Willy's ignorantly believes that his personality can get him through any situation, but when he realizes otherwise, it is too late for him to change his lifestyle, and he begins to lose his mind. Although Willy always talks badly about his neighbor Charley, who Willy claims not to be as successful as himself, Willy is far less responsible and "he's got no character Charley wouldn't do this" (56). There are more important things than being well-liked, but because Willy doesn't realize this, he can't see why he is not successful.
Biff and Happy, Willy's sons, do not have a father who is a good example for them. Happy is constantly trying to get his father's attention, but Willy, for unknown reasons, sees far more potential in his older son, Biff. Willy seems to see Biff as an extension of himself. Because Willy has not yet realized his mistakes in the time that he raises his sons, he teaches them to be just like himself, cheating and lying but expecting to still be adored.
"What's the mystery? The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it!" (41) Willy says, referring to his brother Ben, who was all but his idol. What Willy does not realize is that he himself does not know what he wants, and that's a big part of where his problem lies. He wants to be a successful salesman, but that is because he wants money, not because he genuinely likes being a salesman. Because he does not know what he really wants, he cannot achieve happiness.