Fifty shades of failure (in case you missed it earlier)

Boobs. Butts. Dicks. There you go, sexual reference out of the way to justify the title.

What I really want to talk about is the ONE attribute(and a dozen different manifestations) that drives failure and concomitantly drives success if you can manage to avoid it.

  1. I have asked one of the leading coaches/consultants in the world what, in his opinion, is the single biggest issue that stands between a person and success. What was his answer?
  2. What is one of the most powerful persuasion techniques identified by Cialdini?
  3. What is the one thing that you need in order to establish yourself as an authority?
  4. Which psychological principle (also identified by Cialdini) drives the success and growth of Facebook and much of Social Media?
  5. What is the basis of a long-term relationship?
  6. What, according to Maslow, is the highest need-state that humans aspire to?
  7. What trait do people value most in the people who turn to for important advice?
  8. How do you measure success in a social world?
  9. On what factor does the success of a politician to get things done rest? (Even faceless men in Labor.)
  10. What is the cornerstone of effective, believable communications?
  11. What is the most powerful behavioural influence in the lives of young people?
  12. The fundamental driver of fashion purchases and the longevity of the industry can be ascribed to one common desire. What is that? (BTW, the same applies to tattooing, pop music and any fad you care to list.)
  13. Why do you have to watch the latest viral video?
  14. Have you met someone always wants to know how they are going or how they can do better?
Here are the answers:
  1. Self Esteem (or lack there of)
  2. Social Proof
  3. Credibility
  4. Liking
  5. Love
  6. Self-actualisation
  7. Trust
  8. Fans and Followers
  9. Authenticity
  10. Charisma
  11. Peer pressure
  12. Desire to fit in (while pretending you are focussed on being new and with it)
  13. Fear of missing out (FOMO even has its own acronym, it is that pervasive)
  14. Feedback (need to receive endorsement and validation)

Carefully consider these responses.

Can you see that they are shades of the same thing? (Albeit not quite 50.)

If I had to choose one word that describes the sweet spot in all those responses, I will opt for LIKING. 

For example: Credibility is a formal shade of liking. Love is an intimate shade of liking. And you can do this for each of the responses above.

People want to be liked. They don’t always like themselves but we have universal desire to be accepted and to belong and be part of some tribe. We don’t want to miss out and we don’t want to be alone. We want love and respect.

No matter who you are and no matter what you are prepared to admit. You want to be liked. And no matter who you are or what the socio-economic lottery gifted you; you are insecure.

The need to be liked is a thirst that can never be slaked.

The worst thing you can see to someone is: ‘I don’t like you.’

When the teenager screams ‘I hate you’ at the parent who denies them a late night out, they are instinctively resorting to the most primal and powerful weapon to inflict as much pain as they can on another human being.

Every character ailment or dysfunctional attribute in your make-up can ultimately be traced back to this one fundamental thing.

  • Bully? Insecure about their likability, so they do the things that make them unlikable so that they cannot be tested.
  • Arrogant? Once were liked and ran with it…
  • Compulsive re-tweeter, selfies on Facebook or Instagram? Wanna be liked…
  • The office politician? Say the right thing for the right audience… anything to fit in.
  • The class clown? Anything for a laugh…
  • The hero who saves the day? Likes the adulation…
  • The volunteer does it because it makes them feel good…
  • Customers want ‘customer service’ because the respect afforded them in this manner makes them feel good about themselves…

I could go on but the list is endless.

Your successes (and failures) in life are determined more by your likability than skills and even more than (inexplicable) luck or any other single factor. (Inheritance aside if you measure success in financial terms.)

Suffice to say that understanding this need is a powerful insight, and being able to manage it within yourself and others will uniquely equip you to conquer the unconquerable and once and for all make you a master of your destiny.

Confession time: I am not one of those people who are instantly likable. The truth is I am (lucky or unlucky enough) to be reasonably smart and articulate. I have a strong contrarian streak. I can think on my feet and poke a hole in most arguments and improve on any idea that is floated. I love words and ideas. I innovate and create.

Those who know me well will tell you that I tend to use all of the above toprevent people from being/becoming too close. Yip, despite the qualifications and pretty reasonable résumé, I too, am insecure. Just like you. The difference could be that you may or may not have recognised it for what it is and may or may not have admitted it to yourself. We are all insecure, and it simply manifests itself in different shades of failure.

