As a columnist in one form or another for over two decades, I have had the opportunity to meet and interview successful persons from all walks of life and fields of endeavors. I have spoken with rock-stars, political leaders, award-winning scientists, activists, Oscar winners, and successful entrepreneurs of all sizes.
As you might imagine, there are several traits that all of these successful folk have in common – here are the Top Ten that I believe have made them who they are.
1. Unparalleled Determination – However you measure success, whatever it is that you want to achieve in life, it starts with setting a goal. Then, successful people break down everything that may be required to meet that goal, including any and all obstacles they may encounter along the way. The people that I know who have achieved success, look at that list, and no matter how difficult it may appear to be, remained undaunted. You must be determined to pursue your goals from the very beginning, and be unwavering in that determination or you will never be able to deal with the pressures that could stand in the way of your success.
2. Unafraid to Fail – I am sure you have heard the famous stories about Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, etc., who all failed miserably, before their eventual historic success. These stories are the staples of motivational speakers. However, I can tell you first-hand that it’s all true. With rare exception, just about every successful person I ever interviewed has failed, usually more than once. The most successful people are those who are willing to learn from each failure and understand that each failure only helps them grow stronger and make better decisions later on that lead to success.
3. Unafraid to Take Risks – Similar to being unafraid to fail, successful people are also risk takers. They are willing to take financial risk for sure. There have been plenty of entrepreneurs that risked their life savings, and/or mortgaged their homes in pursuit of their dreams. But, being willing to take risks to be successful means more than financial risks. It means to be willing to take risks on people, employees, and partners, for example, who can help you grow your business, it means being willing to take risks on an out of the box marketing plan, or opening a restaurant in a location where people say, “you’re nuts!”
4. Incomparable Confidence – Going hand-in-hand with unparalleled determination, every successful person I have ever written about, simply oozed confidence. “Egotistical,” “narcissistic,” “arrogant,” – yes, these are the words that often get applied to the mega-successful among us – but not without good reason!
5. A Love for Learning – From Nobel Prize winning scientists, to successful business people, when I asked them “to what do they owe their success?” Almost all replied, “Never stop questioning,” or “never think you know it all…” Truly successful people understand that every day is another opportunity to learn something new.
6. They Know When It Is Time to Move On – The refrain from Kenny Rogers’ classic song “The Gambler,” says, “You got to know when to hold, ‘em – know when to fold ‘em…” The most successful among us have an amazing intuition for when it’s time to stay, or time to go. That goes for their jobs, their relationships, or even when it comes time to keep or sell their businesses.
7. They Go Above and Beyond – Successful people never did only what was asked of them. At home, in school, in their first jobs, and in their own businesses – they always did more than what was expected.
8. They Don’t Believe in Luck – While I have spoken to one or two very successful persons who said that they got where they are by being very lucky, most said they did not believe in luck and instead, made their “own luck,” by working hard, making contacts, and getting noticed!
9. They Don’t Play the “Blame Game” – Another common trait I have noticed among highly successful people is the willingness to say “Mia Culpa,” and take responsibility for their actions – good and bad. That also means they do not look to others for solutions for problems, but inward to themselves.
10 – They Know Their Limitations – While this may be a bit of a paradox, I found it to be true of most highly successful people, particularly of leaders such as CEOs or high-ranking military personnel. While they put a premium on personal responsibility, and confidence, they also are willing to listen and trust the advice of their peers, partners or teammates. Remember, it was the Second-in-Command on the Titanic who recommended steering around the Iceberg!