The 20 habits that prevent you from getting to the top (part 1 of 5)

I was recently reviewing one of my favourite books, Marshall Goldsmith “What got you here won’t get you there”. This is a gold book that’s very well written and offers insight on every page.


The big gist of this insight packed book is that we all have habits that we’ve built that brought us to where we are today. Those habits however are now setting us back if we are to reach the next level. Yet, as creatures of habit, we fall superstitious that the behaviour we had is correlated to the success we’ve attained, and that’s… simply holding us back.

Marshall lists twenty habits that are preventing us from getting to the top. I see these everyday and am guilty of some of them. Awareness of these is important, but so is doing something different in at least one of them. As Marshall puts it “your wife isn’t going to believe you when you get home and tell her you’ve been to this enlightening talk and are going to change twenty things in your life starting today… Yeah right!”, so focus on one at the time.

What I thought would be most useful than just copy pasting from the book, was to share some stories on how I see these playing out everyday. I’ll break this post down in 5 parts (this post + one for each five habits).

As a disclaimer: names are omitted and these opinions are my own, not my employers.

So to kick things off, here is the full list of habits as Marshall presents them in the book:


  1. Winning too much: the need to win at all costs and in all situations – when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally besides the point.
  2. Adding too much value: the overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
  3. Passing judgement: the need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
  4. Making destructive comments: the needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.
  5. Starting with “no,” “but,” or “however”: the overuse of these qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right, you’re wrong”.
  6. Telling the world how smart we are: the need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.
  7. Speaking when angry: using emotional volatility as a management tool.
  8. Negativity, or “let me explain why that won’t work”: the need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.
  9. Withholding information: the refusal to share informational in order to maintain an advantage over others.
  10. Failing to give proper recognition: the inability to praise and reward.
  11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: the most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
  12. Making excuses: the need to reposition our annoying behaviour as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
  13. Clinging to the past: the need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.
  14. Playing favourites: failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
  15. Refusing to express regret: the inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognise how our actions affect others.
  16. Not listening: the most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
  17. Failing to express gratitude: the most basic form of bad manners.
  18. Punishing the messenger: the misguided need to attach the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.
  19. Passing the buck: the need to blame everyone but ourselves.
  20. An excessive need to be “me”: exalting our faults as virtues simpy because they’re who we are.

See you next week for the discussion of habits 1-5!


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