Avoiding Failure: 7 Tips NOT to Try to Please Everybody

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
Bill Cosby

We often spend so much time to think about how to succeed that we forget to think about how to fail. But knowing how to fail is just as important as knowing how to succeed because we can then learn about what NOT to do. It’s dangerous to fix our eyes on the destination without being aware of the pitfalls along the way. We may run fast to our destination only to find ourselves trapped in the pitfalls at the end.

One such pitfalls is trying to please everybody. Here are some of the dangers of trying to please everybody:

  • You may waste a lot of time on the wrong people while investing too little time in the right people. At the end, you could lose the right people since you do not invest enough in them.
  • You may experience disappointment after disappointment. You may think that you have done badly due to the rejection and opposition you face, while actually you are just dealing with the wrong people.
  • You won’t have strong principles since you try to be “acceptable” to everyone which is impossible to achieve.

Knowing how to avoid this pitfall is a useful weapon in your “how to succeed” arsenal. Here are seven tips not to try to please everybody:

1. Identify your strengths to know your audience

First of all, you should identify what your strengths are. By identifying your strengths, you will know what kind of value you can provide and consequently what kind of people you should target. Read more about identifying your strengths in 12 Essential Lessons to Maximize Your Personal Strengths.

2. Recognize your personal characteristics to know your audience

You are more likely to attract people who have similar characteristics as you. People who share similar interests, background, or point of view are more likely to respond well to you. By recognizing your personal characteristics, you will get a better idea about who are the right people to target.

3. Accept that you can’t please everybody

Of course, you should first try to target the right audience as described in point 1 and 2 above. But even if you do that, you still can’t please everybody. No matter how hard you try, there are always people who oppose you. Accepting this possibility will ease the burden and make the process much easier for you.

4. State your position in a way that is not ambiguous

You should state your position clearly without being ambiguous. One of the danger of trying to please everybody is polishing your position in such a way that it is acceptable to everyone. Most likely you can only do that through ambiguous message for which different persons have different interpretations. At the end it will do you more harm than good.

5. Keep an open mind

Before discarding other people’s opinions as “coming from the wrong people”, you should have an open mind to seek truth in their opinions. While it is wrong to try to please everybody, it’s equally wrong to just discard opinions we don’t agree with. Try to find something you can learn from them. Maybe it’s you who need to change.

6. Be polite but firm to your opposition

After exercising an open mind and still can’t find a solution, it’s time to be firm about your position. Don’t try to please the wrong person. If you do so, you may compromise your principles. State clearly to her that though you appreciate her opinion, yours is different.

7. Let the rejection go from your mind

After you face rejection, sometimes you still have it left in your mind. You may still think about it and feel bad about it. Doing so will just decrease your happiness and in turn your performance. So let the rejection go from your mind. Forget it. Say goodbye, close the door, and move on.

Photo by fabiogis50


  1. Open your dayplanner and write NO in each page.
    When people call up asking for your time, you open your planner to the page and say “no”…

  2. Duncan,
    Isn’t that a bit too drastic? I’m not sure that will work, but good if it works for you.

  3. Many years ago I had occasion to see a counselor. I was wondering about various dissatisfactions in my personal life, and she spotted the problem exactly: whenever I encountered someone who didn’t like me, I immediately (and without thinking about it) set out to win them over. And I was usually able to do it.

    The result was that I had a lot of “friends” who liked the me that I had manufactured but who would not care at all for the me that was in fact me. Totally unsatisfying. And, though it was hard to tell, I had undoubtedly forgone many close friendships because the people who might enjoy the real me were not interested in the fake me.

    She suggested that I try just being myself, in the expectation that some would not much care for me—but those who did like me would like the real me, and I would have real instead of constructed friendships.

    I did that, and sure enough, some people don’t much like me—but those who do become really close friends. And it takes so much less energy and it’s so much more satisfying.

  4. Heya Donald, just thought I’d drop by to visit my friend, and found this fantastic piece. It really is very timely. We all need this, especially once our blogs get bigger and bigger, don’t we?

    Modern personal development, entwined with ancient spirituality.