I am driven by logic and rational argument. I value facts. I want to determine what is right and what is wrong and want to be able to justify everything I do. Even if I annoy someone, I just want to be right.

In fact, when I annoy someone with my rationality I can count that as a win. I am happy because then I don’t have to worry about being liked. (It would be completely irrational to be care about being liked by an dumb ass, right?)

Psychologists believe that the reason why some many Hollywood stars – the epitome of attractive, successful and rich – so often become victims of addiction and loutish public behaviour because they literally can’t believe their luck. They suffer from an ‘impostor syndrome’.

Even people who are well-liked (even admired), still need to have it constantly validated. Bill Clinton is arguably one of the most charismatic men of our time, but even he needed to other ‘exploits’ to bolster his ego. Monica wasn’t thathot, so those shenanigans clearly weren’t about sex.

Much like a magician misdirects the audience’s attention, many people create artificial character deficiencies to deflect and misdirect people’s affections. I (or anyone else) actually make it harder for people to know the real person because we fear that the real person is not good enough to be liked.

We all do that. We find a way of coping with the need to be liked and one logical way to deal with it is to make yourself less likable so that there is a rational reason why people don’t like you. Deep inside you know that is not really who you are; so perversely you then know that the reason why people don’t like you is wrong and therefore not truly a reflection of yourself. Your ego remains intact.

BUT - it’s not all bad. I am intensely committed and loyal. I always deliver – usually more than I said I would. (Can you see how event these positives traits can be traced back to inherent insecurities and the need to be liked?) I am highly ethical and honest. I work damn hard and always do the best I can. (If you were to become a client, history shows that you will be a client for a long time once we get to know and trust each other.)

When people really get to know me, they respect me, like me and trust my judgement and so forth; all the good stuff we thrive on. I may not be the first person called when the party is being organised, but I am the one they call when they lose their job.

But this post is not about me.

It is about you and your business.

And I want to provide you with some pointers as to HOW you can use these insights to your advantage. That is, I want to share the process you can use to become more likable, whilst simultaneously becoming slightly less dependent on having that need fulfilled.

Step 1: 
The starting point is SELF-AWARENESS.

This is much harder than it seems. Being aware of the impact you have on other people is clouded by your insecurities and self-delusions. The way youthink you are perceived is probably not the way you are actually perceived. In all likelihood it is not as bad as you think it is.

Human beings cannot deal with incongruence between who they think they are how people perceive them. They will behave/act in such a way as to synchronise their behaviour with how they think they are perceived. But if your perception of other people’s perceptions is faulty, then your behaviour becomes misaligned with both who you really are and who other people think you are.

Knowing yourself is hard thing to know. (Maybe because it is the one thing that you can never know objectively.) And it is hard for introverts (who are not focussed on the externalities) as well as for extroverts who are focussed mainly on the externalities and not their inner feelings.

Step 2: 
Validate your self-perception with some feedback from people whose opinions you trust and value.

It is not easy either, because the natural response is to justify and explain away those observations – especially if they hurt. You need some external input so that you can calibrate your sense of self with reality. (Which may explain why ‘life coaching’ is a booming business.)

Getting a reality check is critical. Don’t wait for a heart attack or a divorce or a retrenchment to force it upon you.

Step 3:
Accept yourself.

There is a fine line between being self-satisfied and self-acceptance; and finer still, the line between self acceptance and unwillingness to change.

Those bad habits of our old insecurities are hard to shake and we wear them like a comfortable old jumper long past its use-by date. But you can’t move forward if you don’t accept the essential person that carry around inside yourself.

You must want to change because you (love and) accept yourself. It is not about accepting yourself only after you have changed.

Step 4:
Practice honest likability.

Once you admit you want to be liked (just like everyone else) you need to proactively source some liking. That is a clinical way to say that you should surround yourself with some people who will like you.

This is actually quite easy – unlike the first three steps – because if you want to be liked, all you have to do is to honestly like other people first. 
How do you practice ‘liking’ people?

You smile. You listen. You get them to talk more about themselves and you don’t talk about yourself. You give them stuff. Not presents, but your presence. Not money, but your time. You give people your respect and your love and the way of the universe is that it returns to you – as corny as that sounds.

There is one catch. If you want them to genuinely like you then you must genuinely like them. You can’t fake the abovementioned strategies in order to be liked. You have to do it because you want to like them.

