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The 2nd Deadliest Cause of Failure

By Randy Gage in Critical Thinking, Success, Prosperity.

In this series, we’re exploring the biggest causes of failure that are holding people back.   (If you missed the 3rd Deadliest, see it here.)  Today we look at:

The 2nd Deadliest Cause of Failure…

I was only half joking when I suggested yesterday that this cause would be the one that most of you were going to hate, and argue that it doesn’t apply to you.  So let’s find out.  Because the 2nd deadliest cause for failing is because…

You Haven’t Yet Achieved a Sufficient Level of Mastery

Why does almost no one believe this is the issue with them?  Because they have surrounded themselves with people who pander to them.  People who give you permission to stay the way you are.  People who tell you what you want to hear.

Often these people are mistakenly thinking they are helping you.  The most glaring example of this is when you see contestants on talent shows like Idol and SYTYCD that really have no gift toward singing or dancing whatsoever, yet they had their mom or someone encouraging them to tryout.  I could do a whole post about “helicopter parents,” but will leave that alone.  Let’s talk about the other scenarios this comes up.

The biggest dynamic is something I will label “false competency.”  False competency comes about when you see surface factors that skew reality.  Let me give you some examples I see when I’m coaching highly-paid authors and speakers.

Someone writes a book, in an effort to showcase and share their expertise in a particular subject.  Then have ten chapters, each one with a pithy quote from some famous person at the top of each chapter.  Then in each chapter they explain why that famous person was correct in their quote.

The book comes out and sells okay.  The author’s friends and family lavish him or her with praise.  The author can point to hundreds of other books that follow this exact template, so they assume they have dialed into the groove and delivered what is needed.

But this is false competence.

Because they didn’t actually author a thought-provoking book, with their expertise and point of view.  They actually delivered a book report on what other famous people think.

Another example: a speaker who gets big fees and a steady diet of bookings.  He looks at his earnings and convinces himself that he’s a true rock star presenter.  But he doesn’t even have the most basic understanding of what a keynote speech is.  Not a clue what the difference between a keynote and seminar is.

He begins every presentation by giving a 10- to 15-minute recap of his story, what brought him there.  But of course the promoters have already done this; that’s why he was booked.   Next he start questioning the audience, getting a show of hands to see the knowledge and experience level of the audience in different areas.  He thinks this demonstrates how much value he is looking to provide the audience.  But to any experienced speakers bureau or event planner, this simply demonstrates that the presenter is an amateur.  Because a professional speaker, would have done the necessary pre-event research to know exactly who the audience is and what they need.

Another well-known speaker has brilliant information.  But somewhere along the way he started to think it was his job to “fire up” the audience, so he yells his entire speech from beginning to end.  People hearing him for the first time love the content and stick around for it.  But many others avoid his programs, because they know after 90 minutes of someone yelling at them, they’ve leave with a migraine.

Yes another presenter is as gifted as they come: great knowledge, presented with a hysterical comedic delivery.  But he doesn’t understand how to work with an interpreter, when some of the audience is listening through headphones.  Even native English speakers have a hard time keeping up with him.  For those relying on an interpreter, they receive less than 15 percent of what he is sharing.

In each case, these people receive all the public trappings that would convince them that their level of mastery is world class.  But it’s a false positive.

Of course I know all this, because I was the worst example ever, myself…

Back in the day, I was earning big dollars as a speaker, doing public seminars.  I knew or cared nothing about my craft (stagecraft, storytelling, teaching modalities, etc.).  I just was satisfied with my amazing content.  Then a large organization hired me to do a keynote for their annual conference.  I had never done a keynote; had no idea what it actually was.  (I thought it just meant a 45-60-minute speech.)

And for the first time in my career, I BOMBED.  I mean miserably.  I could regale you with all the mistakes I made and lessons I learned, but that would be a detour here.  (And true professional speakers will get all the dirty details at my TRIBAL Event.)  The point is, I came to the self-awareness that I didn’t posses a high enough level of mastery to be a professional keynote speaker and needed to improve it.