  5. Leisureguy,
    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s a good example of how bad it is to try to please everybody. Being ourselves is a much better way to live. As you said, it takes much less energy and it’s more satisfying.

    You are right, we bloggers face this danger when our blogs grow. It will be stressful if we try to meet everyone’s expectation. Thankfully we do not need to do that 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!

  6. […] waste your time and energy trying to reach the wrong people; you can’t please everybody. So find the kind of people who would need the value you offer. To help you do this, there is a […]

  7. You cannot please everybody. Why? Everybody is not always good. Some of them can be bad. Do you mean to say you want to please the bad guys too?

    Simple theory.

    Thanks for the post!

  8. White Calla,
    Yes, some guys are bad, and some guys – though aren’t bad – just don’t fit us. We shouldn’t waste our time trying to please them.

  9. […] waste your time and energy trying to reach the wrong people; you can’t please everybody. So find the kind of people who would need the value you offer. To help you do this, there is a […]

  10. […] is a major pitfall. Often we are afraid of negative things people may say about us that we end up trying to please everybody. But that’s a vain attempt. No matter how good you try, you will never be able to please […]

  11. […] A menudo tememos tanto a las cosas negativas que la gente pueda decir de nosotros que terminamos tratando de complacer a todo el mundo. Pero ese un esfuerzo en vano. No importa que tanto te esfuerces, nunca podrás complacer a todos. […]

  12. […] in business and in marketing. On the Blog “Life Optimizer” an article was posted titled Avoiding Failure: 7 Tips NOT to Try to Please Everybody and at the top it quotes Bill Cosby who […]

  13. I’m going to love this blog. Your advice is straightforward, yet kind. I was just googling around and typed in “how to please everybody”, knowing that this is an impossibility, and I found this. Bookmark worthy!

  14. I’m struggling a lot with this. It has gone as far as to destroying my energy to find work, because I always burn out after 1-3 years. I give off a very ambiguous personality, which at the age of 29 I am just starting to realize, making it hard and extremely tiresome to relate to people, overanalyzing every social encounter… I wish I could stop, I’ve been like this since I was a child, and think it might be family related.

  15. @Jonny. I’m like you too and I’m just a year older than you. Whatever you said about yourself was pretty much about me too. I found God and new friends so its all good now. I also have come to accept that I can’t please everyone and I won’t yield anymore to negative comments because and ex-friend had hurt me when I tried to please him. He was still negative (immature) to me afterwards and now I’m glad he’s out of my life. I forgive easily but its just that I’m no pushover anymore.

  16. I have been trying to please everyone since I started working at my job over 5 years ago and it has been a miserable failure. I learned that I can’t please everyone, not everyone is going to like my tour (I am a tour guide) even though I say the same stuff to everyone unless they want to know something specifically or don’t want a tour and just walk around, or they don’t speak English. Most of the people I get in a day thank me for the information and that they liked the tour and that I am very knowledgeable, which makes me feel good. Then I may have one person in a week that didn’t like it, and they complain and my boss feels she needs to file a paper on disciplinary action on me. I try to tell her that no matter how hard I try I can’t please everybody and she says that I have to. Next time she tells me that I am going to tell her my mantra. And if she says I am getting an attitude, she hasn’t begun to see me get an attitude. My mantra is as follows, “God likes me and I like me. If you don’t like me, the you have a problem. If God likes me then who cares that everybody doesn’t approve of everything I do?” Most everyone likes the tour. And if I didn’t need this job so badly I would have quit a long time ago because of my boss. If her boss didn’t think the sun rises and sets on her, she wouldn’t be here anymore, because she doesn’t deserve to have people under her.

    • I bet it builds character though, since it doesn’t seem that it has broken you down, that’s good 🙂 In a job like that you quickly learn social skills and you are 100% absolutely right, you CANNOT please everybody. And if someone feels like actually spending time to complain about a damn tour, they have their own issues to work out that has nothing to do with the actual tour, unless you took them down into a dungeon and slapped them or something.

      One person a week if you do it on a daily basis, sounds to me like a very good track record for such a job. Your boss should be lucky you’re still there and should treat you better!

      I’ve changed jobs 7 times over the last 10 years, so I know my fair share of demotivating bosses that never deserved their jobs.

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