If you do it for the purpose of inducing reciprocal liking, you will fail. You have to ask yourself the critical question: how genuine (authentic) are you about liking and wanting to like other people? This is the key.

And that, dear friend, is the simple process to follow if you want more success.


Ganador may be called a ‘training company’ but honestly we see ourselves a bit differently. And that is NOT because we are contrarian about it… We see ourselves as being in the business of ‘performance support’. All performance originates from people, so we support people to perform. Learning and Development is what we do, but that label has connotations of class room training and colourful manuals – and that is a very small part of what we do.



We don’t often mention ‘performance support’ because it is too hard to explain and only people who are at the cutting edge of L&D will have even heard of the term, and operational people don’t care about labels – they just want results.

The principle of LIKING is one of the cornerstones of our Sell$mart training program (or performance support strategy.) Given my background in Consumer Behaviour and my innate need to be new and different and better, means Neuroscientific insights have been part of our training materials for a long time - seven years in fact –  and long before it became a buzzword used by people who have read a few pop-psychology books.

If you apply some common sense to it, you will appreciate that the need to be liked is such an innate need of ALL people, and therefore it is also a need of CUSTOMERS shopping in your store and it is a need of your STAFF selling to those customers.

1.      How can you leverage this powerful psychological insight to the benefit of your business?
2.      Is your customer experience designed to deliver on this need and are your staff skilled and committed to delivering on it?
Like most powerful insights, it is actually relatively simple. Once you know ‘WHY’, the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ follows easily. When the employee understand why something happens, they can buy into the ‘what’ and ‘how’.

Think about this: A retail employee has an opportunity all day and every day to experience some 'customer love' which could satisfy their innermost needs; yet retail suffers from high staff turnover?

Success is not achieved by running a 2-hour workshop and telling staff what to do. Sustainable success requires one to shift the culture so that the business becomes geared towards delivering this new experience.

And of course, LIKING is only one of those powerful heuristics. There are dozens, but it is not practical to implement all. Typically six or even just four of these heuristics will cover most scenarios with most customers and give most staff a skills set to interact effectively with customers and that will suit their personal preferences.

The image below is the framework we used with one client. It illustrates how the various decision heuristics are categorised into four key types. Each employee finds one or two of these categories more suitable and they can explore them in more depth and embrace it and make it there own.

The science of persuasion differentiates between alpha- and omega strategies, and they have different roles to play. ‘Devil’ strategies are Omega strategies and Alpha strategies are labelled ‘Angel’ in this diagram. (‘Liking’ falls into the ALPHA category if you haven’t guessed.)
The heuristic used depends on the stage of the relationship, the type of product you sell and the customers’ disposition.

The key point is: There is indeed a science to selling, and it is based on understanding emotions.

Some people are ‘naturals’ just like some people are naturally charismatic. But not enough people are, and definitely not all your staff (maybe not even you) may be a ‘natural’ at interacting with customers.

The good news is that anybody can learn to use these principles. As a trainer (or a performance support architect) you must put together the right pieces of the puzzle, help people discover how people really function and help them overcome the barriers that prevent them from becoming the person they need to be. That is the biggest part of the job.

The easy part is to give them practical tips on how to approach a customer or where exactly to stand relative to the customer (etc.) to create the optimum environment for selling.


I have shared with you ONE insight about people. This particular insight can be used on many levels, including by yourself in order to personally evaluate how you may want to make some changes to your own life and to your own relationships.

In this case it starts with an admission. Write me an email to tell me your story if you want.

You can also of course think about extending this into your business and change the way you and your staff interact with customers in order to drive sales revenues in addition to the personal satisfaction. I can GUARANTEE it works. (In one case we improved client conversions to 100%, up from 50%.) But how well it works, depends on how committed you are to implementing it.

As mentioned earlier, we don’t have a big blue file with a training package to sell. But if you are on a journey that needs some direction or need some momentum, we can help. I don’t know what the solution exactly looks like for you or your business, but we will come up with the right one.

In this case it requires a simple phone call or  an email to find out more.

We are actually nice people, despite our own little insecurities which we master one day at a time. And I am sure you will LIKE what we have to offer, and what it can do for you.

I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey. If you really are interested to learn more about it, here is a link. Or if you simply want to see some boobs, here is another link.


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