Okay, let me share one more example for your awareness, from another field I’m involved with, leveraged sales…

Someone will come to me for coaching and say something like, “I’m great. My people love me.  How come I’m not reaching higher ranks and income?”  And once again, the reason is, they haven’t developed a sufficient level of mastery.

They think success means developing the right image, wearing the right watch, prowling the stage, and posting power pix on Instagram.  But that’s all the superficial bullshit.  To become successful in that profession, you must have strong people skills in areas like conflict resolution, understand strategic processes like creating a duplicable system and setting up a training structure for the team.  You have to model leadership with the way you conduct your business.  If you’re not continually honing your skills and developing your craft, your top people eventually pass you by.

So let’s return to where we began…

I suggested that for many of you, you would argue that competency is not the issue for you.  And maybe that’s true.  But please do some critical thinking on this, and consider if you have fallen prey to false competency.  (And may I suggest you have the guts to share your thoughts with the community in the comments below?)

I’ve come to these conclusions, based on my work coaching with some of the most brilliant people in the world through my Breakthrough U coaching program.  Due to demand, I opened up five additional spaces.  There are only two left, so if you’re ready to play in that sandbox, apply now.

Now if you’ve read through number 5, 4, 3, and 2, and you convinced that none of these are causing you to fail – well you better buckle up for the next post, when I reveal what the number one cause of failure is…

There’s a great chance that as soon as you see it, you’re going to say, “Wow, I knew that subconsciously, but never allowed myself to express that!”


P.S: If you are finding this series helpful, please show it some love!  If you’re getting the email, please forward it to someone you believe would benefit. And if you’re reading on the blog or Facebook, please frolic on the share buttons.

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11 thoughts on “The 2nd Deadliest Cause of Failure

  1. Daniel says:

    Most of the time, my incompetency is bury me. And I am nowadays not the “fast learner” type. It is easier for me to count what I am good at, than to count what I don’t (one of this is probably my English). But at least, I know what to improve. The biggest problem is most of the time that I don’t know HOW to improve.

    1. Randy Gage says:

      But that is an easy problem to fix! The most important part is recognizing that you need to develop more mastery. -RG

  2. Bernice says:

    What are you telling yourself and others?

    I am alive. I did not fail. I am triumphant. I have mastered my own beliefs. I listen to my own story that is different from what the majority is listening to.

  3. A “false competency”, not good for “attraction marketing”. Thanks!

    1. Randy Gage says:

      Actually I think it works great for attraction marketing. But unfortunately, in attracting the wrong things… -RG

  4. Bernice says:

    Gender inequality is deadly. But gender equality alone would not solve race/gender/religion/ethnicity inequality.

  5. Chris says:

    I found this really interesting. The problem I see with actually doing the critical thinking on this topic is that you don’t know you suck at something until you have the failure. Prior to your keynote experience I’d guess you had people saying you were great and this was reflected in all the ways you measured that success. Money, bookings, accolades etc. So my question is – when everything is working well and you are actually successful, how do you know that you aren’t where you could be?

  6. ypkate says:

    Great article. Thank you! I am just beginning my speaking career. I realise I have much to learn. Where is the best information to consume and practice?

    1. Randy Gage says:

      Good for you! I recommend you join the National Speakers Association. And also see if they have a local chapter where you live. -RG

  7. Viola Tam says:

    Hi Randy,

    How I love this ‘false competency’ concept! I totally agree with you that honing our skills is crucial.

    Many coaches teach what work and what duplicates. You include a training system for the team as well. This is an area that i am working to improve as there is power in Social Media.

    I believe that one can leverage Social Media platforms like Facebook and Isatagram to attract the right audience to us.

    With Appreciation,

    Viola Tam


    For years my team was in the top 1% which meant I was always receiving awards, the trips etc, but underneath I always knew I was a fraud. I was just ok in a company that had a bunch of leaders that came from direct selling but knew next to nothing about MLM. I was always trying to grow and improve but apart from folowing people like you and trying to grow a professional team, there was littel I could do to improve. In the last 9 moths we have had some very skilled and proffesional leaders join the company, and I am delighted to finally have a new standard to mirror and acheive a new level of Mastery. I wasn`t actually a failure, but I always knew I could and should be so much better.


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