The Key to Failure — Trying to Please Everybody

Brad G. Philbrick
3 min readDec 7, 2020

Trying to please everyone, I venture to guess, is the number one reason for failure. Why? You cannot do it. Nobody can.

Now we embark upon the holiday season. We seek out the perfect gift for our loved ones, for friends, perhaps for colleagues, and the boss. Mind you, the boss, too, contemplates what seasonal presents should he or she bestow on the organization’s team members.

We learned to try to please everyone from childhood. We first knew to please our parents; then it went to school teachers, neighbors, and friends. Then we had to satisfy our priests, rabbis, or pastors.

We are entering the world of work, its pleasing customers, colleagues, and bosses. We seek to work harder at engaging everyone positively, because now as adults, it seems we can’t please everybody. Often too, it is not enough, and for some, never enough. We end up digging ourselves a hole trying to please.

Bill Cosby, a renowned comedian, and actor, is known to say, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

Rick Nelson, an American rock star, learned the hard way that trying to please everyone does not work. Rick Nelson failed at the Madison Square Gardens concert. No one liked his music. Music fans did not recognize him, so much so that they booed him off the stage. He wrote a song in the early ’70s to share his experience.

Played them all the old songs, thought that’s why they came
No one heard the music, we didn’t look the same
I said hello to “Mary Lou,” she belongs to me
When I sang a song about a honky-tonk, it was time to leave

But it’s all right now; I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself

The strangest part of pleasing everyone is the more generous our attempt to please others, gain their applause, their gratitude, their favor, keep them laughing, and earn their respect, the more we fail. Why? We never come to a relationship with these people. These acts appear only in the moment; it’s never for the long run. It is like Ricky Nelson’s concert appearance at Madison Square Garden fifty years ago.

Remember this. It is not your duty to make another person happy, nor is it in your power to do so. Similarly, it is not another’s person’s duty to make you happy, nor is it in his or her ability to do so.

First, please yourself. Everyone needs to make themselves whole and happy. You cannot make another happy until you are satisfied with yourself first. Seek happiness from within, not seeking happiness in receiving acknowledgment from others. Happiness is not outside of you; again, it comes from within.

Let yourself become happy in the pursuit of your goals and dreams. Happiness is in the quest. Do not focus on failures or falling short.

Many fall victim to the demands of society. Society loves to place conditions on all of us. Culture and the business world always remind us that we cannot be happy unless we are thin, buff, eat at upscale restaurants, wear fine clothes, and drive luxury cars. For some, that becomes a burden and leads to unhappiness. So once again, happiness comes from within. Happiness exists only when individuals rule our inner things, while sadness exists when the external rules the inner. Live from your internal foundation, and then you will find that all is well.



Brad G. Philbrick

Brad earned a B.S. degree in Pharmacy from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND.