friends or friends of friends because they are “in” the circle. There might actually be someone just as relational that’s more qualified and equipped to be a better fit for the role. In other words, be willing to expand the friend base sometimes when building your team. I guess balance in that category would be my suggestion.

  3. love it. not sure if this is really something to ad but i think another possible would be…


    Goes along with passion but it seems that many, over time, forget. They become complacent and loose the vision.

  4. Great post T-Mo!! Great content, very challenging and in your face…just the way I like it!!

    For me, one that I would add is this…

    “You can’t let go of your agenda” — When we cling onto an idea, revelation, whatever you want to call it, we become consumed with (personal) agendas. Success is about investing in others, putting ourselves (and our agenda’s) aside and following God’s agenda.

    I don’t know…maybe that’s not a good one?

  5. karen buccino

    This message was written for me/to me. God has opened my eyes and this message just confirmed it. Thanks

  6. #11 (but more like #1) – God wasn’t in it to begin with.
    #12 (but more like #2) – You are doing it in your own strength and not in the Lord’s strength.

  7. Bradley

    Another reason we fail is we don’t believe the idea, relationship, change or momentum will work. We thought it was a good idea at some point maybe even a God idea however somewhere along the way we just lost faith.

  8. Great list! I thought I would share a few extras…

    11. You’re not an original. While we can learn from others, God’s calling and purpose for your life & ministry requires authenticity. I agree with Paul Tillich when he said, “To be Christ-like is to be authentic.” Believe in what God has put in you and trust that you don’t have to copy the ministry down the street to thrive in Jesus Christ.

    12. You don’t stay aware of the community you serve and serve in. Demographics isn’t everything, but it means a lot. Opening a Steak Restaurant in a vegan community may not be the best decision. It is important to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and conscious of the ethos of where you are going to plant.

    13. You’re not willing to upset somebody. No matter what you do somebody is not going to be happy about it, possibly even on your team. Moving past others feelings on things essential to your ministry and ethos is essential.

    14. You don’t take criticism well. Criticism is a good thing. Although some of it is ephemeral and negative, as a rule criticism is one of the primary guides that let you know your ministry’s effectiveness. If your goal is to reach the masses and you hear the criticism “they have too many people,” that’s a good thing. :-)

    15. You can’t handle success. Sometimes success is failure. Stay grounded and centered on purpose and service. Though success will come through you it’s not about you.

  9. The only item that I would add to your great list is: Lack of Skills or Knowledge. I have seen people get stalled because they just do not know what to do next.

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