The Underlying Foundation: How to Know if Something is Doomed to Fail

Why is it that whenever the federal government starts an initiative it never meaningfully accomplishes anything; why does a federal government startup equate to failure?

Why is it that whenever that guy you know comes up with a business plan all that happens is $1,000 and a bunch of time is lost?

Why is it that no matter how hard you try, you’re always late by at least 5 minutes?

The answer to all of these questions is the underlying foundation is fundamentally flawed.


Before defining underlying foundation, let’s look at an illustration:

Let’s pretend I want to buy a home.  I find a beautiful custom-made home and buy it.

The home is amazing.  Modern, great neighborhood, brilliant color scheme.  Everything I want.

There’s just one problem: Rather than using the standard .739 gallons of water per bag of concrete, the construction crew watered down the mix to be 1.5 gallons per bag of concrete.

They saved 50% on their concrete costs but I got a ticking time bomb; At some point, my home will fail.


Because the foundation is fundamentally flawed.

What wouldn’t be a fundamental flaw?

Let’s say the concrete had an off color.  That would be a fixable mistake – we could re-paint the perimeter.

How do we repair the fundamental flaw?

You have to start over and build an entirely new foundation made of a standard mix of concrete.


The underlying foundation for something is the basis or starting point from which it works from.

When an underlying foundation is fundamentally flawed it means that basis is broken.

Personal Applicability

We have our basic underlying foundation as a whole, as a person.  But there are all sorts of sub-foundations and derivatives of those sub-foundations that comprise us.

Here’s a super quick mockup just to illustrate what I mean:


As you can see, a foundational failure in fitness would first ruin fitness and then affect your health and person as a whole.

Just because we continually fail at something doesn’t mean we’re a failure.  It could be indicative of a broader failure but that’s something you have to determine.

For example, I was a habitually late person.  In the moment, I would rationalize the lateness as situational (I had to wait for a train, there was no parking, etc.) but the reality was there was some sub-foundation that was or included timing (I’m not sure how to categorize it) that was fundamentally flawed.

VS. at Flawed at the Inception

Flawed at the inception means flawed from the beginning.  A flawed foundation can be assembled over time – it doesn’t necessarily have to be at the beginning.

For example, I don’t think the construct of the U.S. government was flawed at its inception.  It deteriorated over time because of the participants involved.  (Maybe its susceptibility to corruption means it was flawed from the beginning.)

Many, including myself, strongly adhere to the adage that “if it starts bad, it ends bad.”

This belief requires some flexibility because obviously it’s not absolute.  However, the reason I believe in it is because it is very often true.

Rarely does a bad start lead to a good foundation.

VS. Structure

Foundation and structure are highly related but the two can be differentiated.

In the very beginning, I said that whenever the federal government starts a program it’s doomed to fail.

The program structure itself could be great.  Actually, I think some of the programs in existence could have a wonderful effect.

The problem is that all of the programs are founded by the government which is fundamentally flawed.

Thus, it’s the entity behind the structure (creator) that’s ruinous and not the structure itself.

Nuances (Keep it Linear)

A failed foundation in one area does not necessitate absolute failure in all related areas.


Let’s say I immigrate from China to US at the age of 15.  I know some English but it’s broken.

Does this mean I’m doomed to fail in America?

No.  It means my grasp of the English language is fundamentally flawed until I master the basics.

But it does not mean that I must fail.

It’s a consideration to take into place were we to wager my chance at my ability to make 6-figures but it’s not an absolute.


The vast majority of us are fundamentally flawed in some respect.  What you want is to be fundamentally sound in the major areas (health, mind, ethics, finance, etc.) and as many sub-areas as possible.

And this isn’t speaking to proficiency, just some theoretical requisite minimum.

For example, my English is fundamentally sound but I continually make grammatical errors in my writing and don’t know words in the books I’m reading.

However, because my English is fundamentally sound I am able to work from the foundation to learn and improve.

Every entity has a foundation; from a lemonade stand to a corporation.  The level of analysis necessary to understand the foundation will vary based on the complexity of the organism but everything can be figured out.

Red Flags and Telltale Signs

It’s impractical to thoroughly deconstruct and understand everything fully.  While a thorough analysis of a company you’re contemplating investing in would be preferred, you can quickly surmise a conclusion based on shortcuts.

For example, anytime I hear about a multi-level marketing scheme, I immediately dismiss my involvement in it.


Because it’s fundamentally flawed.

It doesn’t matter what the payout structure is.  It doesn’t matter what company is behind it.

A MLM program is designed to fail.

MLM is an easy one because it’s a on/off throwaway our gatekeeper mind can immediately reject.

But what about the entities that get to our second level analysis?  What should we look out for?

In the end, everything boils down to the people.

Who will run the operations?

What are their strengths/weaknesses?

Getting more detailed, the red flags depend on the organism you’re evaluating.

Illustrative Example

For the last two months, I have been looking for a Chinese supplier to provide me with a product.

Questions I ask myself include:

  • Are they organized?
  • Does their website look professional?
  • Do they do what they say they’re going to do?
  • How many certifications do they have from Alibaba?
  • Are their prices about right (too low and something will be sacrificed)?
  • How fast do they respond to email?
  • How do they conduct themselves on SKYPE?

The wrong answer to any of the above questions is a red flag that sways me away from dealing with the supplier.

What are the telltale signs that you’re in a relationship with the wrong entity?

Bringing it Back

Understanding foundation is so critical.  It affects everything we do.  You can use it on a micro scale (is this movie worth watching) or a macro scale (should I start over with learning what to eat).

The underlying foundation to most things can be changed but many times a flawed foundation is so fractured, an overhaul isn’t worth the effort.  You have to start anew.

Anew can be the blank slate approach.

For example, if everything I’ve learned about nutrition is wrong, I should forget I’ve everything I’ve learned and start re-educating myself with no preconceived notions.

Note that who you learn from forms the basis of your foundation and if your informational sources are wrong, so to will be the foundational knowledge you work form.

Working Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Strong Foundation

Results are SUPER important but not everything.

An extremely common flaw we make is that we assume that just because something has results and appears to be/purports to be working, that the underlying fundamentals must be there.


Faulty things can work or appear to work for significant lengths of time before proving themselves to be fundamentally flawed.

Ponzi schemes appear to work really well – sometimes for years – but they’re still flawed at the inception.

Look Out for Cosmetics!

Remember earlier when I was buying a home.  Remember how everything about the home appeared to be great.

Watch out for appearances!

Think of it this way: I can give you a delicious looking vanilla shake and you’d never know rat poison was one of the ingredients AKA it was fundamentally flawed.

Purveyors of self, goods, services, whatever will often market the products as what you want.  It’s up to you to inspect whatever you’re being sold.

How to Know if Something is Fundamentally Sound

It functions as its designed to.

Harking back a few seconds to the ponzi scheme, how do we know if the ponzi scheme is foundationally sound itself as far as ponzi schemes go?

Well, if the scheme is designed to take “investment” money from people with the promise of quick, irresistible returns and then pays those returns with “investments” from other people, then the ponzi scheme is fundamentally sound.

Granted, it’s fundamentally sound at screwing people over but it does accomplish its purpose.

The Takeaway

If you know what something is founded upon, you have intimate knowledge of where it’s headed and how it’s likely to interact with other entities.

Leave a Comment