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Most people focus too much on how to get ahead by making the right decisions. In a world where most businesses go under and most investors trail an index fund, an obsession with how to not fail can be a more effective mind-set. Doing so requires knowing the behaviors that are likely to cause failure. Here's a checklist of bad decisions I've witness over the years. 

  • Always remember: Success is due to your intelligence and effort. Failure is due to the political party you didn't vote for.
  • View "changing your mind" as a character flaw and something to be avoided.
  • Associate complexity with added value.
  • Surround yourself with people who agree with you or are too afraid to tell you you're wrong.
  • Treat information that goes against what you believe as an attack on your intelligence.
  • Seek the council of people working on commission. 
  • Accept past correlations as a clean prediction of the future.
  • Compete on cost rather than service.
  • Prioritize in this order: Quarterly results, annual results, long-term results, and -- if there's anything left over -- reputation. 
  • Develop strong opinions for things you have no personal experience in.
  • Study the habits of successful people. Ignore habits which require serious, time-consuming and mentally exhausting effort. Double down on those which mimic your current hobbies.
  • Use current popular sentiment to gauge future outcomes, especially when it's highly emotional. 
  • Dream big. About your future paycheck. Don't let the intervening effort or social sacrifices required to get there become part of the story.
  • Expect to achieve overnight what successful people took decades to accomplish.
  • Leverage up to the point of needing your forecasts to be accurate in order to survive.
  • Focus heavily on analytical ability, discounting common sense as too simple-minded.
  • Treat employees as workers rather than people.
  • Always ask, "How can I achieve the same investment returns they did, but faster?"
  • Consider your last day of college the last day you need to study and learn.
  • When you win, adjust your expectations upward by the same amount, ensuring that your ability to feel the joy of progress takes the form of a treadmill.
  • Risk what you and your family rely on for a chance at something superficial and unnecessary.
  • Since failure is not an option, discount contingency plans.
  • Be genuinely surprised at the occurrence of recessions and bear markets. 
  • Consider a degree from a prestigious school as an entitlement to success. 
  • Look for patterns in complex adaptive systems, like the economy and stock market. 
  • Get tired of being patient. 

Check those boxes and you'll be disappointing in no time. 

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Contact Morgan Housel at mhousel@fool.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.