9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life: A Psychologist Probes the Mystery of Why Some Lives Really Work and Others Don’t

by Henry Cloud



Henry Cloud’s book, 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life: A Psychologist Probes the Mystery of Why Some Lives Really Work and Others Don’t, is an analysis of nine practices of successful people. Cloud labels these successful individuals déjà vu people (Cloud 2004, 9). The following provides a brief exploration of the nine principles.

The first principle, “Dig it Up,” is the practice of self-awareness. First, honestly examine any weaknesses, process them, and then throw them away or sow them (Cloud, 35). Second, take an honest inventory of one’s passions and talents, develop them, face any fears, and take calculated risks (40-41).

The second principle, “Pull the Tooth,” is the practice of confronting problems and letting them go. The key concept is that avoidance is unhealthy and limiting (59). Accordingly, déjà vu people do not allow unhealthy negative situations to linger; they face the issues and then move on with their life (60-64).

The third principle, “Play the Movie,” is the practice of seeing the end before making decisions. By actively visualizing a potential positive or negative outcome, the individual increases the capacity for effective decision-making (71-73). The author suggests seeing, planning, and then evaluating each scene “in light of where the movie is supposed to end” (94).

The fourth principle, “Do Something,” is the practice of taking personal responsibility. Although painful circumstances and difficult people are often out of one’s control, the ability to respond healthily to these challenges is always within one’s control (102-104). The author highlights the importance of the principle by explaining that freedom results from “ownership and responsibility” (105).

The fifth principle, “Act Like an Ant,” is the practice of taking small steps to accomplish large tasks. The principle decreases the risk of feeling overwhelmed while encouraging the individual by shifting the focus to small accomplishments (122, 128). Finally, the author paradoxically warns, “wanting it now keeps you from having it” (133).

The sixth principle, “Hate Well,” is the practice of hating in a way that solves problems instead of creating them (146). Cloud suggests that hating well preserves life and hating poorly destroys life (147). An integral component of hating well is objectivity, which hates the issue without hating the person (153-156).

The seventh principle, “Don’t Play Fair,” is the practice of loving unconditionally. Loving without conditions is unfair and incredibly powerful (169). Further, the author suggests that loving without conditions is possible only when healthy detachment exists (179-181). In summary, undeserved love transforms lives.

The eighth principle, “Be Humble,” is the practice of serving and learning. First, arrogance denies failure, avoids correction, and fears criticism, all of which undermine learning (200-209). Second, déjà vu people understand that humility is a prerequisite to service, and service precludes success (209-210).

The ninth principle, “Upset the Right People,” is the practice of risking the loss of the approval of others. Allowing other people’s unhealthy reactions to manipulate decisions trains them to respond immaturely in the future (224-228). Accordingly, disconnecting from the emotional response of others is critical to healthy decisions and healthy relationships. Finally, Cloud provides twelve steps to help apply the nine principles (238-246).


In addition to being humble, Cloud provides three enlightening insights. First, Cloud advances the paradox of perseverance – “wanting things quickly…causes you to miss getting them at all” (Cloud 2004, 133). Next, Cloud recognizes that one cannot simultaneously love and need (Cloud, 180). Specifically, the measure of love conferred is indirectly proportional to the extent one needs the recipient. Finally, the author ironically proclaims that criticism is a gift, a reminder of James 1:2 (204).

A number of potential logical and biblical inconsistencies also exist. For example, Cloud encourages individuals to take personal responsibility, yet simultaneously suggests that taking responsibility could mean getting someone else to take responsibility (98). Furthermore, the author advises against depending on a spouse to meet one’s needs, but suggests the solution is to fill those needs with other individuals (180-181). Unfortunately, this simply replaces one idol for another and avoids real fullness – that of Christ (Colossians 2:10 [NIV]). Finally, the author repeatedly suggests that solutions reside in others, concluding that people are “in our lives to show us the way” (Cloud 2004, 237). Although community is critical, Christ alone is the way (John 14:6 [NASB]).

Much of the material in Cloud’s work interfaces with the Hawkins’ assessment and Rice’s model of personhood. Hawkins’ model provides a framework to locate “what” is happening rather than “why” stimuli occur (Hawkins 2012a, slide 4). Most of Cloud’s tenets integrate with Hawkins’ framework including the principles of pulling the tooth, doing something, hating well, and not playing fairly. For example, the individual does not need to know why a negative circumstance arose in order to pull the tooth or why an unhealthy situation exists in order to hate it well. Additionally, Rice’s model of personhood emphasizes the importance of relocation through “imagineering purposeful movement” (Rice 2012, slides 1-2). Although a number of Cloud’s principles align with Rice’s imagineering perspective, Cloud’s principle of playing the movie amalgamates seamlessly. Specifically, playing scenarios out to the end helps motivate healthy decisions in the present (Cloud 2004, 72).



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Cloud, Henry. 2004. 9 things you simply must do to succeed in love and life: A psychologist probes the mystery of why some lives really work and others don’t. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

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Hawkins, Ronald E. 2012c. The counseling structure/strategy. http://bb7.liberty.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-15867903-dt-content-rid-84441962_1/xid-84441962_1 (accessed May 16, 2012).

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http://bb7.liberty.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-15867904-dt-content-rid-84442503_1/xid-84442503_1 (accessed May 16, 2012).

Rice, Dwight C. 2012. A Multi-faceted view of the self. Adapted from Hawkins’ pastoral assessment model. http://bb7.liberty.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-15867922-dt-content-rid-84442451_1/xid-84442451_1 (accessed May 16, 2012).